The way the season ended for Manchester United and their rivals has also magnified the weaknesses in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad, and reinforced the need to strengthen this summer.
Few expected a Premier League title challenge in the past season, and United didn’t really muster one, though their rise to second in the league and the brink of the Europa League trophy ought to be seen as progress.
Solskjaer has made his feelings clear about adding to his current squad — not just with his public utterances about transfers, but with how he was seemingly unwilling to change or rotate his preferred first 11 when it came to the crunch in 2020/21.
The expectation for United this summer should be that they’ll sign three first-teamers, with the best-case scenario being five transfers in all, with at least three of them elite marquee names.
Speaking after the Europa League defeat to Villarreal, Solskjaer said: “We are here now, we need to do better, we need to work better, work harder, cleverer. But as I said two or three players to strengthen the starting XI and the squad all together is important for us to go even further.
“Because I’m sure our contenders or challengers will also want to improve and we want to improve as much as we can.”
Given the confidence with which Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool will all head into next season, Solskjaer is bang on. And he must be backed.
MEN Sport understands United covet signings in the centre-back, right-wing and defensive midfield positions ahead of the summer, among other areas.
But those three berths need filling first and foremost, with Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Declan Rice the ideal targets to fill them.
Who do you think United should sign? Give us your suggestions in the comments here.
Solskjaer hasn’t ruled out a move for a striker, amid interest in Harry Kane and Erling Haaland, but in re-signing Edinson Cavani and adding Sancho — meaning Mason Greenwood can move into the No.9 role more often — they’re already nicely stacked in that area. Anthony Martial is still at the club and is an able back-up.
Sancho ought to be a greater priority, and has been a transfer dream of United’s for some time.
Whether or not United reprise the interest they showed in Kieran Trippier back in January remains to be seen, but they certainly need to offer Aaron Wan-Bissaka the kind of competition that fired Luke Shaw into life, when Alex Telles arrived. Trippier is a United fan and is said to be receptive to a Premier League return after helping Atletico Madrid win La Liga. He’s also an experienced and very solid right-back.
With some changes likely in the goalkeeping department (United cannot keep both Dean Henderson and David de Gea happy as pseudo No.1s any longer), Tom Heaton is expected to come in as back-up to one of them.
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Throw in some trimming of the squad, with Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Diogo Dalot, Andreas Pereira, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant and Juan Mata all likely to leave, and United should have a good-sized 25-man squad ready to finally compete for trophies.
There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ standing between United and their ideal squad for next season, but it’s certainly attainable and should help Solskjaer achieve his goals.
United’s 25-man squad with ideal transfers:
Goalkeepers: Henderson, Heaton, Bishop
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Trippier, Maguire, Varane, Lindelof, Tuanzebe, Shaw, Telles
Midfielders: Fred, McTominay, Matic, Rice, Pogba, Van de Beek, Fernandes
Forwards: Rashford, Cavani, Sancho, Greenwood, Amad, James, Martial.