Tag Archives: Manchester United

Ella Toone and Alessia Russo’s blossoming partnership key for Man United.. and England

An elite space manipulator in Ella Toone, and a fit Alessia Russo? Scary hours – but not for us.

Alessia Russo had started last season ridiculously well, and within her first 3 starts had already given the team two league goals and two assists.

Fans were licking their lips at the prospect of her launching United into that coveted top three – that would see the team make the Champions League for the first time in its history.

However, fast forward a couple of weeks, and Alessia had unfortunately suffered a complete hamstring tear which saw her season ended prematurely following complex surgery and rehabilitation.

This, coupled with other major injuries in the team – most notably to the world-class Tobin Heath, saw the club’s Champions League dream fade.

The saving grace of last season was the development of Academy graduate Ella Toone, who shone through despite the club missing out on top three by one point.

After doing so well with United in the Championship in 2018/19, she saw reduced minutes in the 19/20 season following the club’s promotion to the Women’s Super League.

Ella Toone of Manchester United controls the ball during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester United Women and Manchester...
Ella Toone is a star in the making for club and country

The following season a rejuvenated Toone came into her first game and started not only full of confidence, but a clear idea about how she can use her small, though nimble presence to be an elite finder of space in the midfield. Former United manager Casey Stoney even went as far as to refer to her as “undroppable”.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure in watching these two young stars play, the best way to describe the way Toone is somebody that no matter who is surrounding herself can wriggle out of extreme pressure through body feints and passing. Think David Silva but from Tyldesley.

The greatest asset to Toone’s game is the fact that her game intelligence appears to be extremely high. Not only is she a fantastic player technically, but her decision-making in the centre of the park is more often than not well beyond her years.

The biggest indication that this is true is the fact that her teammates appear to trust her completely, even under pressure. This season she has started receiving the superstar treatment, with two and sometimes even three people closing her down.

Ella Toone of England looks on during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Qualifier group D match between Luxembourg and England at the Luxembourg...
Toone made her first start for England in the recent internationals

However, all this signifies to me is how much of a threat she is considered by opponents, and more importantly how adaptable and calm she is when she meets obstacles on the pitch.

Having received her first England start a few weeks ago, I’m nothing but confident that she will be able to make that number 8/10 position hers for years to come.

Her understanding of the game lends itself well to the international level – namely her ability to find space and evade opponents with her close control and movement. So whilst she nailed down a starting and pivotal role to the United team, getting consistent minutes in the England squad is going to be a harder task because of the sheer amount of quality in the Lionesses attacking areas.

However, Toone has shown many times before that competition for places and increased demand on her is something that she welcomes – and I have no doubt that in the next three years she will be vital to the England side.

Alessia Russo of Manchester United Women scores their second goal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Manchester United Women...
Russo got on the scoresheet against Man City last weekend with a brilliant finish in the box

Unlike her close friend and teammate Toone, Russo didn’t get the last season to develop through consistent games at the club because of her injury.

What we see with Russo is a clear mould of a traditional striker, with her ability to link up with other forwards players, be a focal point with strong hold-up play, and more importantly her extremely accurate finishing.

In the five games I was able to see her in last season she showed more than just potential. Instead, she showed a clear understanding of how she could use her physical stature and positional knowledge as a striker to not only give herself goal-scoring opportunities but also give the wingers playing goal-scoring opportunities as well. 

As she continues to build her fitness up this season, as well as the fact that she appears to have a great relationship with teammates no matter which personnel she’s paired wit, I can only see great things for her both in the short and long term.

Alessia Russo of Manchester United Women in action during a training session at Carrington Training Ground on October 01, 2021 in Manchester, England.
Could Russo be the long-term replacement for Ellen White for England?

Her style of play makes her a very good candidate for being Ellen White’s eventual successor, and I think that her and Toone’s close connection both on and off the pitch will bode well for what England can do in the future.

So, as one of the founding members of the Toone and Russo fan club, I’d love nothing more than to see them both excelling and winning trophies – both for England and Manchester United. And when that (fingers crossed) happens… just remember that you heard it here first!

Manchester United’s poor business head rears again with Jesse Lingard

The summer of 2020 was all about the future of Jesse Lingard at one point, and the England man found himself out in the cold.

