Manchester United earned back-to-back victories in the Premier League for the first time since September as Fred’s goal gave Ralf Rangnick a winning start as manager.
The German boss took over as interim manager until the end of the season following the win over Arsenal in midweek and named an unchanged team for the visit of Palace, who were set up to counter and attack United’s weaknesses.
The Reds turned in an excellent first half performance but they didn’t find the breakthrough until late on, when Fred whipped one into the top corner with his right foot from the edge of the box.
United learnt from the performance that there are some things to come and there are plenty of positives to take from it, but here are the ones I picked out.
Fred will love Rangnick
If it wasn’t obvious from the fact he got the winner, the Brazilian was excellent throughout. Many people expected an upturn in his fortunes with the arrival of a coach and a more structured system and it showed immediately.
The 28-year-old was quick in the press, more forward thinking with his passing and his tackling was as good as usual. This system is designed to get the best out of players like him and he is thriving in the heart of midfield.
Victor Lindelof enjoyed the responsibility
The Swede continued in the absence of Raphael Varane but he turned in one of the most assured performances of his Old Trafford career.
Lindelof was excellent on the ball, brave to pinch the ball early on the halfway line and constantly organising his midfielders ahead of him too. He did well to completely nullify the threat of Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard up front while also helping Diogo Dalot get forward and track Wilfried Zaha. A top performance.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was a staple of the defence but it seems as though his position may not be so secure anymore.
Rangnick opted to stick with Dalot and the Portuguese defender turned in an excellent display, with great confidence on the ball and a real threat up and down the wing. With the full-backs keeping a high starting position, the attacking abilities are important and Dalot could be a big winner in this change.
Free flowing attack
United pressed high and were impressive off the ball in the game, but the performances of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho were also positives in an attacking sense.
Both men pressed well and they linked well together in and around the box as United touched the ball more times in the opponents penalty area than in any game since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
While neither were directly involved in the goal, it showed that they can be key figures in the side and that can only be a positive for Manchester United.
After a 5-0 thumping by Liverpool at Old Trafford just over a week ago, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacted with a 3-0 win against Tottenham on Saturday.
It was a good reaction for a side that was clearly bereft of confidence, as Solskjaer named the oldest starting lineup of his tenure so far by partnering Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani up front together with a back five behind them.
But now as United look to continue to build some momentum when they travel to Italy to take on Atalanta tonight, Solskjaer has some decisions to make regarding his starting lineup.
The returning Raphael Varane slotted straight into the middle of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire in central defence, while Solskjaer continued to select Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw but in slightly more advanced wing-back roles.
Scott McTominay and Fred started in midfield with Bruno Fernandes alongside them, with the Scot playing slightly deeper than his teammates.
It was a team that didn’t get any highlight reels in motion, but they turned in a sturdy performance that earned them a vital three points in a must-win situation.
They face a similar situation in the Champions League tonight, where a win puts them five points clear of Atalanta with just two group games remaining meaning they should qualify for the next round.
But with confidence still not at it’s best and Atalanta proving at Old Trafford two weeks ago that they’re good enough to take the game to the Reds, Solskjaer must be careful.
There is the chance he could keep the team unchanged with his three-at-the-back formation, considering how well it worked at the weekend. Victor Lindelof hasn’t travelled due to a slight knock, so Shaw could slot into his left centre-back role with Alex Telles moving into the wing-back role in the only change.
However, with the success that Marcus Rashford had against the Serie A side in the first game between the sides and the fact he has scored in three of his four appearances since returning from injury, he probably deserves a start.
Paul Pogba is also available again after serving a suspension against Spurs, which could allow United to go with a slightly more attacking team but keeping their defensive shape in tact by putting him into a central midfield role ahead of one of the ‘McFred’ duo.
There is also the potential of Solskjaer slightly altering the shape, keeping his defensive mindset in place with the two holding midfielders while going with two attacking midfielders instead of two strikers.
That could allow for summer signing Jadon Sancho to be brought into the side alongside Fernandes and behind Ronaldo in a role familiar to him during his time with Dortmund.
The Bundesliga side used a 3-4-3 variation for large periods of his time with the club there and the 21-year-old was very productive in that role, using his combinations and dribbling well to create chances and score goals.
