An impressive run of form in the second half of last season saw Manchester United secure a commendable third-place finish, and most Red Devils fans hoped that the club had turned a corner. However, as they kick off the 2020-21 Premier League season against Crystal Palace today, there is not too much to be excited about.
While Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have strengthened their squad, Manchester United have only managed to acquire Donny van de Beek so far. The Red Devils have been linked with a move for Jadon Sancho throughout the transfer window, but as we head into the final weeks of the transfer season, a deal still seems to be far from done.
Given this scenario, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men would do well to match their performance from last season, let alone better it. However, in order to do that, every member of the first team will have to play out of their skins throughout the season. Solskjær can be expected to play the same starting eleven that ended the previous campaign on a high. However, there are still some issues that the Norwegian manager will have to address as the campaign goes on.
Here are three things we can expect from Manchester United during the 2020-21 Premier League season:
#3 It is an important season for David de Gea and Dean Henderson
David de Gea has undoubtedly been Manchester United’s best player in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. But ever since a horror show against Portugal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, he has made uncharacteristic errors on a consistent basis.
In the last couple of seasons, the Spaniard has looked a lot more vulnerable in Manchester United’s goal and made headlines for all the wrong reasons. So, as they head into the new campaign, the Red Devils decided to call Dean Henderson back from his loan spell at Sheffield United where he built a reputation as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the Premier League last season.
The arrival of Henderson ensures that there will be genuine competition for the gloves at Manchester United this season and it should be able to bring the best out of de Gea. However, if he does not manage to refind his best form, the club will have an able replacement for him in their ranks.
De Gea has seen numerous peaks and valleys during his time at Manchester United and would be the right man to mentor a young Henderson as he tries to find his feet during his initial days in the first team.
This season will be crucial for both de Gea and Henderson as both of them will be playing for their respective futures at the club. Both players will be given a fair amount of game time throughout the season, and whoever gives a better impression of themselves will be Manchester United’s first-choice goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.
#2. Bruno Fernandes will be Manchester United’s most important player this season
Manchester United’s 2019-20 Premier League season can be divided into two parts: before and after Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker was at the heart of all the good things that United created since his arrival in January and established himself as the team’s talisman in no time.
The eight goals and seven assists that Fernandes managed for United in 14 Premier League games last season was a major reason why they managed to finish in third place and qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
Once again, Manchester United’s fortunes this season will depend on the performances of the former Sporting Lisbon man. During his short time at the club, Fernandes has managed to strike a good understanding with Paul Pogba, and United fans will hope to see more of the duo this season.
The likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood also benefitted from Fernandes’ form as he set goals up for them on various occasions last season.
The playmaker made an instant impact on joining the club in January, and United fans will hope that he can pick up from where he had left off at the end of last season.
Fernandes is United’s most lethal weapon as he can not only score goals but also set them up for his teammates. As United look to compete on various fronts, Fernandes’ performances will go a long way in determining the success or failure of their season.
#3. Mason Greenwood has the opportunity to redeem himself this season and can benefit from the Jadon Sancho saga
The rise of Mason Greenwood was one of the highlights of Manchester United’s 2019-20 season as he played 31 games in the Premier League and scored 10 goals. The youngster made headlines for his pace and finishing prowess with both feet, which made it difficult for opposition defenders to deal with him.
Greenwood’s impressive performances saw him replace Daniel James in the starting eleven towards the end of the last campaign and also earned him a call up to the English national team last week. However, the youngster was soon banished from the English national team’s camp for breaking the COVID-19 protocol along with Phil Foden.
In the aftermath of the incident, the 18-year-old made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The start of Manchester United’s Premier League season comes at just the right time for Greenwood as it allows him to right the wrong of the recent past. When he walks out against Crystal Palace on Saturday, he has the opportunity to remind everyone exactly what he is capable of with a ball at his feet.
Greenwood can also take heart from the fact that Manchester United have not signed Sancho as it offers him a longer run in the first team. If and when Sancho does join United, he will most likely take Greenwood’s place on the right-wing and it could curtail his game time.
However, if Greenwood starts the season well, he could make himself an indispensable member of United’s first team not only for this season but for years to come.Published 19 Sep 2020, 14:09 IST