First Team News

Manchester United putting faith in youth

Manchester United have made a statement in the transfer market this summer, although not quite the one fans of the club would have been expecting. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men ended the last Premier League campaign with a whimper, failing to record a win in their last five matches. The Red Devils finished in sixth place, five points off the pace of the Champions League places. The club failed to capitalise on Tottenham’s stutter, leaving them to endure a European term in the Europa League rather than with the elite of the continent.

United’s inability to secure a spot in the Champions League has resulted in them struggling to lure world-class players to Old Trafford. Matthijs de Ligt opted to move to Juventus rather than the Red Devils, leaving Solskjaer and Ed Woodward to pursue Harry Maguire. A deal for the Leicester City defender could reach as high as £80m, eclipsing the fee paid by Liverpool for Virgil van Dijk. However, the transfer is yet to be completed at the time of writing, increasing the urgency at Old Trafford.

Their struggle in acquiring elite talent is reflected in their betting odds, with the leading bookmakers at Oddschecker naming them the fifth favourite for Premier League glory. They’re no further forward than last year and the pressure will be on Solskjaer to get the most out of the remaining players in the squad.

Even that could be a major challenge, given Paul Pogba’s mercurial nature, while Romelu Lukaku has been surprised fans with a switch to Juventus. The Belgian’s move could see Paulo Dybala move in the opposite direction, although losing a proven commodity in Lukaku would put the Argentine under pressure to hit the ground running in England.

Solskjaer would be taking a huge gamble to allow a 20-goal striker to leave, though he also faces the pressure of fans’ of expectations of his team qualifying in a top-four spot. We’ll now look at three players that will have to make a huge impact in the 2019/20 campaign if United is to compete at the top of the table.

Marcus Rashford

Since his outstanding start to his United career four years ago, Rashford has made a steady improvement but now faces the challenge of becoming the main man leading the line. The forward is still only 21 and has been an excellent contributor in the final third, notching 10 goals in the Premier League last season.

However, with Lukaku likely to leave before the end of the window, and as Dybala is not exactly known for his goal-scoring prowess in the 20 strikes per term range, Rashford will have to take on the burden. He does have the attributes needed to thrive, and it will be fascinating to watch his development.

He possesses strong finishing skills as well as pace and movement. Solskjaer will be looking to the 21-year-old to spearhead his overhaul of the squad – one which is built on youth and exuberance rather than guile and experience.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Unless United are able to pull the trigger on a deal over £50m before the end of the transfer window, Wan-Bissaka will be the most lucrative move of the summer for the Red Devils. The defender has impressed down the right flank for Crystal Palace over the last two seasons.

However, eyebrows were raised when he completed his transfer to Old Trafford for the same amount that Kyle Walker moved to Manchester City for in 2017. There will be pressure on him to live up to that standard in both defensive and attacking disciplines.

United have been fortunate to have quality players at right-back for an extended period of time. Given the level of investment, they cannot afford to have a slow start from the England Under-21 international. He only has 42 Premier League appearances under his belt, so will need to prove that he can live up to the billing to become a player that can lock down the position for the next decade.

Victor Lindelof

United may opt to sign Maguire and pair him with Lindelof in the middle of the back four. Lindelof struggled in his first season at the club, but started to show signs that he was settling into the Premier League. The Red Devils paid £30m in 2017 to acquire the defender from Benfica, which looks to be a decent fee in today’s market.

The Swede arrived with a promising reputation, but if he can develop into the world-class defender that many hoped then United could have the best centre-back pairing in the top-flight. Solskjaer is not going to be able to revive the club’s fortunes overnight or perhaps not even in the first few months of the campaign. Forming a solid tandem at the back to build the team around will be crucial and Lindelof could become a lynchpin for the Norwegian and United moving forward.

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By RedManc

RedMancunian is the number one source for Manchester United news, insight and opinion on the most successful football club in the English top flight. RedMancunian was founded at the end of the 2011/2012 football season. We hope to provide insight on football matters related to Manchester United and provides a sense of what the club was and is all about. Follow RedMancunian on Twitter - @RedMancunian