After leading Man Utd back to the top four could Solskjaer make them champions?
The 2019/20 campaign proved to be a rollercoaster of emotions for Manchester United fans. First, they enjoyed the thrills of seeing manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer splash the cash during the summer transfer window on several young, hungry stars. Then came the lows of the results with the Red Devils stumbling from one embarrassment to the next, the team drifting towards midtable.
At the end of 2019 the knives were out, and many connected to Old Trafford wanted the board to cut their losses and show inexperienced gaffer Solskjaer the exit door before he did any more damage or spent any more of the club’s millions.
The joy of seeing Manchester United turn it around was still to come. A strong 2020 pushed the team up through the charts and they found the consistency needed to finish in the top four of the Premier League and force a return to Champions League football.
Boss targets summer signings
Anyone predicting a top four finish for Man Utd back in December would have been laughed out of town by anyone with a passing interest in English football but Ole’s troops stuck to the task, turned their season around and silenced the many critics.
That achievement will live long in the memory, but the manager and his coaching staff believe it’s just the start. The first step on the road back to the top of English football. They finished third last season against all the odds. Can they take Liverpool’s title this term? To do so they’d have to shut up many more doubters, but it would be foolish to write the Red Devils off after witnessing the heroics of last season.
It is likely the board, now back in the Solskjaer fan club, will back their manager with funds in the transfer window again this year. It will come as no surprise to see him stick to his policy of spending big on young stars eager to make a name for themselves at a major team in Europe. Solskjaer, like Sir Alex Ferguson before him, has no trouble putting his faith in youth.
The tabloids are filled with transfer gossip concerning Man Utd at present with every talented wonderkid linked with a move to the club. Some of the names already mentioned are Jadon Sancho and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and they seem to be more than just rumours. Others with less behind them include Pau Torres, Nathan Ake, Gabriel Magalhaes and Jack Grealish.
Proven goalscorer needed
Getting the right men in and settled early will be crucial to Solskjaer’s chances of improving and pushing the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea for the title next season. A look back at the stats of the previous campaign also shows areas where the boss must focus his efforts.
Man Utd drew more games than any other team in the top six of the division with a dozen matches ending all square. That’s worth noting as Liverpool and Man City both finished with just three draws. Finding the killer instinct to finish teams off is needed. That’s shown by the fact they lost eight of 38 league games compared to the nine of runners up Man City and 12 of Chelsea and Leicester.
Bringing in a proven and reliable striker who can turn one point into three is vital. That much is obvious from the fact United scored just 66 goals last season which is less than any other side in the top five and 36 fewer than the Cityzens. When remembering they netted 15 goals in the final month of the season, the signs are there for all to see.
At the other end of the pitch we find Harry Maguire in desperate need of a reliable defensive partner. Man Utd conceded no less than 36 goals in 38 games and that tally was higher than the two clubs finishing above them in the table. Sheffield United down in ninth only allowed three more goals than Man Utd and that’s not the form of a title-winning side.
Club must continue to be ambitious
Can Man Utd win the Premier League in their current form? It’s unlikely, especially if Liverpool strengthen this summer and Man City go all out in an attempt to win back the trophy. However, those brave enough to bet on this should check if there are any enhanced odds available. With the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal all expected to ramp up the pressure, another competitive campaign is expected. United must match the ambition shown last summer but that is easier to do now they have a strong foundation to build on.
Champions League football will also help Solskjaer attract big name players to the club. Finding a reliable striker will be key, one that can turn games in their favour. Getting the right centre back in to help tighten up the defence is another priority and it may be worth seeing how Ole performs off the field of play before making any grand predictions on how his players will handle business on it.