Manchester United spent most of last season outside the Champions League spots but they timed their run perfectly at the end to finish third in the Premier League, behind champions Liverpool and Manchester City.
Finishing in the top four looked seemingly improbable after Manchester United won just four of their opening 14 league games.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was seemingly on the brink at Old Trafford but Bruno Fernandes’ arrival and a brilliant second half of the season meant, the Premier League giants sneaked into the top, remaining unbeaten in their last 14 league games.
The Norwegian stressed on the importance of Manchester United strengthening their squad in the ongoing transfer window and bringing their targets in early.
So far, that hasn’t happened and with less than three weeks left in the transfer window, the Red Devils manager would be nervous.
However, in the second half of last season, Manchester United showed promise and glimpses of the style of football, Solskjaer wants his side to play.
A couple of key additions from now until the end of the transfer window will be needed to continue the progress but the Red Devils do remain firm favourites to finish in the top four.
Done deals and rumoured arrivals
Donny van de Beek – Manchester United agreed on a deal worth €40m to sign the 23-year-old midfielder from Ajax in the transfer window.
Van de Beek has already proven himself in the Champions League and will add more depth to Manchester United’s midfield and give Solskjaer more options to play with.
Manchester United have continued to chase Jadon Sancho despite Borussia Dortmund insisting in public that they won’t sell the winger. The club have made progress in terms of agreeing on personal terms and agent fees for the 20-year-old but Dortmund’s €120m asking price remains the sticking point.
Despite the dragged out nature of the negotiations, Manchester United remain hopeful that Sancho will be their player by the time the transfer window slams shut on 5th October.
Other than Sancho, Manchester United are expected to sign either another defender or a striker. A lot of the club’s transfer business is now dependent on whether they can snare the England winger away from Dortmund for a club-record transfer fee in the coming weeks.
Confirmed and rumoured departures
Alexis Sanchez – Manchester United wanted to offload Sanchez when the window opened and they succeeded in letting him go to Inter Milan on a permanent transfer.
The Premier League giants agreed to let him go on a free transfer but they were more than happy to do so in order to get his wages off their books ahead of the new season.
Tahith Chong – Manchester United also agreed to loan out Dutch winger Tahith Chong to Bundesliga outfit Werder Bremen.
They are hopeful that the 20-year-old will develop in Germany before they can take a call on his long-term future at the club next summer.
Joel Pereira – The Premier League giants also loaned out goalkeeper Joel Pereira to Championship outfit Huddersfield Town.
The Portuguese is way down the pecking order at Old Trafford and doesn’t have a long term future at Manchester United given the goalkeeper resource of the club at the moment.
Chris Smalling wants to return to Italy following his loan spell at Roma last season but negotiations between the two clubs have been slow and the Serie A giants are now on the verge of signing Marash Kumbulla from Hellas Verona.
Roma are expected to return for Smalling before the end of the window as coach Paulo Fonseca wants the 30-year-old in his squad.
Manchester United are also open to offers for Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Diogo Dalot before next month’s transfer deadline.
The addition of Donny van de Beek to Manchester United squad has further increased the midfield options for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
With players such as Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay at his disposal, the Manchester United manager will be able to field a number of combinations depending on the opposition this season and it will also allow him to keep his midfield men fresh towards the end of the season.
The forward line of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood outscored the Liverpool trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah last season.
Manchester United are right to expect the trio to further improve with Greenwood set to play his second full season in senior football. If they can add Jadon Sancho to the mix, Manchester United will have the attack to strike fear into Premier League defence in the 2020/21 campaign.
The lack of depth in the Manchester United squad was laid bare at the end of last season when some of their best players were running on fumes.
Ole Gunner Solskjaer decided against rotating his squad much and he had little faith on the players he had on the bench. While Van de Beek’s addition, has added more depth to midfield but there are areas of the squad that are threadbare.
Solskjaer will hope that Odion Ighalo and Daniel James will step up this season but the lack of quality beyond Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood is concerning.
It kind of explains why the Manchester United manager wants to sign Jadon Sancho. The squad do not have a natural right-winger and that has been the case for a few seasons.
The Norwegian’s refusal to trust Diogo Dalot makes Aaron Wan-Bissaka the only senior right-back in the squad. While on paper Manchester United have seven centre-backs on their books, how many Solskjaer can actually trust is up for debate.
Key player for Manchester United
It is easy to pick Bruno Fernandes after the impact he had on the squad since he joined the club in January but Paul Pogba remains the player to watch out for.
The enforced break last season helped Manchester United to get Pogba back to full fitness for the final sprint and the Frenchman and Fernandes developed almost a telepathic understanding on the pitch.
He is no longer expected to do everything for Manchester United in the midfield and that has allowed Pogba to play with more freedom in a deeper role.
With Nemanja Matic alongside him and Fernandes ahead of him, the Frenchman could finally unleash himself on the Premier League this season.
Manchester United will hope that they get a fit and motivated Pogba for the entire season as that could turn out to be the game-changer. On his day, the Frenchman remains one of the best midfielders in the world.
Probable Finish: 4th
Also Read: Manchester City season preview: Premier League 2020-21