Manchester United Season Preview

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·6 min read
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How we got here:

It’s beginning to feel like United is back to being a title contender. While there was a 12 point gap between them and their noisy neighbors who won the league, it is still a step forward for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United would have hoped for a better result in the Europa League final but considering Sevilla’s dominance in that competition losing isn’t the end of the world. However, the team will need to win some hardware soon. But, when you take into account the quality of their new signings it feels like that time will be coming sooner than later.

Last season saw a lot of good for Manchester United. Bruno Fernandes took over the mantle as the team metronome. Luke Shaw played like the best left back in the league. Paul Pogba finally looked like he wanted to play in the Theater of Dreams. But even with the good, injuries to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial stunted the attack. Figuring out PogBa’s midfield partner was and still is an issue and Victor Lindelof started far too many games for what he brings to the side. The team also entered the season with a keeper controversy that likely hurt both keepers and that will also continue into this season.

It feels like no matter what happens, drama finds a way to follow United and while Solskjaer is amazing at handling the media, that doesn’t stop the back pages from having their way. There is an innate pressure that comes with putting on the United jersey. A pressure that most players or coaches can’t live up to and for United to take that next step, Solskjaer will need to turn that pressure into a burning fire to motivate the squad. If he is able to stamp out their slow starts and motivation issues, the sky truly is the limit for United.

The departures:

As of now, United hasn’t had any departures of note. Third choice keeper Sergio Romero has been replaced by Tom Heaton and there were a few loans out of youth prospects but that’s all. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anthony Martial moves since he seems to be the odd man out in the attack. Since the transfer window is open, there are also rumors of Paul Pogba moving to PSG but looking at what United has done so far this offseason, why would he want to leave when he should be able to win there?

The arrivals:

Since United already has a bloated squad, the arrivals have been kept to a minimum but as they finished second in the league last year it’s not like too many signings were needed either. Technically Jesse Lingard is a new signing brimming with confidence after firing West Ham into Europe and he’ll likely fill the minutes given to Daniel James last season. But the big guys are Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. While Varane still needs to pass a medical, that is expected to be a formality.

Varane has won everything that there is to win at Real Madrid and needed a new challenge which led him to the Premier League. For the issues that I presented about dealing with pressure, Varane’s addition to the squad will provide quite the boon to those similar to Thiago Silva joining Chelsea last season. Defensively since Varane likes to be the defender who stays at home, it will allow Harry Maguire to be more adventurous since he won’t need to look over his shoulder making sure that Lindelof is at home. You can’t put a price on that feeling for Maguire but if you did, it would likely be higher than the 50 million that it took to secure Varane’s signature. This could be the signing of the season for what it will do to United and that’s including the other guy signed who isn’t too shabby in his own right.

The Jadon Sancho saga is officially over as he has joined from Borussia Dortmund and this is a move that raises United’s ceiling quite a bit. While Sancho’s best work was done from the left-wing, he is able to play on either side and the upgrade from Mason Greenwood on the wing to Sancho is pretty ridiculous. That also allows Greenwood to split time with Edinson Cavani at the nine making this United side less predictable which is a scary concept. All of Sancho’s numbers are as good if not better than Bruno Fernandes’ except that Fernandes shooter more. The creativity of Sancho is what will shine as he has been involved in one goal per 90 minutes for his career. That compares to .78 goals per 90 for Fernandes (per understat). Those numbers are generally bettered by only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. If Sancho can adjust to Manchester United, look out.

Needs/ key positional battles:

The only need for United feels like I’m nitpicking but the slot next to PogBa could use some reinforcements. While Fred and Scott McTominay sharing the position is fine someone of Wilfred Ndidi’s quality would vault Manchester United into head-to-head contention with Manchester City. Figuring out who their keeper is also is a need but that is kicked down the road due to Dean Henderson’s health. David De Gea will open the season as the starter as Henderson is recovering from a hip injury and Covid-19.

Early on, Sancho could get a chance to play on his favored left-wing while Marcus Rashford is sidelined due to surgery but as the season goes on the biggest battle will be Greenwood vs Cavani. Last year, Greenwood had the minuted advantage barely with 1825 vs 1355. Greenwood also supplied seven goals and two assists to Cavani’s ten goals and one assist. I’ve always viewed Cavani as the bridge to Greenwood but early season performances will determine how the timeshare goes. Otherwise, things are pretty settled with this lineup outside of keeper and a midfield rotation that will continue to be a rotation.

Fantasy outlook:

Can we get four spots for Manchester United players in FPL this year? Luke Shaw is heavily selected as most teams will have at least one United defender if not more than one. Henderson offers good value at 5.0m if he nails down the starting job and Greenwood also offers solid value at 7.5m. I would likely avoid Cavani at 8.5m because Patrick Bamford or Dominic Calvert-Lewin are better selections at that price.

My team has Sancho and Fernandes in it right now but I’d like to figure out how to fit Shaw in too especially as he is pushing 50% selected and is climbing too high to be ignored. But it should be another impressive year for United assets across the board as they challenge for honors on all fronts.