The 2020/21 season is officially over. A long and enduring season of Premier League football followed up with a spectacular summer of international football with the European Championship and Copa América keeping footballing fans around the world glued to their T.V. Manchester United fans can be impressed and proud of how their players have performed for their respective nations with stars like Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Fred being pivotal to their countries deep runs to the finals.
There’s only one week to go until United kick off their first pre-season game ahead of the 2021/22 campaign against Derby County on Sunday the 18th, but due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic means this pre-season is like no other, with players not being able to enjoy the sun in Florida or taking in the culture in Shanghai. Many first-team players returned to Carrington in the last week, although some are still missing due to their involvements at European Championship and the Copa America.
As usual there is always a level of expectation from United fans for the club, and with two and a half years of sustained progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjær there’s belief next season that something special could happen under the Norwegian. For this article, I’m going to delve into players who can stake a claim for the upcoming season through this pre-season period.
Donny Van de Beek
After an underwhelming first season at Old Trafford that culminated in him missing Euro 2020 through injury, this pre-season could be make or break for the midfielder, but there is still a belief from the manger that the Dutchman can still come good and has been impressed by his dedicated attitude.
Having got over his injury, van de Beek is now back at Carrington to begin preparing for next season and, reportedly turning down moves away from United from Inter Milan and former club Ajax. There’s a real determination from van de Beek to perform and take his chance to shine both during games and in training, with competition for his position in Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba currently recovering after their involvement in Euro 2020.Embed from Getty Images
Anthony Martial was named Manchester United Players’ Player of the Year in the 2019/20 season. I don’t think he would’ve imagined having as lackluster and disappointing season as he’s just had, only registering seven goals in 36 appearances, and the arrival of Edinson Cavani probably didn’t help with the Frenchman confidence in getting back into the team with the Uruguayan being Solskjær’s first choice No.9 for most of the season.
But just like Donny van de Beek, pre-season presents maybe a final opportunity for Martial to finally nail down a position so sought after by the manager, and with a big season ahead of him to re-establish himself as a regular Manchester United starter, this pre-season is pivotal for the Frenchman future at the club and maybe his career – it is imperative for him that he takes it. Martial will be keen to put last season behind him and the addition of another top creative player in Jadon Sancho will certainly benefit in his battle to regain the central role at Old Trafford.
Manchester United are crying out for a defensive midfielder to fill the boots that was left by the legendary Michael Carrick four years ago. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjær the position has been occupied by several players, most notably as been seen in the shape of a double pivot of Scott McTominay and Fred. Even though the pair have been effective, especially in big games, it isn’t ideally the way Solskjær wants to shape his midfield. Following an impressive end to the season with Nottingham Forest on loan, there is an expectation Garner could well be the man for the role.
At 20 years old, there is pressure for him to break through this season, and pre-season is a huge opportunity for him to showcase just how much he has developed both on and off the pitch. Over the past season, the Birkenhead-born youngster has transformed from a shy hopeful into a mature young professional. With the absence of key international players in midfield for the first few weeks of pre-season this could well be the opportunity for Garner to show the United coaching staff that his finally ready for regular first team football.
Pre-season is set to be a critical time for the United ahead of what is anticipated to be Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s most exciting season yet, in which the club will hope to start seriously challenging for the Premier League again for the first time in eight years. It will be a vital time for the squad, including for the newcomers thay will need to be breaded in.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has stated that a number of emerging youngsters will get a chance to play in pre-season friendlies this summer, before deciding on whether to send them out on loan. Younger players will be given an opportunity to impress Solskjær and his coaching staff in training sessions, as well as friendlies. Hopefully this pre-season kicks starts a hopeful season for United in to producing a fantastic year for the club and the fans.