Despite the addition of Edinson Cavani, Donny Van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes into the first-team picture at Manchester United, Jesse Lingard opted to stay at the club and fight for his first-team place after scoring his first and only goal of the season on the final day against Leicester the previous season.

He found himself out in the cold in the first half of last season, featuring only in the Carabao Cup and failing to get on the pitch for even a single minute in the Premier League.

He left the club on loan in January and joined West Ham, where he lit up the league and became one of the best performing players in the second half of the campaign.

He scored nine goals and registered four assists in 16 games for the Hammers, helping them to secure European football and it was expected that he would complete a permanent move away from Old Trafford last summer.

But with a year left on his deal and with Manchester United signing Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho to add to their attacking options, Lingard instead opted to stay put and fight for his place once more.

He started the season relatively well, scoring against Newcastle and West Ham while also setting up Ronaldo for the winning goal against Villarreal in the Champions League. But all of those appearances came from the substitutes bench, with his only start so far coming in the Carabao Cup.

Jesse Lingard of Manchester United celebrates scoring his teams second goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester...

This has led to more speculation over his future, with reports that he has rejected a new contract at the club as he wants assurances over more regular game time.

Barcelona and AC Milan are reportedly interested in signing him on a free transfer, but the whole situation just screams poor planning on United’s behalf once again.

The Reds had ample interest in the 28-year-old during the summer for a permanent deal but set their asking price at around £30m.

For a player who had six-months of good form and was out of contract in less than 12 months time, it seemed high and was proven to be when nobody made an official offer for the England international.

Lingard strangely didn’t push for a move, despite the lack of football ultimately costing him a place in the Euro 2020 squad, something he admitted made him cry.

Jesse Lingard of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Carrington Training Ground on September 28, 2021 in Manchester,...

So with a World Cup coming up next year, the decision to put himself back into that scenario was just odd. United’s decision to keep him was odd, Solskjaer’s adamance to keep him around but not use him is odd. The whole situation is odd.

Now it seems that United will lose out on a chunk of money for a valuable asset, Lingard will miss out on another half-season of football and clubs interested will get a bargain for a player who showed he is capable of making a difference.

United must learn that sometimes they need to just let players go for a bit less than market value to be able to get something at all. Because far too often they are left in a situation where they get nothing for players that they had plenty of interest in, because they’re too stubborn to shift their demands or far too generous with their contracts which means players are too comfortable and don’t press to leave.

It’s a nasty cycle and one United must break, or face the same situation happening again and again in the future.

Raphael Varane confirmed to miss ‘a few weeks’ by Manchester United

Raphael Varane will be out for ‘a few weeks’ for Manchester United after he picked up an injury while on international duty with France.

The summer signing from Real Madrid started in the centre of a back-three in the UEFA Nations League final for France but was forced off injured just before half-time.

Varane chased a long pass over the defence and seemed to overstretch, grimacing in pain and immediately going down to receive treatment.

The 28-year-old was unable to continue and was replaced by Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano with the game still at 0-0, and he was seen with ice strapped to his thigh before and after the break.

France went on to win the game 2-1, coming from behind thanks to a brilliant performance from Karim Benzema and Varane was seen celebrating with his teammates on the pitch after the game.

But after returning to Manchester following the game, the club have revealed that he suffered a groin injury in the game and expect him to miss ‘a few weeks’ of action.

Injured, Raphael Varane of France - here with goalkeeper of France Hugo Lloris and physio of France Denis Morcel - will have to be replaced during...

In a statement released on the club website, Manchester United said;

“Raphael Varane sustained a groin muscle injury in the UEFA Nations League final and has commenced rehabilitation at the club.

“He will be out for a few weeks.”

With Harry Maguire currently out injured with a calf injury that has seen him miss the international break with England, United face the prospect of travelling to Leicester City at the weekend with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones as their only fit centre-back options.

The injury comes at an awful times for United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with United also facing Atalanta home and away in the Champions League as well as Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham in the Premier League before the next international break.

Manchester United fans panic as Raphael Varane injured for France

Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has sparked panic among supporters after he was substituted for France with an injury.

