Showing posts with label 15th August. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 15th August. Show all posts

Most promising season under Solskjaer

Manchester United begin the season on the back of their best transfer window in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era with additions of centre-half Raphael Varane, winger Jadon Sancho and reserve keeper Tom Heaton. Diogo Dalot back from his successful stint at AC Milan is like a new signing. And two weeks are still left to the end of summer transfer window! Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has augmented his coaching staff with Eric Ramsay the youngest coach to get a UEFA Pro license at 27 in 2019, he joins United from Chelsea as 'set-piece specialist' an area of concern from last season having conceded the most goals amongst the top four with 44. Trophy is the only thing missing now at United.

Unlike last season United managed to play four pre-season friendlies(2W, 1L, 1D) to build the momentum leading up to the opening game of the season against rivals Leeds United. It will be the first game at Old Trafford with fans since the 2-0 win over Manchester City in Mar, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. United will have a new shirt sponsor this season in Germany's Team Viewer and look forward to "ground-breaking augmented reality solutions and remote access to Old Trafford – Manchester United’s famous stadium". Solskjaer also signed an extension to his contract until 2024, the departing chief executive Ed Woodward rightly said "Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch."

Based on the fixtures released United have a relatively easy start until facing Liverpool on 23rd October. Three matches each in November and March will be the toughest. Aim for Solskjaer will be to have United in the hunt for the title until April. This will be a very tough task as the standards set by Manchester City and Liverpool have been of the highest order. 12 points behind City last season and 33 points behind scoucers in season before that; on both occasions the champions ran away from rest of the pack in December. Chelsea have invested heavily to win the Premier League as they endure the longest league trophy drought under Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Strength in depth still does not favour United with deadwood at the club in Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Eric Bailly, Andreas Pereira and aging Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Lee Grant. This is despite the purge of more than a dozen players like Fellaini, Sanchez, Rojo, Smalling, Romero that has positively brought down the wage bill significantly to move United from top to 7th in space of two seasons. Following players have been loaned out: Axel Tuanzebe, Facundo Pellistri, Tahith Chong, Nathan Bishop, Ethan Galbraith, Ethan Laird and the futures of Amad, James Garner, Brandon Williams, Teden Mengi is not finalized.

United face Leeds on the opening day of the season only for the 2nd time. First time they met was in 1970 on August 15th losing 0-1 at Old Trafford. Last Leeds United win at Theatre of Dreams was on 28th February, 1981 and since then United have mostly the upper hand. Premier League welcomes 50th club in Brentford this season, with Norwich and Watford the two other promoted teams. Much maligned VAR has adopted the successful model from the Euro 2020 in terms of offside and handball rule; the substitutions has been limited to 3 from 5 while the squad can still have 20 players.

Marcus Rashford will miss the opening 2-3 months due to long delayed shoulder surgery. This will put the onus on Anthony Martial to make the most to sustain his United career which was blighted by injury last season. Will Paul Pogba be consistent? Will Donny van de Beek get more game time? Will Solskjaer still persist with double pivot of McTominay and Fred? Will the acquisition of Sancho hinder the development of Amad? Will Bailly be happy being fourth choice centre-back? Will United be as lucky as last term with injuries? United will need to create more goals to augment the loss of penalties from changes to VAR. Last three seasons United have won 12, 14, 11 penalties! Two legged League Cup fixtures are back unfortunately. Top three finish in league but within single-digit points difference from the winner, make it to the knock-out stage of Champions' League and a trophy like FA Cup or League Cup sounds risky as a good Cup run usually depends on the draw.

United will get off to a better start this season than the terrible ordeal of last season, try to avoid losing to relegation teams and convert many of the 11 draws into wins. To win trophies they would need to win the crucial moments in crucial matches by making right use of all available resources. This will entirely depend on the judgement of the manager in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. If Sir Alex Ferguson chose Solskjaer to be his 'man of destiny' who in turn has build the club back step-by-step, will surely be cognizant of the pivotal moment this season is going to be. United faithful have never been so optimistic in last five seasons, not just our super-sub.

Draw at Bramall Lane might be a good result as Egan's injury favours United

The very first fixtures of the then newly formed Premier League was played on 15th August, 1992 which had a match between the United's of Sheffield and Manchester that resulted in the first goal scored by Brian Deane a header against Peter Schmeichel ending in 1-2 loss for Sir Alex Ferguson's men in search of winning the elusive League title. Mark 'Sparky' Hughes scored MUFC's first goal of the Premier League era.

The back line in 3-5-2 of Sheffield United: Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O’Connell have the second best defensive record in the Premier League including five clean sheets, these overlapping centre-backs have taken the league by storm narrowly beaten by Liverpool and Leicester, drawing to Chelsea and Tottenham, and beating Everton and Arsenal. Blades Manager Chris Wilder will wait till the last minute to take a call on John Egan who withdrew at half-time playing for Ireland with a calf-injury, so as to not break this impressive partnership in defense that could tilt the balance of match. Veteran Phil Jagielka back with SUFC, though having all experience from his impressive Everton stint will ideally not want to face Rashford, Martial and James running at him. Dean Henderson on loan from MUFC will have to sit out this game for SUFC.

Manchester United had a good run of games in winning five of last six matches leading up to the international break and look to continue that form away at Bramall Lane in South Yorkshire. They will be without their player of the season so far Scott McTominay who suffered an ankle injury in the win against Bournemouth. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can revert to 3-5-2 to contain the Blades in the first half and change to 4-3-3 in the second half to force a result. Andreas scoring against Bournemouth would certainly enhance his confidence. Fred will need to take up more responsibility in McTominay's absence. Jesse Lingard will look to make an impact as a substitute as he marvels the progress of his fellow MUFC graduate who played alongside him in Oliver Norwood leading the Blades as a regular first team starting place still remains scarce at 26 years of age. Harry Maguire returns to Bramall Lane leading MUFC having originally graduated from the youth academy at Sheffield.

Sheffield United won their 3rd FA Cup in 1915 the final dubbed the 'khaki cup final' played at Old Trafford instead of Wembley due to on-going WWI and beat Chelsea before the famous cup competition was stopped for five years.

Chris Wilder is the holder of League Managers Association's Manager of the year award ahead of Guardiola and Klopp last year speaks volumes of work at Sheffield mixing old school work ethic with modern techniques. Wilder might not leave his boyhood club mid-season even if approached by a top six side. These kind of tough away fixtures against a well organized well drilled side matures the youth much better than playing many games against struggling teams. MUFC can take draw as a good result with Egan's injury further favouring the reds.

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