Manchester United experienced an eventful transfer window in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first summer at the club. The Red Devils experienced mixed fortunes as they managed to complete some good business but failed to acquire the signatures of a couple of big names who were linked.
Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James arrived while Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia, and Romelu Lukaku departed. United’s attempt to rope in Paulo Dybala to bolster the front-line failed to bear fruit.
Did United enjoy a great window? Is the squad now well-equipped to take on the challenges in the new season?
A 4-0 win at home to Chelsea in their season-opener provided a few answers but we take a closer look at each department and grade them based on quality and depth.
Goalkeepers – B+
Two years ago, David de Gea could claim to be the best goalkeeper in the world. But the Spaniard was error-prone at times last season. He did stand guard behind a very shaky defence but some of his errors were inexcusable.
That said, the wider evidence suggests he is still one of the best in Europe and among the top three in the Premier League. The additions in front of him will no doubt see the De Gea of old reemerge in 2019/20.
Back-up stopper Sergio Romero barely featured last season, but the Argentine is arguably the best back-up goalkeeper in the English top-flight.
Defence – B
The back-line was the most improved with the arrivals of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. While defences as messy as United’s were last season can’t transform overnight, the Red Devils have made great signings and are now on the right path.
Maguire and Victor Lindelof will be claiming the starter’s spots in central defence in all likelihood but a fully fit Eric Bailly could offer some competition to the latter.
Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones form the band of back-up centre-backs along with the Ivory Coast international. These players are either past their prime or were never at the required level from the beginning. The promising Axel Tuanzebe though could prove to be a big boost in this area after an impressive pre-season showing followed an outstanding season on loan at Aston Villa.
The Red Devils boast of an able pair of first-choice full-backs in Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw. The back-up for the former, Diogo Dalot displayed great potential last season and provides cover. However, the lack of options beyond him is obvious. An ageing Ashley Young must step up his game to fill in for Shaw when required.
Midfield – C+
The midfield can be a C+ or even a B, depending on which version of Paul Pogba graces the pitch. At his best, the Frenchman is among the top-five midfielders in the world and can elevate the quality of any team. But he can also go missing in games.
Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira are favourites to partner him in midfield, assuming Solskjaer has set his mind on grooming the youngsters and forcing the likes of Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata to play second fiddle. Fred will also offer depth in central midfield as the Brazilian has not done much good to his chances of landing a starter’s role.
United are lacking creativity beyond Pogba. The rumoured transfer of Christian Eriksen was hence more of a necessity than luxury and the Red Devils should have pursued the Denmark international with more conviction.
The defensive aspect of the midfield is secured by McTominay with Matic as cover but an injury to Pogba could see United suffer in an attacking sense.
Attackers – B
United’s attack, much like it’s midfield, is hit and miss. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have quality but lack consistency. The duo can comfortably score a brace against a top team but fail to keep a healthy goal-scoring streak.
James showed promise while at Swansea and scored a goal against Chelsea on his debut as a United player. The Welshman has the potential to make the right-wing role his own.
Mason Greenwood and Alexis Sanchez add to the depth in attack. The former can certainly develop into a key player in the future.
Sanchez starred at Arsenal but has failed to establish himself at his new club. He may still have the quality to turn around his fortunes and showed that with a couple of decent games during the Copa America.
United’s attack is well-equipped to create all sorts of trouble for the opposition but the lack of a prolific goal-scorer is alarming
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