Since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as full-time manager in March 2019, Manchester United fans have seen a young side finish in third place and second place in the Norwegian’s first two full seasons in charge, suggesting this season could be the successful one many Reds fans have been waiting for, ending a wait for a title that will soon stretch to ten whole years.
Incomings and Building a Squad:Embed from Getty Images
With the arrival of exciting young winger Jadon Sancho, soon to be accompanied by four-time Champions League-winning defender Raphael Varane, it would appear that for the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, a United boss finally has the tools he needs to work with to return the club to its former glory. The two incomings will join a list of big-money players that Solskjaer has brought into the club, including the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes, so it is hard to argue why this couldn’t be the year for a title charge. However, many of the Old Trafford faithful believe that there may still be a further piece required to complete the puzzle, that piece being a disciplined, intelligent ball-playing midfielder. A position that seems to be neglected by the recruitment team year-upon-year, many fans feel it is vital to acquire a player of this profile, with the season’s expectations probably defined upon whether or not one comes through the door before August 31st. Many hope the days of the dreaded “McFred” (McTominay and Fred’s double pivot partnership) are long gone.
Expectations of the Manager:Embed from Getty Images
If another arrival is pending, it would be hard to argue that Solskjaer hasn’t had the backing of the board, albeit somewhat slow and inefficient. Therefore, this season could be make-or-break for the former striker as he heads into his third full season in charge. With top talent acquired over recent years and with a supposed mentality shift has taken place, there are very few excuses for the team to not be up there in the title race come April. The phrase “work in progress” has been thrown around frequently during the manager’s tenure, but the majority of United fans now feel the time has come to deliver trophies on the biggest stage. With the quality of Manchester City, Chelsea and even Liverpool, fans will accept that a title cannot be guaranteed, but progress and quality need to have been shown when they assess the situation come May 2022. Even the most avid of Ole supporters will tell you that his rotation of the team was poor last campaign, so that is something many fans will look to see improvement in.
Expectations of the Players:Embed from Getty Images
The manager is not the only man under review this season, however. Englishmen Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka now have exceptional talent surrounding them as they find themselves in their third year at Old Trafford, meaning consistent quality now has to be shown. The likes of Anthony Martial and Fred are surely facing the decisive year of their United careers having been inconsistent in their time at the club. Paul Pogba is simply an unknown quantity as he heads into the final year of his contract, with many fans questioning whether or not his heart is in the right place. For the likes of Luke Shaw and Edison Cavani, it is about building on a fantastic campaign last time out, whereas, for Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, it is about re-finding their best form, having perhaps suffered from fatigue and injury towards the back end of last season.
Outgoings:Embed from Getty Images
Outgoings have been tough to complete; the goalkeeping situation is yet to be resolved, and those surplus to requirements have not yet been cashed in on, including Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Daniel James. Although you could play devil’s advocate and say their utility may be helpful in the latter stages of the season, most fans will tell you that these sorts of players are blocking a path to the first team for youngsters and have had more than enough chances to prove themselves. Time will ultimately tell, but the more likely situation is the latter.
With the Leeds game this Saturday, followed by another seven league fixtures before the Reds face a traditional top-six side, the ball is truly in Manchester United’s court to perform. Having had quality added to the group of players and a pre-season behind them, the time has come for United and Solskjaer to deliver to the fans.