Varane started in the centre of a back three for the reigning World champions in their UEFA Nations League final against Spain. But after 41 minutes a ball was played over the top and replays showed the 28-year-old grimace with pain.

The former Real Madrid man went down with the ball out of play and after a short period of treatment from the medical staff was immediately substituted, with Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano replacing him.

While the injury wasn’t clear and there was no coming together with another player, Varane was then shown on the bench by Sky cameras with an ice pack strapped to his right thigh.

That would suggest a muscle injury and would likely mean he would miss at least a few weeks if the problem is as bad as it seems.

That is awful news for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, with captain Harry Maguire already out injured with a calf problem picked up against Aston Villa in the Premier League.

That would leave Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones as the only fit centre-back options, with the Ivorian playing just once and Jones yet to feature for the first-team this season.

United’s upcoming fixture schedule is incredibly tough, starting with Leicester at the King Power Stadium next weekend.

They then have back-to-back games at Old Trafford against Atalanta in the Champions League before a huge clash with rivals Liverpool the following weekend.

They then travel to north London to take on Tottenham Hotspur before the return fixture against Atalanta in Europe, before finally taking on Manchester City at Old Trafford on November 6th.

Cristiano Ronaldo – A blessing and a curse for Manchester United

It’s not a coincidence that so many game-winning moments fall to Cristiano Ronaldo and it happened again for Manchester United last night against Villarreal.

United struggled for the majority of the game, with the Spanish side cutting them open over and over again before eventually taking the lead through Paco Alcacer after Diogo Dalot struggled to deal with Arnaut Danjuma yet again.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made positive substitutions this time around and the game changed in the Reds’ favour, as Bruno Fernandes clipped a free-kick to the edge of the box for Alex Telles to volley home in typical Paul Scholes fashion to equalise.

Then came the onslaught as United pressed for a winner and it came in the 95th minute, their latest ever winning goal in Champions League history, as Cristiano Ronaldo pounced on a Jesse Lingard lay-off to smash into the roof of the net.

It saves United’s Champions League campaign for another week and while it showed exactly why they signed Ronaldo in the summer, the overall performance showed why Juventus weren’t exactly moving heaven and Earth to keep hold of him too.

What Ronaldo brings to a team now at 36-years-old is clear for all to see. He is the ultimate predator in the box, the greatest fox-in-the-box there has probably ever been. Like Solskjaer said in his pre-match press conference and Carlo Ancelotti has said before him, starting with Ronaldo in your team is essentially starting with a goal on the scoreboard already.

But the previous 94 minutes of action showed the flaws that Ronaldo has in his game now as he has developed into the cyborg he is.

His overall game isn’t the most polished, especially as a number nine. His hold up play isn’t the best, with his first touch when his back is to goal often letting him down and his willingness to go down under any sort of physical pressure from a defender meaning attacks break down before they even start.

It also means that United’s greatest weapon in recent years, their wingers and fast-paced attacks, can’t get going into games as much as they once did because it doesn’t suit the way to get the most out of the legendary number 7.

He doesn’t really occupy central defenders in the way someone like Edinson Cavani does and quite regularly he gets frustrated at a lack of service and drops deep to collect the ball, leaving nobody in the vicinity of the goal.

While his five goals in five games so far are telling me the absolute opposite, it’s likely that in the long-term this could start to affect the team.

The team begins to search for him a bit too much in instances, one moment in particular last night showed me this. Fernandes received the ball inside the penalty area after a lovely pass from Paul Pogba and instead of laying the ball off to Mason Greenwood for him to shoot, he instead opted to cross to the back post for Ronaldo who wasn’t even there yet and was surrounded by defenders.

United need to find a way of using their former system in which wide players were vital in creating and scoring goals while the centre-forward was in the box to pick up scraps and finish moves off. On paper, that seems perfect Ronaldo but his presence and status means he’s often doing more than that.

Clearly it works for him individually as his numbers continue to impress all despite his age. But is it sustainable? Long-term, it may come as a detriment to the team when opposition eventually start to pile onto Ronaldo and the team are conditioned to look for him to bail them out.

There’s no doubting that Manchester United will win more games with Ronaldo than without him, as last night showed. But there are already suggestions that a team that already relied heavily on individual brilliance to win them games has become even more reliant on a single brilliant individual to do the job.

