Manchester United Season Preview: Turbulent and underwhelming era to continue for Solskjaer's Reds
CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 03: Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring against AC Milan at Principality Stadium (Photo by Alex Morton/International Champions Cup via Getty Images)

The tumultuous nature of events at Old Trafford that has existed since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson has yet to cease and this season will be no different. Transfer windows have continually been underwhelming, just like the results and style of the football on the pitch.

Manchester United's board and the club's supporters are hopeful that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man to start a revival, but not many have confidence that he will ever win the Premier League title. Perhaps that will come for his successor, or perhaps not for decades. This season is a vitally important one for United.

And yet, every season since Ferguson tucked his pack of Wrigley’s Extra into his chest pocket has been deemed hugely important. All the while, Man United have increased revenues and profit. The biggest fear for United fans is not a decline down the table but that this is it; a continual struggle to achieve top four, a meaningless achievement when you have no success in the competition that it qualifies you for. That is the fear for United. They don’t want to be the new Arsenal.

Transfer business

The themes of failure of United are the same every season. This summer was promised to be one of great reconstruction in the North-West. Players would leave, Solskjaer would be ‘ruthless’ and big money would be spent to bring in five players. Two have arrived thus far, and none have left except Ander Herrera, the tireless midfielder who the club failed to tie down to a new contract and so left for Paris Saint-Germain, and Antonio Valencia, the finished right-sided former-captain.

Ageing, average figures like Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young have all been rewarded with new contracts.

Two exciting young players have signed in Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Both have impressed in pre-season and both should turn out to be excellent signings. James is an almost risk-free deal given he cost only £18 million, a fee that now means very little for a club like United. Wan-Bissaka cost almost treble that, but he’s a fine full-back and will improve the Reds in an area where change was desperately needed.

A centre-back has finally been signed, it seems. Harry Maguire has been chased for a second consecutive summer. He's not the world-class player you might expect for £80 million, but he'll prove himself worth that much for United. Still, no central midfielder has been signed while the future of Paul Pogba is uncertain. Pogba has shown his class in pre-season, and in the past, but United’s other options are embarrassingly weak in McTominay, Matic, Fred and Pereira. 

United must make moves in the final week of the window if anything good is to come of this season. A coach can do a lot to improve the players he does have at his disposal, and fans should be confident in Solskjaer’s ability to do that with Martial, McTominay, Shaw and Rashford, but he needs better players if United are to be confident of a top-four finish.

One to watch - Mason Greenwood

Undoubtedly the most exciting player in United’s academy for some years, Greenwood is a two-footed, agile and quick striker who can play all across the front line. 

Much of his style imitates that of Robin van Persie, the man who guided United to their last English title. Greenwood will not replicate that just yet but his ability is undeniable and his confidence as a 17-year-old is wonderful.

He’ll be given 15-20 games by Solskjaer this season and will deserve all of them. If managed correctly, and to give credit to United they have kept him grounded extremely well thus far, he will turn out to be a first-team player at the club.

Potential wildcard - Scott McTominay

The Scottish-born academy graduate was once awarded the non-existent Manager’s Player of the Year trophy by Jose Mourinho. He was seen by some non-match-going fans as the teacher’s pet to the underperforming manager. Those who watch United every week and understand the game see not only his graft but his quality.

McTominay is now a first-team player rather than an academy boy being given a chance. United will hope that he is Pogba’s partner in midfield this season. If Pogba leaves, then McTominay will be even more important but could struggle without a player of such quality next to him.

What to expect

A scrappy top-four fight is United's level. They will have good spells where they get carried away with themselves and bad spells where Solskjaer is under enormous pressure. This season will not be an easy ride for him. 

Closing in on United are Leicester, Everton and Wolves, boosted by the Premier League’s mammoth TV deals as well as their owners’ money. They present a very real threat to the Reds but they cannot focus on that. Solskjaer and his squad will be looking immediately to the top of the table for their aim as they should, but the likelihood is that they will be some way off the peak when the curtain falls on another season in May 2020.

Predicted finish: 5th

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