Are Manchester United Ready to Become a Force Again?

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As there’s no football happening at the moment, and likely not again for some time, it’s an opportunity for everyone to step back, take a pause, and assess what we’ve seen in the English Premier League since the January transfer window closed.

Since February, we’ve seen a mini-revival of sorts at Manchester United. It’s too early to say that everything suddenly looks rosy again at Old Trafford; we’ve seen a false dawn at the club once before during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s relatively brief regime; but things definitely look better than they did before the festive period.  

The majority of United fans have always accepted that the club was always likely to spend this season working on small improvements and attempting to reorganize. Solskjaer has spoken many times of having a long-term plan, and challenging for top honors was never on the 2019-2020 agenda. Even with that in mind, results toward the end of 2019 were prompting cause for concern.

United was in a slump, seemingly out of contention for any honors at all, and struggling to stay in the race for a Champions League place. By January, some of the more impatient members of the club’s fan base had had enough. They wanted Solskjaer out, and the Norwegian legend was campaigning in the press to save his job.  

What a difference a few weeks can make in football. Before the season was put on hold, United looked like a team reborn. As Chelsea began to flag in the race to secure the final Champions League qualification place, United started to put a run together. They climbed up the league, progressed through the later rounds of the FA Cup and looked very dominant in the Europa League.

Out of nowhere, the prospect of a domestic cup win, a European trophy, and a respectable league finish became more realistic. Solskjaer was no longer being booed. His team looked potent in attack. The fear factor, to some extent, returned to Old Trafford.

So what made the difference?  

The shot answer is Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder has taken to life in the Premier League like a duck to water and already looks like the team’s missing x-factor. Putting a winning combination together in top-flight football is a little bit like landing a winning line on a slots with paypal, and often just as random. If you’ve ever played one of the more popular football-related games on online slots sites – ‘Striker Goes Wild’ for example – you’ll know that you’re never guaranteed a win no matter how valuable the symbols that turn up on your reels are.

They’re only worth something if they show up in the right order. That’s why the mathematics that drive online slots games are so complicated, and the job of a Premier League manager is no less complex. Solskjaer already had great players but he didn’t appear to have the right combination. Now, thanks in part to Fernandes, he does.  The whole is more than the sum of the parts now that the former Sporting Lisbon man is in the lineup. 

Just attributing this turnaround to Fernandes, though, is unfair. Firstly it lumps too much pressure on a player who, for all his early promise, is still finding his feet in the English league. Secondly, it downplays the importance of loan signing Odion Ighalo.

The boyhood Manchester United fan’s temporary move to Old Trafford is a feel-good story, one that’s been sadly lacking in the red half of Manchester during the past few years. Ighalo took a pay cut in order to secure the deal, and described it as ‘a dream come true.’ When he takes to the pitch in a United shirt, he plays like his life depends on it. So far, he’s produced when called upon, do it’s hard to imagine that United won’t make an attempt to turn his loan deal into a permanent one when the transfer window re-opens.

He loves being there, the fans already adore him, and he’s shown that he has the quality to do what’s necessary on the pitch. He might not start every game once Marcus Rashford is fit again, but he’s an excellent weapon to have in reserve.  

If it’s possible to finish this season, the delay might even do Manchester United some good. It’s given Marcus Rashford the chance to heal up and get back to full fitness. Paul Pogba – missing for so much of this season and rumored to be totally disinterested in helping the side – has suddenly declared that he’s fit and he wants to stay with the club for next season.

mason greenwood

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that a fit, motivated Pogba is one of the best players in the world at his position. A United side with Pogba and Fernandes in midfield, supplying ammunition to Rashford, Martial, Greenwood, and Ighalo upfront is a very different proposition from the toothless Manchester United side that began this season. They still have Alexis Sanchez to return from his loan at Inter Milan, and if he comes back, he’ll do so as a player with a point to prove.  

Six months ago, United looked like a team that had obvious weaknesses in every area. All of a sudden, most of those weaknesses have disappeared. They’re fluid and threatening from midfield, sharp upfront, and beginning to look more assured at the back thanks to the emergence of Brandon Williams. David de Gea may have made some high-profile mistakes during this season, but as the old saying goes, class is permanent, and form is temporary.

david de gea

De Gea is still one of the best keepers in the world and will benefit from playing behind a confident and settled defensive lineup. This is not a great Manchester United side yet, but all of the foundations required to create one now appear to be in place.  

Nobody’s able to say whether the 2019-2020 season will finish or not. Whether it does or it doesn’t, United are coming out of this season in much better shape than they were going in. Add a few signings during the summer – Borussia Dortmund’s English winger Jadon Sancho, for example – and they might be back in contention for the game’s biggest prizes in 2020-2021.  

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Comments

  1. Its a force to reckon, get Sancho and Kane..

  2. Red Devil says

    Man Utd won’t be a force even they buy quality players I.e Sancho; Grealish; Kane& Koulibaly. If they have a brainless manager like Ole. This manager has no tactical know how to play with more tactical teams. Ole must be replaced before the new season starts. Bring in more football knowledge manager.

  3. Its aforce to reborn again.Get sancho,koulibaly,Niguez and kane

  4. Elphas Wanda says

    Ole is the right manager. The team is building up so well. Clear signings done by Ole…bring on next season

  5. Omondi K'osir Clinton says

    The team is on the right track..The foundations are there for a top team..17 clean sheets out of 21 games is an example..Goals win matches but a good defense win titles..Kane,Grealish,Sancho,De ligt and Zakaria,you have a complete team capable of competing for major honours..

  6. Goodnews Teikabowei says

    Ole’s the right man for the job,let us focus on next season.

  7. Ole is doing a great job, knows exactly what he wants. Our record against top teams shows we’re on the right track, issues vs lower teams down to a lack of creativity not tactics. Fernandes a big step in resolving that issue, Sancho and Grealish would fully sort it. A more mature Greenwood, Chong and Gomez plus Ighalo and a DM would see us compete against the best. City have issues, Liverpool looking stale, can’t wait for next season!

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