2019/20 Premier League preview - Manchester United: Top four return to come under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Richard Jolly runs the rule over Manchester United ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comparatively brief reign in charge of Manchester United was first brilliant and then harrowing. It raises the question of which run – 14 wins in 17 or seven defeats in nine – is the more accurate marker for this season.
Solskjaer should have a fitter squad, after injuries undermined his attempts at quick counter-attacking, and has set out his vision with the signings of the fast youngsters Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
But Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku’s situations highlight the problems of players who want to leave while Alexis Sanchez’s enduring presence is a reminder of the cost of past mistakes. After finishing 32 points back last season, the aim is simply a top-four finish.
Who finishes where in 2019-20?
Key player: David de Gea
There were several reasons for United’s end-of-season slump and poor defensive record. One was that De Gea had his worst season at Old Trafford. But if having signed a new contract, he returns to the form that made him their player of the year in four of the previous five seasons, it would help restore solidity.
Signing to watch: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
United required a right-back, with Antonio Valencia declining and departing and Ashley Young struggling, and Wan-Bissaka was a revelation for Crystal Palace. No defender won more tackles in the Premier League last season and if his delivery in attack has to improve, his speed equips to halt even the best wingers.
Talking point: Which Pogba will United get?
The World Cup winner’s motivation was sometimes questioned even before he and his agent set about finding him a new club this summer. Yet if some think United would be best off without him, last season illustrated his catalytic impact.
The two-month spell where he got nine goals and six assists enabled Solskjaer to make a terrific start; United’s end-of-season slump mirrored Pogba’s.
Galvanising their most gifted player is crucial, and not least because United have no one else who can replicate his contribution. And while Pogba’s tally was swelled by penalties, his total of 16 goals in a mixed campaign last year shows his potential.
Updated: August 2, 2019 03:30 PM