It would be a chance for Solskjaer to give him a run-out once again and for Sancho to finally make an impression on United fans who have been waiting for him to truly arrive at the club.
Solskjaer has got decisions to make, because the squad he has spent the best part of three years building isn’t best suited to this formation.
But in a period where he is desperate for results to save his job, it may be a necessity. With that said, he now needs to find the balance between results and performances, so a few alterations wouldn’t go amiss.
One of the most protracted transfers of the summer was Jadon Sancho’s big money move to Manchester United, as he finally joined the club from Borussia Dortmund.
A £72.9m deal, Sancho joined up with his United teammates just a week before the season after representing England at Euro 2020 and then going on holiday to rest.
He made his debut on the opening day of the season as a substitute in the 5-1 win over Leeds at Old Trafford, with a rapturous applause from the crowd confirming his place as a new fan favourite.
But now ten games into the season, the 21-year-old is yet to register a single goal or assist for the club as they have struggled to find consistency in their game.
United so far have won five, lost three and drawn two of their games this season but their recent form has been poor. They’ve earned just two wins in their last seven games, and even those wins came courtesy of a last minute penalty save and then a last minute winner.
Sancho has failed to make a huge impact in games so far and has come in for ridicule and criticism on social media and in the media.
But the slow start to his campaign could’ve been (and was) predicted way before it got to this point.
Firstly, he’s a new signing coming in off no pre-season to a new team. That’s tough for anyone, we’ve seen plenty of top players struggle at their new clubs in the first months of the season before and we will see it in the future too.
Secondly, he’s only 21. Yes, he’s been playing regularly for years, but he’s still young and learning his game and body properly and will need time to adapt and find his consistency in a new league.
Thirdly however, and most importantly, is that the team he has joined lacks a style of play. It’s something that has been mentioned for years under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and continues to be a problem to this day.
Sancho is coming from the Bundesliga and Dortmund, where their style is engrained into the club and the manager is selected based off whether they can perform that style.
They play quick, transitional football with a high-press and look to break the lines from midfield as quickly as possible to catch their opposition defence unorganised and punish them.
We’re now into a fourth season with Solskjaer in charge and there are no obvious patterns of play, there is no organisation to the press and there is an over-reliance on individual ability and certain players to play.
United fans have claimed for a long time that the personnel needed to be better but that it doesn’t necessarily matter when there is no coaching happening, and that is proving to be the case right now.
Paul Pogba was the cream of the crop at the start of the season when he couldn’t stop assisting his teammates, but now it’s being claimed he’s a problem player on the pitch because he’s stopped delivering, despite nobody stepping up in his absence.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing was barely criticised when he scored five goals in his first five games for the club, but suddenly his presence makes the team unbalanced.
Sancho’s form is poor and he is struggling, that much is true and obvious. But so is the entire team. In a team that doesn’t know its head from its arse, it’s no surprise that new signings fail to deliver the results many expect them to.
The only constant is that the team fail to deliver a specific style or genuine patter in the way they play football matches. That is on Solskjaer, and it will continue until he is replaced by someone else.
It’s been a long time coming, but Jadon Sancho is finally a Manchester United player.
The 21-year-old England international has been chased by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club for the best part of two years but a £73million deal was finally agreed last month and is now complete after Euro 2020 came to an end.
Now that he is part of the squad, Solskjaer must decide on how best to use him going forward in the long-term but also short-term as he comes to terms with the fall-out of Euro 2020 and Copa America as well as other fitness and form issues in his squad for the start of the season.
How should United start the season in attack? How should it look once everyone is fit and firing? Here’s how I see it…
LEFT WING STARTER – Marcus Rashford Depth: Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, Dan James
If anyone has made a position their own in the Manchester United attack it is the number 10, Mr. Rashford.
Pace, direct running, a killer final pass and a goal threat, Rashford has mastered the out-to-in run and is often United’s biggest threat in attacking situations. Injuries mean that he could miss the start of the season, but that wouldn’t be the biggest issue in the world.
Anthony Martial is fit again and capable of playing there, while Sancho is arguably just as good on the left as he is on the right while Solskjaer is still a fan of Dan James who can fill in if needs be too.
