20 Days of the Premier League is back for another installment, this time focusing on last season’s second-place finishers, Manchester United.
The Red Devils are one of the most famous clubs in world football and have claimed more Premier League titles than any other team, though following a penalty-shootout loss to Villarreal in the Europa League Final, they will be considered underdogs in the coming season.
Is Manchester United Being Disrespected?
Manchester United dominated the 1990s and early 200s, though they have not won a league title since their 2012-13 campaign; last year’s second-place finish matched their 2017-18 charge but still came short of the cross-town champions, Manchester City.
The Red Devils were in first or second for the entirety of last season post-December 20th which came as a surprise to many, given that they were never thought to be true title contenders— even their final result was overlooked by Chelsea’s Champions League victory and Liverpool’s late surge into third place.
Portuguese midfielder, Bruno Fernandes, led the team with 18 goals and 12 assists, while Marcus Rashford was close behind with 11 goals and nine assists. Edinson Cavani, who arrived during the January transfer window, accounted for 10 goals in 13 starts in a successful Premier League debut season. The team ended the year with the third-most goals scored and fourth-fewest goals conceded.
Man U was often doubted by pundits because of their manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who the jury is still out on as a “winning” coach, as well as a defense that features the somewhat absent-minded Harry Maguire —who actually had a phenomenal season— and a goalkeeper dilemma between Dean Henderson and David De Gea. Still, this would mean nothing to them as they were crowned the second-best team in England.
A Fantastic Transfer Period
Manchester United had one of the strongest summers, in terms of transfers, in Europe; they brought in Jadon Sancho, a 21-year-old budding star for $93.5 million, and Raphael Varane, a four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, for $48.23 million.
These moves will bolster the squad in arrears that needed it the most, as seen in the lethargic Europa League Final loss.
United will be bringing back all of its usual first-team members and should challenge for the title— anything less than a top-four finish is unacceptable for a squad of this caliber.
Manchester United’s Outlook
United will have four games before they face a top-six finisher in last year’s table, which will give them time to play themselves into form against weaker opponents and could see them in first place in the early-seasons standings.
Questions remain over the team’s striking options, as a 34-year-old Cavani is far from a long-term solution, but the Uruguayan international has not lost his nose for the goal just yet.
Paul Pogba also presents an interesting dilemma, as the French midfielder is regarded as one of the premier talents in the world, yet has not been able to fit into Solskjaer’s system; the addition of Sancho crowds the midfield even more, and Pogba may end up becoming a rotational player used in cup matches, or as a substitute.
Regardless of how they line up next season, the pressure is on Manchester United to win the title. The club’s winning tradition and lack of recent titles do not mix, and with the league being as competitive as it is, there is a strong chance that no one team will dominate— the Red Devils must capitalize on this if they want to return to their throne atop the league.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.