After a somewhat productive summer transfer window, Manchester United are set to kick off another year in the Premier League when they host Chelsea at Old Trafford Sunday. While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made good on his promise to recruit a stronger defensive unit, an offensive lineup featuring the likes of
Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez still trouble both fans and critics.
As the Red Devils prepare to chase another domestic title, here are three things Solskjaer’s men must accomplish in order to have a somewhat rewarding season.
Establish a preferred striker
While the preseason contests gave us nothing to look forward to from Lukaku or his Chilean colleague, perhaps fans can take solace in knowing there are some redeeming qualities in United’s offense. Marcus Rashford was consistently in form and it appears the Englishman has found his strongest position in the process. His third goal of the preseason came after pursuing a forward ball to the left before darting inside onto his right foot, outrunning two AC Milan defenders and striking the far post.
With this restored confidence, Rashford can easily create the same magic come Sunday and throughout the year. Furthermore, it’s refreshing to see Solskjaer’s commitment to bringing back that classic fast-paced United attack even before the season begins. With a fresh extension that will keep the 21-year-old in a red shirt until 2023, Rashford is setting a hopeful impression of what’s to come.
Keep Paul Pogba fulfilled
Earlier this summer, the Frenchman hinted that he would welcome a “new challenge,” which I suppose is a not-so-subtle indication that he doesn’t feel satisfied with the state of affairs at Old Trafford. With the transfer window ending shortly, it doesn’t appear Pogba’s wish to leave United will be granted, so he’ll remain in Manchester at least for the first half of the season.
When Pogba feels content, his performance reflects it. United failed to replace Ander Herrera this summer, who left to play for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain. With Nemanja Matić looking somehow worse in preseason matches after having a summer off to find his form, Solskjaer’s midfield poses more questions than solutions. With the one-time world’s most expensive player staying put, it’s the Norwegian’s best interest to ensure Pogba’s happiness remains a priority as United look to challenge Manchester City for the title.
Give the kids a chance to shine in key matches
Bringing Mason Greenwood on the preseason tour was a strategic move from Solskjaer, which ultimately paid off for the former United player. The academy graduate dazzled throughout his time on the pitch, but I was especially impressed with his goal against Inter Milan, which prompted the boss to hint the 17-year-old “has got a chance” to start against the Blues Sunday.
With Lukaku on his way out and the club desperate for a positive structural change up top, Greenwood and some of the other younger lot could serve as fresh legs during a contentious second half when United are in need of a winning goal or an equalizer to split the points.
While Manchester United’s problems certainly won’t be solved in the first several matches of this year, this summer’s preseason tour affirmed many of the starting XI kept their vow to give a fans a better welcome to the new year than how things ended in May.