Are Manchester United Ready For a Title Charge Next Season?

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United's post-Fergie nightmare

It has been a long seven years since Sir Alex Ferguson ended his outstanding career and time as Manchester United manager. Seven years that must feel like an eternity for United fans, as it marked the start of their longest run without a Premier League title. During the Ferguson years, United never went more than three seasons without the title, and now, it's going to be eight without even a challenge.

It is no easy task replacing a man of the ilk of Sir Alex, and United have tried everything. From Ferguson's own recommendation, David Moyes, to serial winner Jose Mourinho - nothing has worked. An FA Cup and Europa League trophy have acted as paper over the cracks but the truth is the Red Devils haven't been good enough, especially in the league. Something had to change.

Up stepped United cult hero, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Whilst Solskjaer didn’t quite have the managerial CV expected of a top club manager, he did have was something that can’t be said for many; he has the fans on his side from the get-go. Just over 20 years before his appointment he carved his name into United folklore when his late Champions League final goal secured United a historic treble.

In the eyes of many United fans, he could do no wrong. Scoring five goals in a game for the first time since the Ferguson era in Solskjaer’s first game in charge was the ideal start. Were the glory days finally returning?

Is Solskajer the right man?

The bounce continued. Solskjaer won the Premier League Manager of the Month in his first full month as boss, matching Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte's record as the best ever start to a Premier League reign as manager. The Norwegian was only supposed to be in charge on a temporary basis, but his impact had fans begging for more.

Coming back from a two-goal deficit to knock Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League was enough to grant the fans’ wishes and Solskjaer was given the job permanently. There have been highs and lows in Solskjaers first full season in charge, but a lot of positives which should give United fans confidence going into next season.

Two wins against Chelsea, a draw against a seemingly unstoppable Liverpool and two wins against rivals Manchester City have shown that United, and Solskjaer, have what it takes to beat the best. Plus, the January signing of Bruno Fernandes has made a huge difference, and if he carries his form into 2021 he, and United, will be a force to be reckoned with.

Pair United’s recent form with the potential for interesting summer recruitments and United could be in with an outside shout of finally challenging for the title again. Here we’ll look at some of the factors that could propel them to glory.

United proved their worth against the Big Six

One thing that the 2019/20 season has showed us is that anyone is there for the taking. Manchester City have already lost three more games than they did for the entirety of the previous season. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have both been around the outside of the top six for the majority, whilst Chelsea have shown signs of inconsistency and weakness.

Even Liverpool, who spent so much of the season looking untouchable, were arguably second best in their 1-1 draw against United. This was at a time of the season where the Red Devils were struggling and the ability to pull results like this out of the bag is a promising sign. Not every side has the luxury of always being able to compete with the best, and this ability should land United plenty of success in the near future.

Manchester United understand the flaws of their closest rivals all too well, though, boasting a record of 17 points in nine games against the 'Big Six'. It has been their ability to beat those beneath them that has had fans worried.

Under Solskjaer, United have tended to make hard work of the teams at the foot of the table, losing to Crystal Palace, Watford, West Ham United, and Newcastle United early in the season meant that it was always going to be an uphill struggle for United going forward.

However, the turn of the year meant the introduction of someone who might just have what it takes to change that next season

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Bruno Fernandes' revitalisation

The January signing of Bruno Fernandes could be the catalyst for a long term change of fortune for United.

Since his arrival, United have been unbeaten in all five of their premier league games. This included a dominant 3-0 win against Watford, where Fernandes starred by scoring one and bagging an assist -this was a game the club they struggled in just two months earlier, losing 2-0.

Being awarded both United and Premier League Player of the Month in his first full month, highlighted his importance. His ability in tight spaces and ability to change a game also appeared to rectify United’s issue of being unable to break teams down, he could be the key in his club’s future success. 

Is Jadon Sancho just around the corner?

Jadon Sancho is one of the most exciting young talents in world football, and moving to Manchester wouldn’t be a culture shock - the skilful winger was on the books of City before moving to Borussia Dortmund.

He is now looking close to moving back to Manchester, only it will be to the red side this time. Paddy Power are offering odds as low as 6/4 for the move to go through, and if he puts pen to paper, United will be a very dangerous team.

Since leaving Manchester as a 17-year-old, Sancho has staked his claim as one of the world's best wingers. Taking to the Bundesliga like a champion, he has tormented defences the last two seasons, with his lightning pace and tricky dribbling. Contributing to a goal nearly every game as a teenager, meaning he has rightfully so become United’s top target.

The 20-time league champions are in need of a superstar like Sancho. There have been big-money signings down the years, all to varying degrees of success, but nobody has been able to truly fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo. United fans have been desperate for another superstar to wear the number 7 shirt, once donned by the likes of Ronaldo, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. 

Sancho is the ideal candidate and the effect he would have on United is clear. The ability to create chances has been a problem for Solksjaer's side, and whilst the signing of Fernandes has rectified that to an extent, there is still something missing.

Sancho’s direct style of play and confident dribbling ability is exactly what United need to go to the next level. If the club can get this deal over the line, they will be a very exciting team to watch and potentially very dangerous in a title charge.

Verdict

Regardless of how they perform there is no doubt that the 2020/21 will be an exciting one for Manchester United and their fans. 

Their ability to beat the top sides can lead to some great days throughout the season and now that Solksjaer has instilled an exciting, fast-paced style of play, United are once again a joy to watch, and potentially a force to be reckoned with.

Couple their big-game performances with the potential for exciting new signings, and you have a United side closer to their old ways.

Far from back to their best, United still have a ton of work to do. But, the movement is positive and the feel is much sweeter than 12 months ago.

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