Manchester United are undisputedly one of the most marketable clubs in the world of soccer, with a fan following second only to Real Madrid across the globe. The club has a very rich history, winning the most number of league titles in English football, coupled with 3 European Cups.
Manchester United dominated European Football under Sir Alex Ferguson, with an unprecedented treble back in 1999 at the height of their powers. However, ever since their legendary manager retired from the game back in 2013, the club has struggled to stay afloat amongst the other top sides in the Premier League. They have been unable to post a single decent title challenge ever since, and have already seen two managers sacked.
With accomplished manager Jose Mourinho now at the helm, United have improved considerably in the last two seasons, and have also invested heavily in the transfer market. However there are still a few major issues that need to be sorted out at the club to guarantee success in the near future. Lets take a look at some of the key decisions the club has to make ahead of the new season.
20 Do: Sign A World Class Left Back
Manchester United have simply never been able to adequately replace Patrice Evra in the problematic left back position. While they once signed multiple left backs together, in the mould of Marcus Rojo and Daley Blind, none of them could fill that void.
Luke Shaw’s relationship with Jose Mourinho is frosty at best, while Ashley Young has done a decent job in that position so far.
However, if they are to compete at the top level, United need a genuine left footed fullback, and should look at the likes of Ricardo Rodriguez and Alex Sandro to strengthen their defense.
19 Avoid: Rushing Fred Into The Starting Lineup
Manchester United recently announced the big money signing of Fred, from Shakhtar Donetsk. While fans are understandably excited, the club needs to be careful about rushing him into the starting 11, with his world cup chances already affected due to an injury. United just need to look over at Chelsea to see what happened with Bakayoko, another very similar midfielder coming off a brilliant season with Monaco. He was rushed into the starting 11 when he wasn’t fully fit, a fatal mistake which affected his whole season, as he could never truly adapt to the sudden change in the speed and intensity that the Premier League provides.
18 Do: Have Patience With Jose
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United have not even posted a decent title challenge, let alone win the title. They have gone through David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, who were both given huge funds to strengthen the squad but could not turn that into tangible success. Eventually it was Jose Mourinho who has finally steadied the ship at Old Trafford, earning a respectable 2nd placed finish in just his second season.
United should overlook his volatile nature and trust him to take the club back to its glory days.
With adequate funds and proper backing from the board, Jose can make United the European superpower they were under Sir Alex.
17 Avoid: Tying Down Ageing Players To Long Term Contracts
Manchester United recently tied down Fellaini to a new contract running till 2020. However, under Sir Alex Ferguson things would have been conducted differently. The Scottish manager only used to offer ageing players like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs one-year rolling contracts, and renewed them only based on their performances. This was one of the primary reasons those two legends could prolong their careers as knew they had to fight for their place in the team and their legacy counted for nothing. United should do the same with players like Juan Mata and Chris Smalling to avoid complacency and to get the best out of them.
16 Do: Sort Out Anthony Martial’s Future Quickly
In Anthony Martial, United have one of the most exciting young forwards in Europe, who scored 17 goals in a brilliant debut season. However, there are rumors that the young Frenchman does not see eye to eye with his manager. Jose simply does not seem to trust the youngster anymore, and Martial’s lack of playing time cost him a place in the French squad for the World Cup. Whether United want to utilize him or sell him, they need to act fast as Martial is potentially worth more than $80 million in today’s market, and the club could really use those funds towards reshaping the squad.
15 Avoid: Putting Immense Pressure On Matic
United completed a massive transfer last year with the signing of Chelsea’s defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic.
The Serbian started the season very well, earning countrywide plaudits for his performances, however, he was soon running out of gas in consecutive games.
This is because he has always been under huge pressure to shield the fledgling defense, with inadequate support from all ends. With a few new defenders and a world-class defensive midfielder alongside him, Matic will feel much more relieved and will be able to turn in match winning performances on a regular basis.
14 Do: Give The 3-5-2 A Shot
Since Antonio Conte shifted to a 3 at the back formation successfully, every other top team has tried a version of it as well. United did too, but Jose soon shelved the idea. However, the formation suits the current United lineup perfectly, with Antonio Valencia probably one of the best right wingbacks in the world, and Ashley Young being relieved of his additional defensive duties as a left wingback. Sanchez could also resurrect his faltering United career by playing off Lukaku in a front 2, while Matic and Pogba can add some much needed diversity in midfield, along with Herrera or new signing Fred.
13 Avoid: Selling David De Gea
David De Gea is undoubtedly the most valuable player in Manchester United’s squad currently, and has been their best player for several seasons in a row now.
He is a priceless asset in today’s world, and the club should do absolutely everything they can to keep hold of him, away from the clutches of Real Madrid.
De Gea has single handedly bailed United out of several key games with his remarkable reflexes, and was the primary reason behind their good defensive record and second placed finish in the Premier League last season.
12 Do: Play Pogba In His Preferred Position
Paul Pogba established himself as one of the most complete attacking midfielders in the world under Antonio Conte at Juventus, something that forced Manchester United to buy him back for a then world record fee, despite letting him go on the cheap a few years earlier. However, despite his occasional match winning performances, he hasn’t quite managed to live up to the expectations yet, primarily because of the additional defensive responsibilities thrusted upon him, which limit his freedom in the final third and prevent him from fully expressing himself in an attacking mode. United should try using him in a number 10 role, with Matic and Fred handling the defensive midfield duties.
