Ranking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's recruits at Manchester United | Premier League 2019-20
- We rank the five signings made by Solskjaer as head coach of Manchester United, as the Norwegian aims to kickstart a new era at Old Trafford
It's still early days, but Manchester United's recruitment policy has seemingly improved since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the helm. The Norwegian inherited a squad filled with players who escaped many necessary rebuilds and arguably had to be let go of. It could be for one of several reasons, such as a contract stand-off, sheer ability and talent or even the determination to play for the badge, the latter being something that Solskjaer has been keen on.
The former FK Molde manager has reinstated his desire for quality over quantity and has led by example in the one summer window in charge of the club. The United manager sanctioned departures of up to nine senior members of the squad and chose to replace them either with talents from the market which were far and few or with an up-and-coming academy product.
As of March 2020, it is safe to say that all of the five recruits that Solskjaer has brought through the doors of Old Trafford have won over the United faithful in their own manners. Although one of them is on loan, all signings made by the United gaffer have been splendid and the squad clearly missed players of a certain profile and, in some cases, of a certain ilk.
Here, we try to rank the five signings made by Solskjaer so far as head coach of Manchester United.
5. Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo was essentially a last-minute signing from the Chinese Super League on deadline day as United faced a dire lack of players upfront. The former Watford striker had prior Premier League experience but it was a questionable move given the quality of the league he was playing in at the time.
However, the Nigerian forward has been explosive despite a limited number of opportunities so far. Ighalo has added a different element to the Red Devils' relatively raw attack and has made a telling impact already.
After having scored a sublime goal against Austrian league leaders in the UEFA Europa League, it is evident that Ighalo is slowly but steadily rediscovering the form he displayed during his stint at Vicarage Road. He already has two goals in the Europa League since his arrival in early February.
Albeit a loan signing, there is a very good possibility of a permanent deal materialising going by how well United's first-ever Nigerian player is settling into life at Manchester. A self-confessed Red Devils to go with it, Ighalo ticks all the boxes and has been a superb signing made by the former Manchester United striker.
4. Daniel James
Manchester United's electrifying winger has had a superb impact in his first season at the club. Purchased as a low-risk high-reward player from Swansea City in the Championship, the Welshman has certainly exceeded expectations in his debut season and is reportedly in line for a pay-rise as well.
Daniel James has won the Old Trafford faithful over with committed displays on the pitch, some of them coming against some of the mightiest sides in the league. The winger still has a lot of room for improvement in the final third, though.
However, his unbelievable pace has been key for United to be able to hit sides on the break as he showed most recently against neighbours Manchester City, running tirelessly up and down the flanks. For a reported £15m fee, James has done exceedingly well in his first season and can only get better with more experience under his belt. He currently has 3 goals and 6 assists in the Premier League.
3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
After attempting to shoe-horn a number of players including Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, and more at right-back, Manchester United splashed over £45m in the summer to obtain the services of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, then of Crystal Palace. Arguably United's finest right-back since the retirement of the great Gary Neville, the English full-back has had an unbelievable impact so far in Manchester.
The 22-year-old is one of the most phenomenal tacklers in world football and has come to be known for his ability to nick the ball off opposition wingers. Wan-Bissaka's teammates have often commented on how difficult it is to go past the defender in training, much like Raheem Sterling recently found out in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. The Englishman has shown his ability to defend diligently while also growing by leaps and bounds going forward as well.
Although a relatively hefty investment, Wan-Bissaka is destined to become one of the premier full-backs in world football and is one of Manchester United's crown jewels heading into the future.
2. Bruno Fernandes
Old Trafford's latest hero Bruno Fernandes has had a phenomenal introduction to football in England. The Portuguese international has had history with the Red Devils given how close they were to signing him on a couple of occasions in the past. A host of midfield injuries and a dire lack of creativity forced Solskjaer and co. to splash out a reported £55m fee for the then-Sporting Lisbon captain.
Fernandes has scored two Premier League goals and set up a further three in his first five league games in United red while endearing himself to the fans with his all-action displays on the pitch. The 25-year-old is one of the deadliest strikers in the division and has a history of scoring thunderbolts in the Liga NOS. He is a player who Solskjaer's side could have done with a long while ago and he has run the show since his transfer.
Considering how poor United's midfield were as a collective just a couple of months ago, Fernandes' arrival appears to have rejuvenated the team. With Scott McTominay returning to action while Paul Pogba set for a return soon, the Portuguese playmaker will look to strike a partnership with his returning midfield colleagues and fire the Red Devils to Europa League glory and a top-four finish. Bruno Fernandes is one of Manchester United's best signings in the last few years.
1. Harry Maguire
After months of tedious negotiations between the sides and Leicester City playing hardball on the price, Ed Woodward and co. succumbed to the Foxes' demands for Harry Maguire and paid a world-record fee of £80m for the Englishman. After a move that was questioned widely due to the astronomical figures involved, Maguire took his time to settle in at the heart of Solskjaer's defence and slowly yet assuredly shored up the backline.
Since the turn of the year, the former Foxes defender has taken it up by a notch and has put in colossal displays for United. Maguire has played a whopping 40 matches already this season across all competitions and has rarely missed an opportunity to play for his side. With each passing game, the English international has grown in confidence with his ability in the tackle as well as on the ball as he has been a reliable ball-carrier in crunch situations.
The towering defender was his manager's first choice for the captain's armband upon then-skipper Ashley Young's departure to Antonio Conte's Inter Milan. Maguire has gone on to show why United were so keen on acquiring his services with his leadership and stellar performances through the season. He is the Red Devils' first dependable centre-half since the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and the most important signing made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Published 13 Mar 2020, 03:59 IST