On December 14, 2019, having been held to a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United sat in sixth position in the Premier League, already 24 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool.
Before the season started, I don’t think there were many United supporters who thought United could realistically challenge for the title. But, at that stage, level on points with Sheffield United and just two ahead of Crystal Palace, a fight for a position in the Europa League felt like one Solskjaer’s side might well lose.
Pre-Christmas, there was a worrying inconsistency to how United played, and with Mauricio Pochettino out of work, many thought that all United needed to do was to navigate their way through the remainder of the campaign as best they could, before handing the managerial reigns over to the Argentinian.
On January 30, though, during the final couple of days of the winter window, something changed, and that change arrived in the form of Bruno Fernandes.
The talented Portuguese forward signed from Sporting Clube de Portugal on a five-and-a-half year deal and ever since, United have displayed title challenging form, going from Europa League hopefuls to a final third place finish in the Premier League, and with that a spot in the Champions League.
Man Utd 2020-21 Odds
|Outcome||Odds (Click to Bet)||Bet With|
|To Win The Premier League||8/1||BetVictor|
|Top 2 Finish||10/3||Bet365|
|Top 4 Finish||2/5||William Hill|
|Not To Finish In Top 4||2/1||BetVictor|
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United’s resurgence in the second half of the season isn’t just down to one man, but with eight Premier League goals and seven assists since February, it’s hard to think of a player who has “hit the ground running” any better than Fernandes.
While question marks remain about United’s defence, Anthony Martial also delivered his finest season with the club and up until the unexpected break, Marcus Rashford was also playing some of his best football.
The United faithful are already looking forward to next season, but how they perform then depends on who they can bring in during this summer window.
Jadon Sancho would add some much-needed class down the right, but at the back Harry Maguire needs a more mobile partner who can cope with more pacey and agile attackers. It promises to be an interesting few weeks.
David De Gea. Since his calamitous form at the last World Cup, De Gea has dipped in and out of form more frequently than an ocean wave. To win a trophy, you don’t necessarily need to have the “best” ‘keeper, but you need one that is, at the very least, reliable.
United fans remain hopeful that De Gea rediscovers his best form, and with Dean Henderson on loan at Sheffield United and racking up the Premier League experience points, the former Atlético Madrid stopper may only have one more season to prove he’s still an elite performer.
Player of the Year
Bruno Fernandes – there’s only one outcome surely! Martial will push him close because of how he’s performed but I can’t think of a player who has had a bigger impact at United straight away since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Robin van Persie was exceptional the last time United won the league but since then, there’s not been a lot to go on.
Bruno’s exceptional goalscoring and assists record speak for themselves, but he also leads by example, encouraging and cajoling his teammates.
2019-20 stats in league and European competition:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 3, 2020
◥ 22 goals
◥ 18 assists
◥ 18 goals
◥ 7 assists
◥ 19 goals
◥ 18 assists
◥ 20 goals
◥ 6 assists
Man Utd's potential front four is scary. 😱
Alongside this, his work rate and understanding of what is required defensively, is critical to how the team maintains its shape defensively.
If United are to win a trophy under Solskjaer, then you get the impression that Fernandes will be central to any success the team has.
Most Exciting Prospect
Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe (when fit) have really impressed, but Mason Greenwood is the academy talent supporters have been dreaming about since the class of ’92. Greenwood is ice cold in front of goal and can finish comfortably with either foot.
The frightening thing for opponents is that he’s only going to get better and not, as yet, playing in his preferred position through the middle. We mustn’t place unnecessary pressure on the 18-year-old, but it’s hard not to be excited by Solskjaer’s ruthless and deadly protégé.
He's already odds-on (4/5 with BetVictor) to make Gareth Southgate's England squad for the Euros next summer, a measure of his rapid progress.
Solskjaer has completed part one of his job and that’s qualifying for the Champions League. It’s now over to the board in the hope that they support him with the necessary funds this transfer window.
If, as is reported, a deal can be agreed to sign Sancho, a midfielder and central defender, then United may surprise a few more people next season. Realistically, most supporters would be happy with a trophy and a narrowing of the gap between themselves and the top two.
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