RIGHT WING STARTER – Jadon Sancho Depth: Mason Greenwood, Amad, Juan Mata
I think it’s fair to say that Sancho has been signed to walk straight into the team on the right wing and anything else would be seen as a surprise.
It’s been a problem position for several years for Manchester United and over the last two seasons Solskjaer has been using Mason Greenwood in that position for his ambi-pedal abilities and goalscoring threat, but he’s a striker first and foremost.
The signing of Amad added depth but he was eased into the first-team picture last season, but some added minutes could be thrown his way this season in certain games to rotate the squad and even just add competition and help develop him more.
Juan Mata’s new deal means another option too, but the young bucks should certainly be ahead of him in the pecking order.
NUMBER 10 STARTER – Bruno Fernandes Depth: Donny Van de Beek, Juan Mata, Hannibal Mejbri
Bruno Fernandes is the second name on the team sheet for Solskjaer after Harry Maguire in defence and that will not change this season barring something crazy.
The real question about this position is who should play when he doesn’t and Solskjaer has got options, whether he opts to use them or not. Donny Van de Beek is capable of playing as a ten, although it’s a different type of way to play the role while Mata arguably made his name in the position when he was younger.
There is also the possibility of Hannibal earning some first-team minutes after being promoted to the senior team at the end of last season and if he can impress during pre-season then he could earn himself some minutes during the season too.
STRIKER STARTER – Mason Greenwood Depth: Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
The new one-year contract for Edinson Cavani would suggest that he will be the first-choice striker going into the new season, but if there’s ever the time to try something new it is now with Greenwood as the man.
The youngster has proven that he has the ability to score goals at the highest level despite his age and his preferred position is through the middle. He holds the ball up well, can drift wide and has the pace to run in behind plus finishes with both feet.
Cavani showed last season that he can affect games coming off the bench if necessary and despite Martial’s popularity with fans and the squad, his form last season was bad enough that he now must earn his place back through performances.
It feels like every summer for the last five summers Manchester United have needed the same positions filled during a transfer window.
A right winger, a striker, a centre-back, a defensive midfielder and full-backs. All of which have been signed in recent years, but none of the quality necessary to make it not a glaring issue within the squad.
But this summer seems a little bit different for the most part when it comes to the transfers the squad are reportedly seeking.
A deal for Jadon Sancho is closer than ever before with the Red Devils having made two bids for the England international so far and the only thing stopping it being accepted is the structure of the payments.
Then there is the news that Raphael Varane really wants to leave Real Madrid this summer and that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are at the front of the queue to make a deal happen.
That’s two top level players that would not only improve the squad this summer but they would also instantly improve the starting lineup too, which can only help to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool for next season.
Further to those two United have also been linked with Declan Rice for the defensive midfield position, Kieran Trippier for the right-back role and Edinson Cavani has re-signed for another year as the striker option.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the personnel of the other two incoming transfer targets initially, it’s a positive sign that the club are looking to address problem areas of the squad in one window.
Solskjaer has shown that he has progressed the team to a certain level without getting first-choice targets for much of his tenure, but to kick on to the next level he needs that added quality to lean on when it gets tough.
For the defensive midfield role, United need someone with quality defensive attributes but who can also play football. Just being good defensively isn’t enough for the top clubs and Rice’s attributes on the ball won’t help United when coming up against a low block, which is something they already struggle with.
A defensive midfielder with quality on the ball like Yves Bissouma or Douglas Luiz would cost a fraction of the price and be better suited to what a top midfield really needs.
At right-back Trippier is the right profile of player needed, just the wrong individual. The England and Atletico Madrid defender is a good attacking outlet as well as decent defender, but he is the wrong side of 30 and will take a fair chunk out of the budget for the summer.
United currently have Diogo Dalot and Ethan Laird as young, attacking full-backs that could compete with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in that position but instead Solskjaer wants to sign one as a short-term option.
If signing one is the thing that needs to be done because Solskjaer doesn’t rate Dalot and Laird is moving out on loan for the season, then it should be someone younger that is a target. Tariq Lamptey would be a terrific option, while I’m sure some scouting departments could look at the likes of Germany Under-21 right-back Ridle Baku and see a talented option there.