Why is having a different vision deemed as being a fake fan?

Far too regularly on social media a bad results seems to turn fans of a club against each other because they see the game differently.

The biggest example I tend to see is with the top clubs after a bad result, where some fans want to see something different and other fans are intent on backing the manager no matter what.

There is no wrong answer, because everyone sees the game differently. But something that always gripes me is when one fan tells another that they’re ‘fake’ and should go and support someone else if they’re not happy. Why is there not allowed to be criticism that runs alongside support?

Lets take the Manchester United defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League as an example.

Manchester United took an early lead thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal and while they weren’t playing particularly well they were leading and comfortable. Then Aaron Wan-Bissaka got sent off and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer began to panic.

He switched to a three-at-the-back system at half-time, leaving only Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes as real goal threats on the pitch as he looked to see out the result with 45 minutes to go in front of a hostile set of home fans. Then they equalised after some sustained pressure, and Solskjaer decided to bring off both Ronaldo and Fernandes at the same time with Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard coming on in their place.

United couldn’t keep the ball and then in the 85th minute, he confused the world by bringing on Anthony Martial for Fred. Young Boys scored a deserved winner in the 95th minute to condemn United to an opening group game defeat, yet some refused to acknowledge the poor decisions of the coach.

Yes it was an individual error that cost United the game, as Lingard’s back pass got intercepted and slotted home, but the decisions before that build up to a lack of outlet and threat for the opposition to worry about.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Interim Manager of Manchester United acknowledges the fans following the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Manchester...

Calling for a manager to be sacked off the back of one result is obviously ludicrous and ridiculous, but when it’s a result or performance that is seen regularly with decisions that constantly let the team down then it isn’t.

Whether someone agrees or disagrees is their prerogative, but someone wanting change doesn’t mean they’re a ‘fake’ fan or don’t support the club. That’s a nonsense narrative.

A fan wanting to change something to take the club forward in their opinion is in no way a negative thing. Abuse and agendas unacceptable and pointless, but giving an opinion on how you think the club should move forward should be a topic of debate not the start of a civil war between a fan-base.

As usual, social media is a bed for extremes. It’s either the best or the worst, when the truth is really somewhere in the middle. Blindly backing a manager or player just because of the position they hold or a personal belief is more counter-productive than looking for solutions (even if extreme!) to make the team better.

Whether you agree or disagree with something someone is saying is fine. Everyone is allowed their own opinion and no fan-base will ever agree with unanimously. That isn’t the issue. But calling someone a ‘fake fan’ for their way of improving being different to yours makes absolutely zero sense.

So next time you see a take on social media that you disagree with about your club, remember that all they want is for the club to be better than it currently is. That or some attention.

Premier League 2021/22 – Top Six predictions

The Premier League is arguably at the strongest and most competitive that it’s been at since the 2015/16 season when all of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger were managers and Leicester City were crowned champions.

This time around though it’s not the managers that make the competition competitive however, it’s the actual players available to all the different squads.

This summer we saw the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho to the league, while Jack Grealish was also on the move as one of the better players in the division.

Despite Arsenal spending over £150m on new players their squad is arguably weaker than it was at the end of last season and they will find it a struggle to get back into the top six this season when compared to the likes of Leicester and West Ham.

But after three Premier League games, the transfer window is complete, so these are our pre-season picks for the top six positions in the Premier League this season.

Likely lineup: Lloris; Emerson, Romero, Dier, Reguilon; Skipp, Hojbjerg, Alli; Bergwijn, Kane, Son

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August...

It seems to always be the same teams in and around these conversations but Tottenham actually had a pretty good transfer window this time around.

They kept hold of Harry Kane after months of speculation, signed Cristiano Romero for their problem centre-back position, signed Emerson Royal at right-back and have also managed to integrate Oliver Skipp and Dele Alli into their midfield.

They lack serious depth and injuries at any point in the season could be an issue for them, but keeping Kane is huge. He guarantees them goals throughout the season and means they always have a chance to win games, but his overall enthusiasm to be at the club could be an issue.