11 Avoid: Player Power From Taking Over
Jose Mourinho was sacked not once, but twice from the Chelsea job within a span of 9 years, primarily due to the infamous player power taking over the dressing room at Stamford Bridge. United must avoid that at any cost, to avoid a managerial revolving door as is the case at Chelsea. Players who do not buy into the manager’s system and tactics should be shown the door, and the focus should be on purchasing the kind of players who will blindly trust Jose and his methods, even if they are not world-class talents.
10 Do: Integrate The Youth More
Manchester United’s youth integration policy was regarded as one of the best in the country, not too long ago. Sir Alex Ferguson famously built his treble winning side around the ‘Class of 92’, and United gained worldwide respect for not spending their way to the top. However, in recent years, their youth record has been dismal.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival doesn’t help either, as he is not a man known to give youth a chance.
The club’s academy also needs to be sorted, as their Under 23 side actually got relegated from the development league, as a majority of the players were under 18, and there is a huge gap between the youth level and the United first team squad, which needs to be bridged.
9 Avoid: Signing Players Above The Age Of 29
Manchester United signed Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in January this year, with the expectation that he was in the prime of his career, and will fire the club to the very top with his goals and assists. However, at 29, Sanchez doesn’t exactly have the time to adjust into an entirely defensive setup compared to the free flowing football under Arsene Wenger. He also does not represent any resell value, and will go down as a poor decision from the club to splash out on an ageing player. United should aim to go for young and hungry players who are willing to learn and adjust under different managerial systems.
8 Do: Provide Adequate Competition For De Gea
David De Gea’s only major competition at Manchester United is the ageing Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero, whose move to the club never bore fruit as he was expected to be De Gea’s replacement, not his understudy. Romero is now widely expected to leave the club, and United need to recruit a top young keeper to provide competition for their number 1, whose form suffered at the World Cup primarily due to the complacency of knowing there are no adequate alternatives in his position. With Real Madrid regularly courting the Spaniard, the club needs to look at viable long-term options between the sticks as well.
7 Avoid: Signing Injury-Prone Players
Manchester United are currently being heavily linked with Gareth Bale. However they should steer clear of the Welshman as his poor injury record keeps him out of the Madrid lineup for majority of the season.
United signed Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera in big money moves, however both these players have a very poor injury record.
They spend way more time on the sidelines than on the pitch, thereby being unable to make viable contributions for the team across the season. The club cannot afford to have more players waiting on the sidelines, and need to focus on the injury record while bidding for players as well.
6 Do: Find The Ideal Solution For Rashford And Lingard
In Marcus Rashford and Jese Lingard, Manchester United have two of the most exciting youngsters in Europe, and proper utilization of these two attacking assets could save the club millions of pounds in the long run. Both these players have time and again proved that they can very well cut in with the top footballers in the Premier League, and also for England, with their pace and dribbling abilities a nightmare for any defensive line. However, their selection in the starting 11 has been inconsistent, and Jose needs to identify specific roles for both of them, while the club needs to tie them down to long term contracts to safeguard their future.
5 Avoid: Playing Players Out Of Position
While playing players out of their usual positions doesn’t always turn out badly for a club, as is the case of Antonio Valencia being exceptional as a right back, the club should still ideally look for specific players for specific roles. Playing Paul Pogba as a defensive midfielder or Ashley Young as a left back, is curbing their natural attacking instincts, something the club could make use of as they have accused of not scoring enough goals. Players need to be accommodated in a way that they club is able to use all their traits efficiently.
4 Do: Sign A Top Striker To Support Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku is one of the most lethal strikers in world football currently. Manchester United paid a massive sum to get him to the club from Everton, and it looks like money well spent after he repaid them with 27 goals in his debut season. However, there have been times when he has been completely isolated, with no link with the midfield, especially in big games where he has a poor record.
United should look at signing a prolific young striker who can play off Lukaku, and share the goal scoring burden with the burly Belgian.
This is very important especially since Alexis Sanchez’ move hasn’t worked out well for the club.
3 Avoid: Unnecessary Controversies
Jose Mourinho has undoubtedly been one of the most controversial figures in world football in the 21st century. With his explosive statements, hatred for his rivals, controversial decisions and dramatic touchline antics, Mourinho was actually labeled as being ‘Anti-football’ in the European circles. However, unlike his other clubs, he is now at one of the biggest football clubs in the world, a club built on moral values, which is widely respected across the world. Hence, Jose should curb his controversial nature and stick true to the club’s values, and avoid any sort of negative publicity that can tarnish the club’s image.
2 Do: Rebuild The Defense From The Center
The most important move Manchester United need to make before the season begins is to sort out their defense and fill it with world-class talent.
They have spent far too many seasons with mediocre central defenders such as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and it is time for a radical change.
Eric Bailly fits the bill, but his injury record combined with Lindelof’s failures in his first season means that the club needs to urgently focus on purchasing world-class center backs, if they want to compete with the likes of Manchester City.
1 Avoid: Comparisons With Sir Alex Ferguson’s Successful Sides
Probably the biggest obstacle holding United back down in recent seasons has been direct comparisons with what Sir Alex Ferguson achieved at the club. What the club and its fans need to realize is that even Sir Alex had a miserable start to his United career, not winning a single trophy in his first few seasons, before kicking off with an FA Cup title. The club’s patience in its manager paid off, as the Scottish tactician went on to oversee the most successful period in United’s rich history. Similarly, the club needs to be patient with Jose Mourinho, as many believe there is no other manager who is capable of replicating what Sir Alex achieved at the Theatre Of Dreams. The hunger for instant success usually kills the careers of several promising managers, and eventually the club keeps hanging on to various options.