Manchester United’s Premier League season finally gets underway this weekend as Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford to kick off the campaign.
It marks the start of a 38-match marathon that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes will see the Reds improve on the last campaign, and maybe even challenge for the title.
So where can they make those all-important improvements that will bring more success to the club?
We’ve pulled out key stats across the squad, and set a benchmark figure for each – an estimate for how that stat might look at the end of the season. We then challenged our United writers to predict whether they think the figure will be under or over that benchmark, depending on how optimistic they are about it!
We’ll return to their predictions at the end of the season, to see how accurate they were.
Let’s see what they said:
How many Premier League points will United reach? (66 last season):
Benchmark – 70.5
- Samuel Luckhurst: Over. They have a marginally better squad with Van de Beek, Pogba is staying and Fernandes is starting the season.
- Tyrone Marshall: Over. Progress this season will be based on United improving their points tally and getting closer to City and Liverpool. They should be hitting low 70s at least.
- Dominic Booth: Over. The past two seasons have been low points tallies and you cannot imagine United starting the season as badly. They should get something close to 75 points.
How many goals will United score? (66 last season):
Benchmark – 69.5
- SL: Over. They have some inadequate forwards in reserve but if Pogba is fully fit and with Van de Beek and Fernandes starting full seasons, United have a greater goal threat.
- TM: Over. They looked a far better attacking side in the second half of lock down. Last season’s tally came with Pogba, Martial and Rashford missing plenty of games and only half a season of Fernandes.
- DB: Over. You have to think United’s goal-scoring threat will only improve as their three forwards are all young and still developing.
How many goals will Marcus Rashford score? (17 last):
Benchmark – 16.5
- SL: Under. Rashford was partly reliant on penalties and that responsibility has rightly fallen to Fernandes. Rashford’s been largely poor since he recovered from injury and it remains to be seen whether he will reach the heights of October-January last season.
- TM: Over. This feels like a big season for Rashford. He needs to kick on from last season’s tally and hit 20 in the Premier League to prove he belongs in the highest company. Wide forwards are expected to score freely now and if he stays fit Rashford can manage that.
- DB: Under. If he plays the majority of his football on the left flank (and doesn’t take penalties) Rashford may struggle to match last season’s tally, though he won’t be far off it.
How many penalties will United be awarded? (14 last):
Benchmark – 10.5
- SL: Under. VAR increased penalty awards but United’s tally was so high for it has to be an anomaly.
- TM: Under. Last season felt like a significant one-off for United. You couldn’t argue with too many of their penalties and they have the pace to win spot kicks, but 14 won’t be happening again.
- DB: Under. The law of averages suggests United will surely be given fewer penalties than last season.
How many assists will Bruno Fernandes provide? (7 last):
Benchmark – 12.5
- SL: Over. He’s having a full season.
- TM: Over. Fernandes might struggle to maintain his incredible stats from his first 14 Premier League games, but he should be getting double figures for assists in a full season.
- DB: Over. Fernandes has a full season to impose himself at United now and he should get his rewards in terms of both goals and assists.
How many clean sheets will United keep? (13 last season):
Benchmark – 11.5
- SL: Over. They have the best English and Spanish goalkeepers.
- TM: Under. The defence remains a concern, as does the goalkeeper. United’s defensive record improved in the second half of last season, but it papered over cracks. This is an attacking league this season.
- DB: Over. A big call, because the defence probably over-achieved last season but they should get slightly more.
How many matches will Dean Henderson play?:
Benchmark – 9.5
- SL: Considering he’s never played for United, safe to say ‘over’.
- TM: Under if this is just the Premier League. De Gea will start as first choice and will get a significant run to keep that jersey. Henderson’s presence might inspire the Spaniard.
- DB: Under – in terms of league games. David de Gea has Solskjaer’s backing for the time being, it would appear.
How many matches will United lose (8 last season):
Benchmark – 6.5
- SL: Under. Three of their defeats last season came in the first eight games and they are better off than a year ago, barring a major injury crisis.
- TM: Over. The season is so unpredictable due to shortened pre-seasons and the congested fixture list that it feels inevitable teams are going to throw in more sub-par performances than usual.
- DB: Over. But not by much.
How many yellow cards will Aaron Wan-Bissaka receive (8 last season):
Benchmark – 7.5
- SL: Under
- TM: Under. His tacking is exceptional and while he will be tested his greater experience should mean his decision making improves.
- DB: Under. He is getting more experienced and should know when to dive in and when to stay on his feet.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United made waves with the high-profile signing of Dutch wonder Donny van de Beek – and a lot is expected of him at Old Trafford.
With a new man to shine in the Norwegian’s XI, you certainly won’t want to miss a thing.
In a daily United bulletin from the MEN , we’ll be bringing you the latest breaking news, analysis, transfer features and opinion, as well as the key talking points for fans, straight to your inbox – and of course, we’ll cover everything that van de Beek performs in a United shirt.
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It’s easy! Click HERE. It only takes a few seconds
That’s not all though…
If you consider yourself a dab hand at Fantasy Premier League, you can use van de Beek in your FPL team, possibly win £250, a new replica 20/21 football shirt of your choice, and the inaugural RFFL winner’s trophy as well as a certificate in our Reach Fantasy Football League.
Joining is easy to enter, simply sign up here.
How many times will Utd beat a big six team? (5 last season):
Benchmark – 4.5
- SL: Every ‘big six’ side has improved and Lampard finally got the measure of Solskjaer in the FA Cup semi-final. So – five again.
- TM: Under. This will be very tight, it might be exactly four, or even five, but they will face a stiffer test from Chelsea this season
- DB: Under. United should be expected to beat the rest and pick up occasional wins against the big teams, the reverse of what they did last season.
How many goals and assists will Donny van de Beek provide?:
Benchmark – 11.5
- SL: Going off his Dutch league average, if he was to provide 11 goals and assists in the league that would represent an excellent return. So just under.
- TM: Under. He may take time to settle into this side and we still don’t know where he will play. If he shuttles from the deep role to support Fernandes, his numbers might not be as impressive as they were at Ajax
DB: Over. Judging by his numbers for Ajax and his pure ability, Van de Beek could be another transformative signing for United, like Fernandes was.
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