It is time to get ready for yet another season of Manchester United football. Here are The Busby Babe Staff’s bold (some more than others) predictions for the 2021/22 campaign.
Anthony Martial Bounces Back
Colin Damms: 2020/21 was a season to forget for Anthony Martial. Whenever he wasn’t fighting injury he was struggling to regain the form that saw him reach 23 goals in all competitions in 2019/20. We caught brief glimpses of what we know he can do, but in total he managed just 7 goals for the campaign. That simply isn’t good enough.
Martial gets a clean slate this season, but he’ll need to start producing again. It may not happen quickly with Cavani still in good favor and likely to begin the season up top, but Cavani is at an age where he is incapable of playing close to 60 games a season. With Jadon Sancho’s arrival finally upon us the club have yet another elite playmaker, who can play on either wing. Rashford won’t be back until October, but Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are both fit and ready to start the season. I predict that United’s arsenal of playmakers will work well for Martial, particularly when flanked by Rashford and Sancho with Bruno playing just behind. Barring serious injury he’ll score at least 15 goals this season and will play well enough to stay in Solskjaer’s plans beyond Cavani’s departure next summer.
Paul Pogba wins with United and extends his contract
Colin Damms: That’s right, Paul Pogba will extend his contract and end the seemingly endless flow of transfer rumors by staying at Manchester United for his remaining prime years.
The French midfielder had another standout tournament performance with France this past summer, and is the subject of fresh rumors linking him to Paris Saint-Germain. The Parisiens can offer him riches and a decent shot at European glory, but what they can’t offer him? Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, or Marcus Rashford. Manchester United are no longer the scrubs that crashed and burned under Jose Mourinho. This team is in great shape under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (who Pogba has a great relationship with), and could be just another piece away from finally grabbing some silverware.
It’s simple. Pogba wants to win, and finally has a team around him that matches his ambition. He won’t get much better wages elsewhere in this economy either, especially not at Juventus. It is time for Solskjaer’s reds to win, and win they shall with Pogba. They grab some silverware, and the ride is enough to convince Pogba that this is the start of something beautiful for him and his teammates. He won’t risk losing it for PSG, and he’ll sign the dotted line to guarantee United will keep a duo of midfield maestros for the foreseeable future.
Donny van de Beek breaks out
Pauly Kwestel: Feel like picking ‘guy who struggled in year one does better in year two’ is a bit of a cop out but everything really is breaking better for Van de Beek this season.
Last season United were built around a direct number 10. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are ‘play the ball through to my feet and let me challenge defenders’ players. Donny isn’t that kind of passer.
Donny is a player who thrives on finding pockets of space to receive the ball, then make quick passes and keep moving. Pass and move, pass and move. Two problems with that. Other than Paul Pogba United didn’t have any midfielders that could pass, and no other forwards that could play that way. The addition of Jadon Sancho changes that and makes Donny a legitimate option on the opposite wing (similar to how Pogba was used last season) or as a different kind of number 10.
Between Sancho and Bruno Donny will have players that can get him the ball when he makes his nifty little runs into the box and maybe that’ll lead to him actually shooting the ball this year.
United will solve that ‘set piece defending’ issue
Solskjær: “We've been fortunate enough to convince Eric Ramsay to come and join the best club in the world and in the country. He’s a very highly rated coach who is going to be working with individuals and in charge of set-plays as well #mulive— utdreport (@utdreport) July 12, 2021
Pauly Kwestel: Lord I better be right about this otherwise we’re in for a long season.
United will have options in terms of lineups and formations .... finally.
Vince Rosetta: For the first time in a long time, there isn't a glaring weakness in the United lineup.
After the Sancho signing, that pretty much gave United multiple scoring options and possibilities. If Martial can be the Martial we all know he’s capable of then, this team could actually score a lot, instead of putting the scoring pressure on a few players.
The midfield is just as impressive as the front line. Bruno will obviously be carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders (again) but with our scoring options, some of that pressure should be lifted off his shoulders.
With the uncertainty of Paul Pogba, DVB or McTominay might have to step up if Pogba leaves.
With the likes of Cavani, Sancho, Rashford, Greenwood, James and Martial all vying for the forward places, there’s a plethora of attacking talent.
Take a look at how this new-look United could line up next season:
Henderson - Shaw - Maguire - Varne - AWB - Pogba - Fred/McTominay/DVB - Rashford - Bruno - Sancho - Cavani
We’ll win the Champions League
Suwaid Fazal: Doesn’t get bolder than that. I think Manchester United could win the Champions League. I have my doubts about United really challenging for the league. We should see some improvements and maybe hit 80 points but that no longer seems enough for a league title and could still leave you around 15 points behind 1st place.
None of this matters in a cup competition like the Champions League. Chelsea have won it a couple of times without a great league position. Madrid won more Champions Leagues in the last decade than league titles.
United’s cup record has been fairly good under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, often getting to the latter stages but fumbling right at the end. He’s also got a respectable record against the bigger sides in Europe, thanks in large part to his slightly conservative approach in these games.
United under Sir Alex often relied on their star players to conjure up something decisive in the Champions League while keeping it tight at the back. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer constantly mentions players with an x-factor and Jadon Sancho gives him another match-winner. Beefing up the squad will also allow him to come up with more proactive substitutions.
Add the new set-piece coach and United could use some of the man-mountains in their side to break the deadlock in these tight games while preventing themselves from being on the receiving end of heartbreaking moments. Think Manchester City in last year’s Carabao Cup game, PSG in the Champions League group stages and Villarreal in the Europa League finals. These games are about margins and United might finally force themselves over the line.
Get the ribbons out, the Reds are going party like it’s 1999.
I’ll write multiple features for The Busby Babe during the 2021-22 season
Nathan Heintschel: You thought Suwaid’s Champion’s League prediction was out there? Here is the most meta, inside-baseball (aka our Slack channel) bold prediction this site can offer.
I will write multiple features for this glorious blog that aren’t about nonsense. Real, honest-to-god analysis that y’all might have enjoyed from me when I was analyzing who would take over for José Mourinho or when I correctly predicted Ole making a switch to three in the back during Fall 2019. I promise. I will give you the words.
I’ll save the nonsense for The Busby Babe’s Twitter account which I now help run as a co-admin :)
Mason Greenwood takes the next step
Nathan Heintschel: Oh you want a bold prediction pertaining to Manchester United, too?
How about this? Mason Greenwood proved he was who we thought he was during Project Restart. The kid is IMMENSELY talented, but he also had a weird year last season — we all did though if we’re keeping it 100. Greenwood is not afraid to shoot and, when he has space, he’s lethal. Teams keyed in on that last season and he found it more difficult to score with only nine goals in all comps.
With the arrival of Sancho as the presumed starting right winger for United, Greenwood has the opportunity to be the understudy to both Sancho on the wing or Edinson Cavani as well as Anthony Martial up top. When Greenwood enters a match during the 2021-22 season, more than likely, he won’t have to score, and when a soon to be only 20-year-old who oozes talent can play freely — as he did during Project Restart — I reckon that soon to be 20-year-old who oozes talent is gonna get buckets.
Greenwood will be a top-3 scorer, regardless of position, for this Manchester United team in all comps during 2021-22.