ARTICLES Opinion

Manchester United 2021/22 season preview and predictions: Make or break for Ole Gunnar Solskjær?

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is about to enter his third full campaign at Manchester United, and the pressure will be on him to deliver a successful season, like never before, as he is yet to guide the team to silverware or lead them to a serious challenge for the Premier League or Champions League.

However, the squad are currently experiencing a few setbacks, given that they have not spent enough time as a collective and some of the key individuals within the team have returned to training recently or are yet to return. Not only that, with the friendly fixture against Preston North End being cancelled due to a COVID outbreak, the side are lack minutes going into the new season.

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The previous campaign resulted in the Red Devils finishing second place in the Premier League as well as reaching the Europa League finals, FA Cup quarter-finals and the EFL Cup semi-finals. Looking at the additions the team have made in terms of coaches and players arriving to Old Trafford during the summer, the football club are expected to progress much further than they have in recent years.

It’s time to look at what the 2021/22 season has in store for Manchester United…

The new addition – linked players

Unlike the last couple of seasons, Manchester United have been doing smart and serious business in the transfer window this time around, bringing in players instantly and not haggling around with the player’s price over a short sum of £5million-£10million. For sure, the season starts in 4 days’ time and the club have brought in only three players, but the circumstances have to be remembered of the European Championship, leaving it to be difficult to complete any deals mid-June to early July.

The Red Devils have so far brought in Tom Heaton, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. With a few weeks remaining until the transfer window comes to an end, Solskjær and the Old Trafford faithful will be hoping that the board can deliver another two signings and potentially the news of Paul Pogba extending his contract, leading to signs that the football club are finally showing ambition.

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United have been linked with a lot of players over the last week or so, especially with individuals such as Kieran Trippier, Ruben Neves and Saul Niguez. Given that the midfield department is lacking a quality defensive-midfielder/holding midfielder and a backup right-back is required for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a signing in each of these positions would more or less be seen as a 10/10 transfer window.

Focusing on the current signings in Varane and Sancho, the side have brought in a world class centre-back and a generational talent for a total fee of £110million, which is more than impressive in the current transfer market as some players are being brought for £100million and over. Also, Tom Heaton returns home to Old Trafford, where he spent majority of his youth career as a teenager.  

Varane’s arrival is expected to solidify the team’s backline, as well as being regarded as the perfect partner to Harry Maguire, who has not been able to form a world class partnership with either Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof. Meanwhile, in relation to Sancho, he will be providing the needed creativity and end product on the right flank, an area United have been lacking in quality for seven years.

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Key players

Paul Pogba is yet to show his consistency and pure quality week in and out for a whole season as a Manchester United player. But with the new additions at centre-back and on the right-wing, it should hopefully free up his duties on the defensive side of the game and not be regarded as the main and only chance creator in the line-up, allowing him to play towards his own strengths.

And with Ole Gunnar Solskjær building a dominant and exciting Manchester United squad, something that has not been witnessed for quite some time, it will help a talented player like Pogba to have more time and space on the ball, as the opposition will have enough on their plate when marking the other midfielders and attackers in the team. Paul Pogba’s time has now come to shine.

Who should be sold?

Based off the recent rumours, no player is expected to leave on a permanent basis, whilst the likes of Andreas Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams and Diogo Dalot are most likely to departure on a season-long loan deal. If United can effectively complete any outgoings over the next couple of weeks for the above players, they may be able to make another signing before the window ends.

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Manchester United’s strongest XI

With the current members in the squad, here is Manchester United’s strongest XI for the season:

Dean Henderson; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Paul Pogba, Fred, Bruno Fernandes; Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho. (4-1-2-3)

Marcus Rashford has not been mentioned as he is due to be on the sidelines for the next 12 weeks.

Premier League prediction

When considering the experience, quality and winners that Liverpool and Manchester City possess within their respective clubs, the best that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United can aim for is a top-three finish. With the lack of time the squad has had together ahead of the new campaign along with Marcus Rashford, being unavailable until the end of October, it would not be a total surprise to see the side start the season very slowly but end it on a high note with performances and results.

Premier League – 3rd place

Champions League prediction

Looking at the current United squad and the number of players they can depend on for their individual brilliance, they would be more suited to achieving success in the Champions League than in the Premier League, where the competition is shorter than league football and anything is possible over two legs. Given that the side are blessed with players such as Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood, there should not be any difficulties for the team to confidently get through the group stages and reach the UCL Semi-Finals of the competition.

Champions League – Semi-finals

Domestic cup predictions

As Manchester United are yet to win their first title or trophy under Solskjaer, the manager will need to work on effectively rotating the team around along with improving his in-game management. With the fixtures coming through thick and fast when the domestic cup matches take place, the side will be aiming to keep their momentum high in all competitions and ensure they perform and achieve consistent results. However, their main focus is expected to be on the Champions League and Premier League, which will leave the team and manager very short in the domestic competitions.

FA Cup – Quarter-finals

EFL Cup – Quarter-finals

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