They’d likely cost less than the reported £35million that Atletico want for Trippier but even if they didn’t, the fee would be far more justified as a long-term investment to compete with Wan-Bissaka on going forward rather than someone coming in for a final big pay day.
Whether we agree with the personnel though, it shows that Solskjaer sees what the fans see and that improvements are needed in specific areas. The fact the business seems to be a priority to get done early is a positive.
The summer transfer window is on the right track for Manchester United, for the most part anyway.
England face a crunch Euro 2020 final group game against Czech Republic tonight, and only a win will see them qualify as group winners.
A win over Croatia was followed up with a draw against Scotland, meaning that they have four points from two games just like the Czech’s. But with the visitors on Tuesday night having a better goal difference following their 2-0 win over the Scots, a draw would see them win the group ahead of England.
Gareth Southgate will be without Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell for the game after they were forced to self-isolate following close contact with Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for COVID-19 after the England-Scotland game on Friday night.
So who should start the game that England must win to get their tournament really kick-started? This would be my team:
Jordan Pickford (GK)
England’s best available goalkeeper so he should start. Yet to really be tested during the tournament but has kept two clean sheets and his passing and claiming of crosses has been good, so no need to change anything there.
Kyle Walker (RB)
Walker was hot and cold against Croatia but without him against Scotland, England looked stale. His pace is a powerful tool in both directions while his ability on the ball is more than adequate to help build from the back, he’s England best option in the position and should start.
John Stones (CB)
The Manchester City centre-back came closest to breaking the deadlock against Scotland when he headed against the post. That aerial ability has been on show throughout the tournament but also his one-on-one defensive qualities and passing have continued to shine through and he should keep his place.
Harry Maguire (CB)
Manchester United’s captain has yet to kick a ball at this tournament so far and England haven’t conceded a goal yet, but he should come into the side for this one. Defensively he is excellent aerially and as a leader, while also being far better on the ball than Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady. Must start.
Luke Shaw (LB)
Shaw was called into the side for the Scotland game but struggled to make an impact as he wasn’t really allowed to push on too much. That must change in this game if England are to have success and he is the best attacking left-back in the squad. With Chilwell out due to COVID protocols, he must start.
Declan Rice (CM)
Rice is a solid defensive outlet when it comes his midfield role but progressing the ball against a low block defence is not his strongest attribute. With that said, England can’t afford to lose the game and he is comfortably the best defensive midfielder in the squad. He should be in there for added protection but his role should be simple – win the ball back and give it to the more talented players.
Jude Bellingham (CM)
The last thing England need to do in this game is play with two holding midfielders, so it’s the perfect chance for young Bellingham to make his mark on the tournament. More than comfortable in every role as a central midfielder, the 18-year-old would offer terrific balance and some added attacking quality in the final third where needed.
Jadon Sancho (RW)
He’s yet to get his boots dirty in this tournament but Sancho is more than deserving of some action in this tournament now. England have really struggled creatively so far and only Harry Kane had more goal involvements during the last campaign. Sancho has pace, skill, great combination play with passing and has a killer pass and eye for goal so would be the perfect man to bring in to a struggling side.
Jack Grealish (CAM)
It was a surprise that he didn’t start against Croatia and during the 27 minutes he got against Scotland he wasn’t able to do much, but Grealish deserves the nod here. He has the flair and playing style perfectly suited to international football and has shown time and again in an England shirt that he can perform. With Mount unavailable, he’s the obvious choice to step in to the number ten position.
Marcus Rashford (LW)
Raheem Sterling remains the only man to score for England so far in this tournament but his performances have been far from excellent. Marcus Rashford was second in the entire England squad for goal contributions last season (tied with Sancho) and has come on in both games but struggled to get into them. A start here would give him that chance, with his eye for goal and direct style precisely what England have been lacking.
Harry Kane (ST)
As if it was ever in doubt, Southgate has already confirmed that his captain and star striker will start this game. The Tottenham man is yet to even have a shot on target in the tournament but he’s always been a man for the big occasion and there is no bigger stage than now, so expect him to finally make his arrival with a goal in this one.
Today is the day that Gareth Southgate makes half the nation absolutely ecstatic and the other half furious as he names his England squad for this summer’s European Championships.
