One result does not make a season but, on the basis of Sunday’s emphatic victory over Chelsea, maybe Manchester United fans should start to get optimistic over the new campaign.
Against a side also harbouring top four ambitions as a minimum target, United rarely looked troubled and were coasting by the final whistle. But does that 4-0 victory justify the club’s transfer dealings, keeping in mind that a fair share of criticism was handed out over social media while that window was still open?
With 2019/20 finally underway, it’s now time to look back at the summer window and ask whether Manchester United have got it right.
Ins and Outs
The facts show that United welcomed three new signings to Old Trafford in the summer of 2019. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James were secured early from Crystal Palace and Swansea City respectively while the club left it late in terms of Leicester’s Harry Maguire. The last player in through the door commanded a record fee for a defender with Maguire costing some £85 million to bring him across from the King Power.
In terms of departures, the highest profile deal saw Romelu Lukaka leave for Inter Milan. The Belgian striker joined Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia in seeking pastures new and it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Lukaku leave the club.
While a number of reserves have also departed, it’s effectively three in and three out but does it equate to a good window?
A world class centre half had been a long term priority and the failure to secure a big name was partly behind Jose Mourinho’s ultimate departure from Old Trafford. Twelve months ago, Harry Maguire was already being mentioned as a target, along with Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, and United have finally got their man.
Red Devils’ fans wouldn’t want to admit it but we’ve seen over at Liverpool how one, major defensive purchase can transform a side. In 2018/19, Manchester United conceded 54 Premier League goals – more than any other club in the top nine and six more than Newcastle who finished the season in 13th place.
As pleasing as the final scoreline was from an attacking point of view, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must have been delighted with the clean sheet against Chelsea and it’s hoped that Maguire can bring stability to a defence that has been calamitous at times.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka also played a full part in Sunday’s win while Daniel James made an instant impact from the bench, scoring the final goal on 81 minutes. The former Crystal Palace man had been a target for a number of Premier League clubs while James seemed to come from nowhere.
Both are young and raw but this was a great start and suggests that in terms of purchases, United have got it right. With Maguire providing a Man of the Match performance and James and Wan-Bissaka solid in their contrasting roles, surely United fans will be happy with the incomings…
Gaps to Fill
If there is a concern over Manchester United’s transfers this summer, it’s the absence of a striker to come in and replace Lukaku. His departure was hardly a secret and a return of 15 goals in 45 matches last season just wasn’t enough for a man who cost an initial £75 million just two years ago.
But the lack of a direct replacement is worrying some supporters. Juventus’ front man Paulo Dybala was a late target for the Old Trafford club but the player’s demands ensured that there was nothing doing in terms of the Argentine. With no real quality options elsewhere, it was too late to cover so Lukaku left with no centre forward coming in.
The departure of the Belgian means that Marcus Rashford moves up unopposed as United’s first choice striker – until January at least. Behind the England man, Anthony Martial also needs to deliver and it was, therefore, encouraging to see both men on the scoresheet in Sunday’s win.
The loss of Herrera and Valencia will not cause too many grey hairs to appear. Their moves were mere footnotes during a busy summer of dealings in the Premier League and both men can be covered from within the existing squad.
Opinion may just be split on the fact that Paul Pogba remains at Old Trafford. The French international was a controversial figure during Mourinho’s reign and he clearly needs to focus on making headlines on the pitch.
Overall, it’s all very positive but can we assume, following that emphatic opening day win, that Manchester United will be prolific moving forward while tightening up at the back?
It could be a long and difficult season for Chelsea who seem to be feeling the effects of that transfer ban. Manager Frank Lampard started the game with youngsters Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Kurt Zouma and while the Blues should overcome weaker sides in the league, Sunday’s big loss sends out danger signals for further encounters with the top six.
Nobody would wish to take the gloss away from Manchester United’s win but Chelsea’s struggles are a contributing factor and that form and tempo needs to be carried on into the weeks and months ahead.
For now, Red Devils fans should be delighted with the acquisition of Harry Maguire. Sunday’s Man of the Match performance hints at plenty more to come and his arrival should ensure a far tighter season at the back.
Wan-Bissaka and James are great prospects even though they may not feature for every minute of the season.
That just leaves the question of whether the manager goes back in for another striker when the window opens again in January. We’ve yet to mention the potential for back up from Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood but there is that concern that United are too thin up top.
Four goals against a top side might argue with that suggestion but, this remains the only question mark over what appears to have been a productive transfer window for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United.