Cast your mind back to April this year. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has just issued a public apology to the Manchester United fanbase following their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Everton. More than that, the manager also states that there is plenty of work to do during the summer transfer window, hinting at a complete re-build from the ground up.
That interview left many Man United fans thinking that there would be more than a few transfers to look forward to, both in and out of the club. Yet just three notable deals have been struck to bring in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and, most recently, Harry Maguire. As for the outgoings, Ander Herrera (one of United’s best players last season), Antonio Valencia and Romelu Lukaku were all moved on.
That said, it’s clear that a large part of Solskjaer’s focus now lies in the youth prospects that are gradually coming through the ranks. Could this investment in young talent pay off next season? Let’s take a look at the key areas of the United squad as they currently stand.
It’s fair to say the Man United defence was in a sorry state last year, with a whopping 54 goals conceded over the course of the season. The club has made significant strides in strengthening their backline, with Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka coming in to replace Phil Jones or Chris Smalling and Ashley Young respectively.
Most fans will be fairly happy with these deals, not to mention the fact that goalkeeper David de Gea looks set to sign a new contract at the club over the coming weeks. Add in Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw and Axel Tuanzebe to the mix and you’d have to say that a solid defensive unit could be formed out of those players.
On paper, the middle of the park is perhaps the biggest area of concern for Manchester United next season. The departure of Ander Herrera to PSG is certainly a blow, and the board didn’t finance a move for a suitable replacement. Some fans still have confidence in the young talent of Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira to step up alongside Paul Pogba, yet the lack of depth in the squad remains a worry.
There were plenty of rumours flying around regarding potential moves for a centre-mid – particularly Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen – yet they were unable to get a deal done for either, which is probably of little surprise to Man United fans considering the number of top players they have been linked to over the past few seasons. However, their business has done enough to convince the bookies as they are fourth favourites at 11/10 in the football betting to finish in the top four outright markets.
The departure of Romelu Lukaku and the lack of a replacement means there should be plenty of opportunities for the group of young, talented attackers currently at the club. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will play important roles, that’s for sure, whereas up and comers such as Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Daniel James will each get their chance to shine in the first team. They have also have older stars to complement these youngsters: Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.
Even so, despite the improvements that have been made over the summer, you’d have to say that the squad still has a fair few holes to fill before they can put a top-four finish beyond doubt. There are still question marks over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who will be keen to validate his new tactical approach and focus on youth as soon as possible. The first few months will be critical, let’s see how it all turns out!