Manchester United are back in Europe’s top tier competition with a youthful and attacking side. With the rest of the ‘top six’ having strengthened formidably coupled with the lack of signings at Old Trafford, can they maintain their top-four status in a season which looks to be more intense and competitive than the recent one?
A horrible start to the season, the Red Devils were left reeling near the mid-table at the end of the first half of the season. Then came Bruno Fernandes who completely transformed the lackluster Red Devils into a formidable attacking team. The emergence of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams was a silver lining in a season which saw them recover and clinch a top-four spot. But all was not well as they were knocked out in the semifinals in each of the three-cup competitions they were a part of.
After a season in which every team except the champions underperformed, Manchester United clinched a top-four spot which looked unlikely after the start to their season. They will look to maintain their place in the top four, but the strengthening of their rivals will make this task even more difficult than the last time out. A top-four finish coupled with success in one of the cup competitions would turn out to be a successful season for the Red Devils.
Disappointing would be the exact word used to describe the transfer situation at the Manchester-based club. In a summer unlike any other, they have been linked to every other player in the transfer market with Donny Van De Beek the only signing to become a reality. Their interest in Jadon Sancho has been evident for quite some time now and this saga looks set to continue until the deadline day.
Dayot Upamecano, Thiago, and Sergio Reguilon are the other names that have been continuously linked with the Red Devils recently. The signing of the full-back looks more likely now with Thiago rumored to prefer Liverpool over United and Leipzig ruling out any move for Upamecano. In terms of exits, Smalling and Rojo are rumored to be on their way out of the club with an exit looking likely for Sergio Romero after the return of Dean Henderson from the loan.
Strengths & Weaknesses
The midfield option for the Red Devils looks stacked with quality after the addition of Van de Beek into their squad. The attacking duo of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will be full of confidence at the back of successful individual seasons. The emergence of Mason Greenwood has brought some much-needed youthful exuberance in the squad with his clinical finishing.
On the other hand, the defense has looked shaky at times with the duo of Maguire and Lindelöf not quick enough to deal with fast counter-attacking sides. On the left side of the backline, Luke Shaw remains one injury away from exposing a big hole in the United side evident from last season. Coupled with their defense, the right-wing looks like a problem that has been present for a long time and looks set to continue with the pursuit of Jadon Sancho bearing no fruit until now.
It is no doubt that United have looked stronger than they have been in recent times, but they still seem to lack the firepower in some departments which have left them behind their domestic as well as European rivals.
With Chelsea making huge improvements in their squad, it looks like the Red Devils will have to battle it out with the North London clubs for the final top-four spots. United still look like favorites for fourth place with the quality at their disposal. In addition to the top four, a domestic cup victory and a strong run in the Champions League may look like a possibility if all goes well in the transfer market for them.