Manchester United have been bullish in the summer transfer window, with two statement signings that surely takes their squad up a level or more. Their good bit of business so far was echoed by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “We’ve scrambled before towards the end of the window and now I have to say we’re in a good position”.
This summer has been interesting so far from a Manchester perspective. This is because they haven’t just made signings, but they have improved their squad quality in the true sense. The last time the Red Devils made a signing with this level of feeling was nine years ago, when Robin Van Persie joined the club. It proved to be a great signing as the striker delivered the last premier league title at Old Trafford.
With the two huge signings so far this window, United already look stronger than last season. They finished second last season and anything short of the title or a strong fight for the title will be seen as not good enough. All eyes will also be on how well they perform in the Champions League as last season’s group stage exit would look even more damning.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done some good work, finishing in a higher position every season on the league table since he took charge. However, he is yet to deliver a trophy for the Red Devils and this season is crunch time. The Norwegian can no longer hide behind the guise of improving the squad or cleaning up the mess left behind by previous managers. The players are on the same page with him and trust him, it is time for him to turn this positive atmosphere to winning a trophy.
HE IS FINALLY HERE!
Manchester United’s pursuit of Jadon Sancho is well documented, as the English winger has been identified as the ideal man for the wing play. The long game has paid off, not only did United get the player but they got him for less than Dortmund previously quoted. The price tag might have dropped but £72.9million isn’t bean cake either.
Sancho is expected to be a hit at Old Trafford, as his direct pace, quick dribbling and fearlessness are the exact recipe needed to succeed as a winger in the English Premier League. He is also the type of forward that Solskjaer likes, one that can be spontaneous rather than rigid to a pattern. His output speaks for itself, as he notched 38 goals and 45 assists in 104 matches for Dortmund in the Bundesliga. In that period, only Lewandowski and Muller had more, recording 137 and 91 direct goal involvements respectively. He also never shies away from taking on a defender, as he attempted 544 dribbles, 100 more than any other player in the Bundesliga, completing 284 of them, which is the highest by any Bundesliga player in that time.
Sancho’s trickery and ability to find his way even in a packed space, will be critical for United against teams that sit back.
THE IDEAL PROTECTOR
Signing a 28-year old multiple Champions League and World Cup winner is a masterstroke. Raphael Varane brings a lot of experience and more importantly, a winning mentality to the squad. The French defender has entered the peak age period for most centre halves and it is only a matter of how well Harry Maguire blends with him.
United conceded 14 goals from set piece situations last season, a record only surpassed by Leeds (15). Varane brings a lot of aerial prowess having won over 72 percent of his aerial duels last season, compared to just over 59 percent won by Lindelof. He also comes with some pace, better than what United currently have in the team in his position. Maguire and Lindelof often struggled against pacy players, and this limited United in the way they set up to attack. The team often sat deeper than most top teams last season, with a double pivot sitting in front of the center backs.
With Varane bringing more speed than what is currently present, the team can now step out more than before, a move that could bring an improvement in build up and added pressure on the opposition. Varane’s presence also means Solskjaer can play a back three with a high level of confidence. The tactical flexibility will help the team adjust well in different situations.
Sancho and Varane are two signings that not only bring talent and experience, but also tactical flexibility and a ruthless mentality. It is crunch time for Solskjaer – the tools are present, now make it work.