Premier League 2019-20: Does another difficult season await Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?
- Is Manchester United's squad weaker now compared to last season?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left red-faced during the back end of last season when his team produced one bad performance after another. The sorry results prompted the former baby-faced assassin to say he will succeed at the club, but that he was not sure if a few of the players at his disposal then would be there to see it.
The signs pointed to a massive overhaul. But as the dust settles on an eventful transfer window, one look at Solskjaer's squad will tell you that the club are now perhaps lighter than last season in the middle of the park and in attack.
Despite being linked with a horde of players, most notably Paulo Dybala, Bruno Fernandes and many more, the Red Devils have ended the transfer window with a squad that still requires major surgery.
The decision to sell Romelu Lukaku and still make a profit may seem like a masterstroke, but the lack of proper planning to sign a proven replacement is another example of the club's continuous failures in the transfer market. It's cliched to look back to the glory days, but the combination of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill (the fans would be hoping to have him back at least) would have ensured the signing of a proper goalscorer before sanctioning a move for any want-away player.
Potential midfield problem?
The engine room now has - Nemanja Matic, who is clearly not the player he was 2 seasons ago, Scott McTominay, who is continuously improving, Andreas Pereira, who has displayed glimpses of his undoubted potential, and Fred, who has not lived up to his price tag yet.
That leaves Paul Pogba as the only world-class player in the middle of the park. The mercurial World Cup winning player now needs to have his best season yet, while taking McTominay and Pereira under his tutelage to ensure their development.
However, even if McTominay, Pereira and Fred step up to the plate, the failure to sign replacements for the departed Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera reflects poorly on Ed Woodward, who seems to be insulated from the sack for reasons unknown.
Further up-field Daniel James' electrifying pace could stretch opposition defenses, while Jesse Lingard needs to find his form soon. Juan Mata could hope to feature more this season, hopefully through the middle as a No. 10 in a diamond formation rather than out wide on the wings where his contribution is limited.
The goal-scoring burden will have to be shared largely by the duo of Anthony Martial, who will be wearing the #9 behind his back again, and Marcus Rashford. Alexis Sanchez when fit could start as a striker flanked by the aforementioned duo in a fluid front three system. But will United fans get to see the real Sanchez before it's too late?
The case of the defense
United have invested heavily in their defense at last - Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will definitely add much-needed steel to an otherwise nervous looking back-line.
Maguire is a signing in the mould of club-legend Rio Ferdinand, while Wan-Bissaka could potentially seal the right-back spot for years to come.
What happens when fatigue and injuries kick in?
However, despite the above additions, the club is just one injury away from its best starting 11 not playing.
The lack of squad depth could potentially disrupt their season when fatigue kicks in. Adding to the gloom is the prospect of playing Thursday night football courtesy the Europa League.
While the club has an exciting crop of youngsters coming through in the form of Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and James Garner, the pressure they will be under to conjure moments of magic will be huge.
The close of the transfer window leaves several questions unanswered as fans are puzzled at the state of their beloved team. Solskjaer admitted that more money was there to be spent if the right player was available. So what exactly were the club after?
Signing 2 midfielders and a goal-scorer (assuming the decision to sell Lukaku was taken at the start of the window) was the bare minimum requirement. And yet somehow, the club has allowed one more transfer window to drift by.
To add insult to injury, the noisy neighbors now have at least 2 (in some positions even 3) world-class players for each position. If that is not enough for the Glazers and Ed Woodward to act soon, nothing else will be.
What can we expect to see?
There is likely to be plenty of front-foot football with further integration of the upcoming youngsters into the starting 11.
Breakthrough star: Mason Greenwood
After doing his reputation no harm in pre-season, Greenwood could be the next academy starlet to establish himself in the first team.
The youngster could become a regular fixture in the match-day squads, and he has the ability to excite fans and leave them at the edge of their seats. The Theater of Dreams has seen many great talents who have done that in the past and Greenwood could add his name to the list.
Predicted best starting 11 in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, McTominay, Pereira, Martial, Pogba, James, Rashford.Published 10 Aug 2019, 17:51 IST