September 19th 2020 - That's when Manchester United begin their Premier League campaign for the 2020/21 season against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
With the summer transfer window still open and United relatively slow to get deals across the line, it seems as if they're heading into the new season amidst an atmosphere of gloom amidst the United faithful. However, despite a slowdown in essential transfer dealings, there are still some rays of optimism and hope as they head into the new season.
Momentum from a strong end to last season
United are unbeaten in the Premier League since February and were the form team in Project Restart during the 2019/20 Premier League season. A strong run of results couple with an attractive style of play propelled United to a third-place finish last season and saw them exit all three cup competitions in the semi-final stage.
Bruno Fernandes was instrumental in United's unbeaten and carried the team single-handedly at times. Scintillating displays in attack coupled with a relatively resolute defence helped United bring Champions League football back to Old Trafford.
As United head into the new season, if they carry this momentum into the game vs Palace, with a fully fit Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes; and a scintillating front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial & Mason Greenwood alongside new signing Donny Van de Beek at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's disposal, there are definitely some strong rays of optimism and hope at the Theatre of Dreams
Blend of experience & youth
A fully fit first-team of Premier League level players and a burgeoning academy that delivers quality talent suited to the highest levels of the game that the Premier League demands - That's what United have at their disposal at the moment.
It'd be extremely naive to believe that the current crop of first-team and academy talent can drive United straight to the top. However, it can definitely help the Red Devils play some scintillating football on the pitch and pose a stiff challenge for the very best in England and Europe.
The current crop of players is a cocktail of experienced stalwarts and vibrant world-class talent. United have proven world-beaters like Pogba, Fernandes and Rashford (to name a few) at their disposal alongside exciting academy talents like Mason Greenwood, Teden Mengi and Ethan Laird joining the senior ranks. Axel Tuanzebe is also expected to play a pivotal role at centre-back this season as he nears a return to full match fitness.
Although United must have much higher expectations of a title challenge and competition across all fronts, the current blend of experience and youth is definitely a good starting point to build towards the level needed to turn those expectations into reality on the pitch.
Some direction in the transfer strategy
It is extremely difficult to build optimism amongst the United faithful when it comes to the way the current transfer window has panned out.
An intelligent deal for a world-class player in Van de Beek surrounded by endless links to "top priority" target Jadon Sancho to bolster United's long unaddressed right wing. With roughly three weeks to go, United still remain hopeful of a deal for Sancho, but with rivals strengthening left, right and centre, United supporters are currently on thin ice living in fear of being left behind.
While United's squad is not "perfect" and the slowdown in essential transfer dealings does sound frustrating, the transfer committee model at United is certainly moving the club towards more efficient transfer activity in small steps going forward.
As we move towards the crunch business end of the transfer window, United will surely be expected to see more incomings as well as sales of fringe players over the line before the window closes on the 5th of October.
In a nutshell, it's not all doom and gloom at United as the external scenario seems to paint it. As we head into the 2020/21, it's time again to look forward to a season of hope, dreams, optimism and exhilarating football at the Theatre of Dreams.