Ranking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 5 signings at Manchester United so far
- Even though the rebuilding is far from over, it is safe to say that Solskjaer's recruitment has gone according to plan.
- But who has been the Norwegian’s best signing at Old Trafford so far? Read on to find out.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over at Old Trafford, he promised a rebuild that would restore Manchester United's status in the top tier of European football. The fact that the United squad was in shambles was no secret, which is why the task at hand was a lot harder than it first appeared.
Since his permanent appointment before the end of last season, the Norwegian has overseen two transfer windows and it is safe to say that his recruitment has been commendable.
Last summer, Solskjaer managed to bring in Daniel James from Swansea City, Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace, and Harry Maguire from Leicester City. While United were linked to a few more players and were also expected to sign at least one more, those moves did not materialise.
In January this year, the Red Devils secured the signature of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon after a prolonged transfer saga that left United fans frustrated. The injury to Marcus Rashford meant that Solskjaer also opted to bring in Odion Ighalo from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day.
Even though the rebuilding job is far from over, it is safe to say that Solskjaer's first five signings have gone according to plan.
But who has been the Norwegian’s best signing at Old Trafford so far? Read on to find out.
#5 Daniel James
Perhaps it is a bit harsh to put James at number five in this list, but such have been the performances of Solskjaer’s other signings that the Welshman finds himself bottom of the list. However, that does not mean that James has been a poor signing. He has hit the ground running since making the move to the Premier League and has been one of United’s better players so far.
The Welshman enjoyed a blockbuster start to life as a United player, scoring on his debut and setting Old Trafford on fire. While he was never meant to be a first-team player right from the start, James gave quite a few more experienced players a run for their money.
His willingness to track back and tireless running on the pitch has made him a popular figure among the United faithful. James also showed a lot of grit and determination after finding himself on the receiving end of crunching tackles in games. He always got up stronger and his attitude has been exemplary.
Even after the goals dried up, James continued to work for the team and his combination with Marcus Rashford on the counter was a treat to watch. Thankfully, the Welshman found the back of the net against LASK in the Europa League just before football was suspended due to the coronavirus scare.
#4 Odion Ighalo
The Nigerian was a surprise addition to the Manchester United squad on deadline day of the January transfer window. The Red Devils turned a lot of eyes when they opted for Ighalo after courting a host of strikers during the month.
The former Watford striker did have Premier League experience but was considered to be way past his prime. He was written off even before he had kicked a ball and was touted as a panic buy. The club’s decision was questioned by one and all, but in truth, Solskjaer knew exactly what he was doing.
With Rashford injured and United seriously short of strikers, the Norwegian needed a goalscorer who could lead the line and that is exactly what Ighalo has brought to the team. The Nigerian has hit the ground running and has vindicated his manager’s trust in him. He has been almost perfect for the team and his physicality, as well as his lethal finishing ability, have added a different dimension to the team.
And so eight games and four goals later, everyone is in awe of Solskjaer’s masterstroke. Ighalo’s impact has forced United to consider signing him on a long-term deal and the Norwegian must be applauded for his faith in the Nigerian.
#3 Harry Maguire
When United paid Leicester City £80m for the services of Harry Maguire, the general consensus was that the Red Devils had overpaid for the Englishman. While he still has a long way to go to justify that price-tag, Maguire has certainly brought a sense of calm and authority at the centre of United's defence.
One of the biggest issues with United last season was that they were leaking a lot of goals. In Maguire, the Red Devils finally got a leader at the back who restored calm and added solidity to a fragile backline.
The Englishman instantly improved the United's defence and his partnership with Victor Lindelof has gone from strength to strength this season. A firm header of the ball, efficient reader of the game, and brave fighter on the pitch, Maguire’s presence in the backline has been hugely beneficial for United.
He has not been completely error-free but has guided the Red Devils to an 11-game unbeaten run recently. The Englishman has also been an ever-present figure for the Red Devils in the Premier League this season.
Maguire’s exorbitant price-tag means that he will always be compared to Virgil van Dijk, and it is a comparison that puts undue pressure on the player. While his impact might not have been as talismanic, the Englishman has added much-needed steel to the United backline.
#2 Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s arrival at Old Trafford before the start of this season had United fans excited, and rightly so. The Englishman was one of the brightest young talents in the country and Premier League proven. Despite already having a young talented right-back in Diogo Dalot, Solskjaer opted for Wan-Bissaka and pretty soon, it was clear why.
The Englishman was a bit restrained at the start, reluctant to join in the attack and it was perhaps the only complaint against the youngster. Defensively, Wan-Bissaka has been one of the best in the league and his crunching tackles and tracking back has ensured that United are rarely caught out on the right flank.
However, it was not enough for Solskjaer, who demanded that the Englishman add a bit of attacking verve to his game. And the result of the Norwegian’s persistence has been fascinating.
Wan-Bissaka has been crucial to United’s 11-game unbeaten run and his desire to join the attack has been a welcome change of late. Few people have managed to get past him this season at the back and Wan-Bissaka is now showing signs of an attacking edge that could be pivotal for United. His huge transfer fee has been long forgotten and the Englishman certainly has proven to be worth his weight in gold.
#1 Bruno Fernandes
United fans had been for crying out for the addition of Bruno Fernandes in the summer, but a move never materialised. When he finally arrived in the last week of the winter transfer window, many expected the Portuguese to follow the recent trend of high-profile attackers flopping at Old Trafford.
But Fernandes turned out to be the shining light who instantly lifted the mood at United. He improved the team around him and made the Red Devils a better unit. Solskjaer was desperate for a creative midfielder who could unlock the obvious potential of his attackers and Fernandes has turned out to be the perfect fit in his system.
The Portuguese is not just a fantastic footballer, he is also a natural leader. His desire to take responsibility on the pitch and attacking pedigree were pivotal to United going on an 11-game unbeaten streak. His brilliance and ability to spot a pass have added a dangerous edge to United’s attack and suddenly, the Red Devils look like the complete package.
Fernandes has already notched up three goals and four assists in his first nine games for the Red Devils. Most importantly, he has helped United cope with the absence of Pogba and Rashford and has turned into a talisman for the Red Devils. The Portuguese is, without doubt, Solskjaer’s best signing as United managerPublished 22 Mar 2020, 00:43 IST