My gut tells me that defensively they’ll be strong but they won’t score enough goals and that will see them get too many draws to finish in the top four, plus Kane won’t be as productive as he has been in recent years.

Likely lineup: Schmeichel; Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Castagne; Ndidi, Tielemans; Barnes, Maddison, Perez; Vardy

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring the first Leicester goal during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Leicester City at...

Many thought it would be third time lucky for Brendan Rodgers’ side this season to finally break back into the top four after their summer window, but I think they’ll fall just short once again.

The Foxes added Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare, Ademola Lookman (loan), Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand to their squad and for the first time managed to keep their previous squad together into the new season, with no major sales. However the serious injury to Wesley Fofana in pre-season will have harmed their defensive strength and Jamie Vardy is one year older now.

They’ve started the season well but I feel the teams above them last year have further strengthened too and it means that unfortunately for them, they’ll just miss out once more.

Likely lineup: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on August 28, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

I’m going to get this in there early, but the top four I have selected could genuinely interchange in any way and I wouldn’t be that surprised. But something in my gut tells me that Liverpool will finish fourth this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side managed to scrape a third place finish last season despite having minimal defenders for most of the campaign, and this season they welcome back all of Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and new signing Ibrahima Konate in the heart of their defence.

Unfortunately for Reds fans though, they failed to strengthen the squad anywhere else. Harvey Elliott returned from loan and has done well so far in the Premier League but I don’t think he is quite at the level where he can help launch a title challenge and their lack of depth means they’ll likely fall off as the season goes on.

At their best though they’re without a doubt one of the best teams in the world, and with one of the best managers in the world on the bench it’s really hard to completely write them off.

Likely lineup: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Grealish; Mahrez, Torres, Foden

Jack Grealish of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2021 in...

The reigning champions were just three wins away from winning the lot last season and then went and added the first £100m player in Premier League history to their squad, yet I think they’ll fall off this year.

Jack Grealish’s arrival to the squad obviously boosts them, but the failure to sign a top striker to replace Sergio Aguero is a problem. Yes, they won the league last season without a striker but to expect to do that again seems short-sighted and Guardiola’s chase of Harry Kane all summer tells me he knows that too.

Ferran Torres has started the season well in that role but I’m not totally convinced he can be that consistent goalscorer they need, so I think they may struggle in games against the better defences this season. Defensively they’re arguably stronger this season with Aymeric Laporte playing himself back into form, but the team just doesn’t strike fear into me like it once did.

As good as they are, with the depth and manager they have, they just don’t have that aura about them for me this season and for that reason I think they’ll fall to their lowest finish under Guardiola.

Likely lineup: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo


I’m willing to admit this could be a bit of bias, but Manchester United look so strong this season.

As a unit they have one of the best defences in the league and their attacking options can compete with Paris Saint-Germain for depth and talent. They have match winners all over the pitch and credit must go to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for building a squad that is now expected to compete on all fronts.

There is a glaring midfield weakness though and ultimately, that could be what lets them down. Against the top sides, the lack of a top defensive midfielder could be an issue and Solskjaer is likely to make up for that by using both members of McFred together and sacrificing an attacker.

While they’re probably best placed to win things this year moreso than any other since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it may be a cup competition that falls their way rather than the league because the gap between the top managers and Solskjaer is just that big. They’ll run it close, but ultimately it’ll just be one step too far.

Likely lineup: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Havertz, Lukaku, Mount

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea celebrates his goal. During the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on August 22, 2021 in...

The champions of Europe looked formidable under Thomas Tuchel in the second half of last season but they had one glaring weakness – finishing in front of goal.

So what did Uncle Roman do? He signed Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m fresh off arguably the best season of his career to date to lead the line. The Belgian scored in first game against Arsenal and played well against Liverpool as Chelsea earned a draw with ten men at Anfield and already looks the perfect man to shoulder their title challenge.

Defensively they still look imperious but they look even more well drilled and with added depth to their midfield with Saul Niguez joining on loan from Atletico Madrid it’s hard to see where they will come apart this season.

A top manager, arguably the best squad in the league, a solid defence, a world class midfield, a goalscoring machine up front and a system that they’ve seemingly mastered – Chelsea are my picks to win the title this season.