UEFA agreed to allow an extra three places in the squad for managers to add following a full campaign of a hectic schedule owing to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months or so.
That should make it a little bit easier to select a squad but there will still be some big names who miss out. While Southgate will name a provisional squad today, I wanted to see just how difficult it is to do and how different people will react, so this is my 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.
Jordan Pickford: The Everton stopper’s place as number one for the national team had come under doubt this season but Southgate has stuck by him for the most part and he will 100% be in the squad.
Dean Henderson: He’s always had great ability and has come through the youth ranks with England. Now as Manchester United’s number one, he has earned his place in the senior England team too.
Sam Johnstone: The third spot was sure to be Nick Pope’s, but the Burnley keeper needs knee surgery and is almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament. That means West Brom keeper Johnstone will get the chance to be part of the squad as the third choice.
Kyle Walker: Quite comfortably the best performing English right-back this season, Walker won the Premier League and is in the Champions League with Manchester City and deserves his spot. He also offers some flexibility if needed, having played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup too.
Reece James: A young right-back, James’ season started impeccably and while he didn’t keep that level throughout the season he wasn’t bad. Good going forward and excellent in a one-on-one situation with a great delivery, he deserves a chance.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: The fact his spot in the squad is so in question is bonkers to me. He had a really tough first half of the season and was rightly left out of the last England squad, but since then he has been back to his brilliant best. He’s improved defensively and has an X-factor when going forward that should make him a shoe-in.
Ben Chilwell: Southgate’s first choice left-back for the most part has had a good debut campaign with Chelsea this season and could top it off by winning the Champions League. He’s decent at both ends of the pitch and this is one of the positions where the choices are pretty clear.
Luke Shaw: Quite comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, Shaw has seen an incredible resurgence in his career this season. He’s been fantastic going forward, with a career high of assists this season but also solid defensively and can even fill in as a third centre-back in a back three too so he’s in.
Harry Maguire: England’s best centre-back and a leader at the back, he’s had a very good season for Manchester United. Aerially he is dominant and while he has got a lack of pace, he knows how to play without it for the most part and shines for Southgate so will start so long as he recovers from his ankle injury.
John Stones:Another player who has seen a huge resurgence in their career this season, Man City have a lot to thank Stones for. While Ruben Dias picked up much of the plaudits (and rightly so), Stones shone next to him and his passing ability from the back should see him as a starter alongside Maguire with fitness permitting.
Ezri Konsa: While I don’t expect him to go, Konsa is more than deserving of a spot in the squad after the season he has had. Alongside Tyrone Mings, he has shown a fantastic ability in all aspects of defending as well as playing out from the back and in my eyes has outshone his centre-back partner. He has great pace to cover round and is good on the ball to build from the back too, meaning he’d fit into the squad brilliantly.
Fikayo Tomori: For sure a wildcard pick, but Tomori’s form since his January loan move to AC Milan can’t be ignored. He was brilliant in Serie A and the Europa League and caught the eye of everyone who paid any sort of attention. That means if Southgate was doing his job properly he’d have spotted him too, and he deserves an inclusion based on form and ability over Wolves captain Conor Coady.
Jordan Henderson: Arguably the biggest character in the camp, Henderson is an automatic pick if he’s fit. Great energy, leadership, solid defensively and a decent passing range too, he starts never mind gets included in the squad.
Declan Rice: Potentially the most important piece of the jigsaw in Southgate’s midfield, the West Ham man’s defensive qualities are something that only he brings to the squad. A fantastic tackler with great awareness, he will be key if England get into the latter stages to take on the better teams.
Jude Bellingham: Not many people will have had him down as getting into this squad at the start of the season, but the 17-year-old has been sensational for Borussia Dortmund and earned himself senior minutes earlier in this campaign. He has the ability to fulfil every midfield role and that fearlessness he brings to his game could be huge.
Kalvin Phillips: A fantastic ball playing defensive midfielder, Phillips has been a big part of Southgate’s plans in squads over the last year and he deserves his place in the side as the insurance policy in the centre.
Mason Mount: A real breakthrough campaign this season for Mount, who made himself indispensable for Chelsea and forced his way into the England setup too. Whether it be deeper or slightly more advanced, Mount is almost certain to start and will be included.
Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal man was one of very few bright sparks in a shocking season for the Gunners and his versatility could be absolutely vital for the squad. Able to play as a full-back, wing-back, winger or even central midfielder, he should find that gets him into the squad above anything else.
Jack Grealish: One of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season prior to his shin injury, Grealish more than deserves his place in the squad. Brilliant ball retention and manipulation, as well as a ball carrier, eye for a pass and top performances for Villa, he has to be in.
Jadon Sancho: Strangely enough there are squads that don’t have Sancho involved and that just makes zero sense to me. A dazzling winger with pace, agility, a brilliant change of direction, goals and assists, he’s performed brilliantly for Dortmund after a slow start and deserves his spot.
Raheem Sterling: After Harry Kane, Sterling is probably the first attacker on the squad list for Southgate and he’s one of them for me too. While his season for Man City was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns, he has goals, assists and brilliant wing play and can play on either side. His quality is high and he’s a must-pick.
Marcus Rashford: The best season of his club career was slowed somewhat by injuries towards the end, but 20+ goals and 15+ assists in all competitions make him a sure-fire pick. He has that X-factor in one on one situations, has brilliant pace and skill, can play across the entire front three and is a good impact sub if he doesn’t start too.
Harry Kane: Well, duh. England’s best player by a distance, Kane is in the squad and I reckon he’ll play every minute of the tournament too.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Since Kane will likely play in every game and play most minutes, the secondary striker role is one that likely won’t be used much. Despite that, you need someone who is a presence on the pitch if they are needed and can score a variety of different goals, so the Everton man is the best pick.
Mason Greenwood: A wildcard pick again, but it’s rare that as a manager you have so much quality to choose from and have to leave someone out. But Greenwood’s quality with both feet, whether through the middle or out wide means he absolutely has to be in. There’s nobody I’d rather a chance fell to when I needed a goal outside of Kane and that’s enough to sway me.
The transfer saga that ran for the entirety of the summer of 2020 is back with a vengeance this year, as rumours around the future of Jadon Sancho begin to whirl once again.
The England international was heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford last year, with the club reluctant to pay his £100m asking price and Dortmund refusing to budge on their price. In the end the winger stayed in the Bundesliga and after a slow start to the season has found form once again.
Manchester United have coped without him this year, with their domestic season going better than any in recent memory and now with one foot in the Europa League final too after a poor start to their campaign also.
But after a pretty good season for the Red Devils under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Borussia Dortmund potentially missing out on Champions League football, interest in the 20-year-old has been reignited.
According to reports in Germany, Dortmund have an agreement in place with Sancho that he will be allowed to leave for a fee lower than the one demanded last summer – reportedly between €85-90million.
It’s a fee that seems much more likely to see a deal struck between the two clubs and is a position that should be looked at seriously to fill this summer.
With news that Edinson Cavani will be staying at Old Trafford for a second season after considering an offer from Boca Juniors, a striker is no longer an outright priority for the club in the summer window.
Obviously if a top class striker such as Erling Haaland or Harry Kane becomes attainable then United should move to secure a deal, but the likelihood is that they will prove too expensive this summer.
If it become a matter of one or the other, then it’s Sancho who should be put at the top of the list.
United have been crying out for a right winger for several years now. Adnan Januzaj never quite made the grade under Louis van Gaal after a phenomenal breakout year, while Angel Di Maria quit after one season because of off-field issues and the fact he never really wanted to join to begin with.
Mason Greenwood and Daniel James currently occupy the position the most, but neither should be there regularly. James simply isn’t good enough to be part of the Manchester United squad while Greenwood’s long term future should be as a number nine.
It’s because of Greenwood’s development that Sancho should be the number one target too. Not only is Sancho a world class winger that brings balance to the side in a position that’s hugely needed, he would be a long-term option as well as the fact he’s the cheapest of the three reported main attacking targets.
In one of the more open ended ties pulled out of the hat, the 2020 Europa League winners Sevilla take on the free-flowing attacking German giants Borussia Dortmund.
Sevilla currently sit in fourth place in La Liga, nine points off the top of the table behind Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Julen Lopetegui’s side have established a fantastic style of football, playing fast-paced possession football where domestically they score twice as many goals as they concede.
