Categories: Premier League

Can Man United become title contenders next season?

Manchester United this season endured their worst league start in 30 years, failing to breach the 40 point barrier in 24 games. Their inconsistent form at the early stages of the season raised a lot of questions about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ability to lead the team as a permanent manager. The season is now over, and a nervy 2-0 victory over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium ensured Man United finished third on the league standings and return to Europe’s biggest competition next season.

Man United boss Solskjaer feels his squad is starting to reflect on his philosophy and isn’t far off a potential Premier League title chase next season. He has built a robust team that plays with pace and power. This season, Solskjaer recruited Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, and Odion Ighalo. To be fair to Solskjaer, the players he has signed have improved his team enormously. Solskjaer has built a team capable of going places. The team is quite similar to the Liverpool team in the 2016/17 season under Jurgen Klopp, who was showing signs of title-winning form. Klopp’s side went unbeaten against the big six during that season. They took four points off Chelsea and recorded victories against Man City, Tottenham, and a double against Arsenal. However, their biggest problem that season was their inability to beat smaller teams like Burnley, Crystal Palace, and Hull City. However, Klopp fixed the issue by adding a couple of signings to his squad and fast forward to 2020, they have won one Champions League and are the reigning champions of England.

This pattern sound similar to Man United’s 2019/2020 campaign. Man United only lost one of the games they played against the top four oppositions in the just-ended season. They recorded significant wins over Man City, Chelsea and Leicester City at home and away. However, they struggled against some of the lower-ranked teams in the League. Man United suffered defeats against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Watford, Bournemouth, and West Ham as they were unable to break down deep-lying defenses of these teams.

Thanks to winter signing Bruno Fernandes, Man United solved that issue in the second round of the season. Fernandes has brought leadership, belief, and the creativity between midfield and attack. He has also helped to free Pogba from the burden of midfield creativity. His creativity behind the front three has helped them score over 60 goals in all competition this season. United’s form since January has raised the expectations amongst the fans who are of the view that their team could be plausible challengers for the title come next season. For United to become serious challengers next season, Solskjaer needs to get certain things right to make sure this renaissance is not just a flash in the pan.

What Man United needs to challenge for the title next season

Man United have pocketed an extra 80 million pounds by securing Champions League football next season. It represents good news for the club as they will have money to reinvest in the squad this summer and bring in additional quality players to help their title push next season. Man United needs to reinforce the team due to an evident gulf in performance between the regular starters and the backup options. Man United needs four more quality signings to help them challenge for the title. A center-back, two midfielders, and an attacker will be enough for Ole’s team. Manchester United need a center-back with pace. They’ve got Harry Maguire, but he doesn’t have pace, so they will need someone who can cover for him. Maguire has played alongside Victor Lindelof for most of this season. However, Lindelof looks weak, and Eric Bailly, who appears to be a better fit alongside Maguire, also has fitness issues. They need a center-back cast who has similarities with their former legends Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, and Jaap Stam.

They need another physical midfielder who can be a dominant force in midfield.

Matic would be 32 next month, and age is not on his side. Although Fred and McTominay have done well this season, both players are not natural holding midfielders. Man United need another playmaker, someone who can come from the bench to change games or play as a replacement for Fernandes when he is injured.

Man United also needs another attacker, especially on the right flank of the attack. Mason Greenwood has made a lot of impact on that side this season. However, the load is too heavy for him to carry at his age. Another area Solskjaer needs to look at is his goalkeeping area. David De Gea needs competition. Man United loanee Dean Henderson needs to return to the team and challenge for the number one spot.

What’s next?

Man United was the only side to go unbeaten in the Premier League after lockdown. They finished the season on a run of 14 games unbeaten in the premier league and just a single defeat from 22 games in all competitions. A section of the Man United fans is of the view that Solskjaer’s team is the best United team since Ferguson’s retirement because they can score all sorts of goals, and the entire midfield and front three are in great shape.

Another positive thing about Solskjaer’s era is how he has managed to make Fred and McTominay happy. Since the resurgence of Matic, both players have returned to the bench. However, they are not complaining. Solskjaer might not be tactically sound as Sir Alex Ferguson, but he certainly knows what it feels like to be in a prime United dressing room, and he is replicating it.

Kwesi Dallo

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