Premier League transfer window – summary & thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything football related on here, and that’s because I’ve been pretty busy and also writing for the Manchester Evening News in my new full-time role (hence the much reduced content rate these days).

But even without my constant commentary, the football world hasn’t stopped moving and the last month or so of the transfer window has been absolutely unrivalled in sporting history.

Lionel Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain and the French giants refused to sell Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid despite his contract entering the final 12 months of validity. But the Premier League was even crazier.

The easiest way to do it is to go club by club through the sides most expected to win the title this season and summarise their window and expectations for the upcoming campaign.

We’ll start with the current reigning champions Man City, who smashed the British record transfer fee to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in a deal worth £100m. After losing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers to Barcelona, they were expected to bring in a top striker too and chased Harry Kane throughout the summer but they were then left hanging when Spurs refused to negotiate.

Jack Grealish signs for Man City in Premier League record £100MILLION  transfer from Aston Villa

Despite the failure to sign a striker, City have started the season scoring ten goals in three games and defensively still look very solid as they did last year. They have a clear hole in the squad in terms of a traditional centre-forward, but Pep Guardiola sides always have several goal sources and that won’t change this year.

The signing of Grealish for a nine-figure sum added to the fact they were literally three wins away from winning every trophy available to them last seasons mean the expectation of the team is still to win the league.

Their issue this season however will be that they have a lot of competition for the title.

Arguably their strongest competition will be the current reigning European champions, Chelsea. The Blues look solid under Thomas Tuchel once again this season but have addressed some key areas, including the signing of fearsome striker Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan in a deal worth £97.5m.

After balancing the books to get Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea press on with fire  sale as they chase next big deal | Evening Standard

The Belgian has returned to Stamford Bridge hungrier than ever for success, fresh off carrying Inter Milan to the Serie A title last year. He’s been joined on deadline day by Saul Niguez on a season-long loan deal from Atletico Madrid, further boosting the depth of an already stacked squad.

Chelsea are solid defensively, excellent in transition and in possession and now have a certified source of goals leading their attack too. With the depth they have, the excellent coach and pure quality in the squad they should consider anything but winning the league a failure.

The other main competition that they will have this season is from the red half of Manchester and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man United side.

Not only did they finally complete the signing of long-term targets Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, but they also did the impossible and were able to re-sign the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus.

United were able to bolster their defensive line hugely with the addition of one of the best defenders in the world and then boosted an already strong attacking lineup with one of the best young wide players as well as one of the best ever. They didn’t however manage to sign a defensive midfielder and that could be a hinderance in their title push.

Despite that though, by adding so much quality to a team that finished second last season the only expectation of the squad can be to win it this year.

I realise that means I’ve said three different team have to win the league this year, but that’s because no matter what happens come May 2022 at least two of those teams will be considered failures for not lifting the Premier League trophy.

It could well be all three deemed as failures though, because Liverpool are well and truly in the race yet again. Last year they were completely blitzed by injuries to their defensive line and when Klopp opted to play midfielders in defence to cover them, they completely collapsed to the worst title defence in a long time.

But with Virgil Van Dijk back at his imperious best plus the return to fitness of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip followed by the addition of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, they’re defence is so much stronger. The midfield is solid, boosted by the promotion of young talent Harvey Elliott while Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota make up a formidable front line they are back to being contenders.

With Jurgen Klopp in the managerial hot seat too, Liverpool have got one of the best coaches in world football and a team that just two seasons ago was without a doubt the best in the world. They’re underdogs because of the business their rivals have done, but they are without a doubt in the running for the title too.

It’s due to be an absolutely crazy Premier League season and one you won’t want to miss under any circumstances. Keep an eye out for our top six predictions coming next week too.

How Manchester United should line up in attack in 2021/22 with Jadon Sancho

*Photo credit goes to @UtdDistrict*

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.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford of England look on during the England training session on June 03, 2021 in Middlesbrough, England.

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.

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 6-2 with Bruno Fernandes during the UEFA Europa League Semi-final...

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.

Manchester United transfer window looks right for the most part

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.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford of England look on during the England training session on June 03, 2021 in Middlesbrough, England.

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.

Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium battles for possession with Declan Rice of England and Kieran Trippier of England during the UEFA Nations League group...

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.