Dortmund on the other hand have been a hot and cold side this season, which saw them dismiss former boss Lucien Favre back in December. Edin Terzic was placed in charge for the rest of the season and it was recently announced that they will permanently hire Marco Rose at the end of the season after he revealed he’d be activating the break clause in his Borussia Moenchengladbach contract.
Individually the Dortmund side have still got incredible talent, with the likes of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho finding great form in recent months while Jude Bellingham has settled in well in midfield. There have been injuries throughout the season, especially defensively and their current form has seen them win just twice in their last six games.
It’s almost guaranteed to be a tie that will see both sides attacking and looking to implement their own style on each game to give themselves the best chance of winning.
The Sevilla side is probably better placed to do that, with a permanent coach in place who has worked his ideas onto the squad for the best part of two years now. Central defender Jules Kounde has found himself being linked to all the top sides in Europe following his brilliant performances, while the attacking players such as Youssef En-Nesyri and January signing Papau Gomez will be keen to impress on the big stage once again.
Dortmund can score goals, nothing has changed there, but defensively they are incredibly suspect. There is a huge lack of pace in their back line which Sevilla will be keen to expose but also just a genuine lack of quality and leadership in defensive situations.
This comes down to individual quality (Dortmund) against organisation and teamwork (Sevilla). Normally, I’d back the quality when the gap is so wide but it’s hard to judge when the gap isn’t.
Overall, I think we get a shock in this tie. It should be a high scoring tie, and I think both teams will be able to score goals and win their respective home tie but Sevilla’s superior defence should see them come out on top overall.
Sevilla 2-1 Dortmund Dortmund 3-2 Sevilla (4-4 on aggregate, Sevilla to progress on away goals)
The cat is out of the bag and Manchester United have made their move for attacking depth as Edinson Cavani has agreed a two-year deal with the club.
Reports materialised on Saturday night that the PSG all-time top goalscorer will travel to England overnight and undergo medicals with the club before signing a one-year contract with the option of an added year.
The news was met with division in the Manchester United fan base as some bemoaned the profile of player and his cost, while others were happy for a quality attacking option to be added to the squad on a free transfer.
It’s an interesting conversation to have. At first, it doesn’t matter who the club bring in if his name isn’t Jadon Sancho.
The club have spent the best part of 18 months working to bring Sancho to the club and the terms have been laid out throughout the saga. Dortmund wanted €120million guaranteed. Reports said they were happy to do the deal with instalments so long as a majority of the money was paid up front. Manchester United didn’t do it. They continued to brief that Dortmund would lower their asking price as the window drew to a close, despite Dortmund telling the world that it was €120million or nothing.
Cavani isn’t and will never be as good a signing or a fit for Manchester United as Sancho would be, but Sancho isn’t coming.
What Cavani offers is a quality option for the attack. At 33 years old, he’s in the twilight for sure but his quality can’t be denied. He played 22 games last season for PSG before being frozen out post-January and then leaving the club on a free transfer before the season resumed for the Champions League. In this games, he scored 7 goals but he was largely used as a substitute behind Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi.
He’s being brought in as an alternative to Sancho, which isn’t good. However, as a free transfer on similar wages to what Sancho would’ve earned (reports say Cavani will earn around £200k p/w) then the deal isn’t as bad as many are making out.
The reported agent fee of €10million is very high, but it will likely be negotiated down slightly since the player is keen to play in the Champions League and can’t be registered after Monday’s deadline. With Odion Ighalo due to leave in January and Dan James just quite clearly not up to the standard needed, Cavani helps boost the attacking quality in the side.
Yes, he’s not Sancho or even Ousmane Dembele but he is an attacking threat that boosts the quality of the squad. He’s a proven leader, has experience at the top level and it’s a short-term deal which means we can return to the market next summer.
I would much prefer to sign Cavani to someone like Ismaila Sarr who, despite a good reputation, would cost around £40 million and be on wages of around £100k p/w. What the club needs right now in that attacking position is someone who can help the starting line-up while also can rotate in and out of the side.
It’s not an ideal signing by any stretch of the imagination and the way Manchester United have gone about it is poor. It’s a clear panic signing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad signing.