Thu. Oct 1st, 2020

Man Utd

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Two more Manchester United summer priorities have just become clearer

3 min read

Manchester United fans have become rather used to seeing their players ignored when the glitzy awards ceremonies roll around.

It has become a cliché to compare United in recent years to those halcyon Sir Alex Ferguson days, but the differences are stark in so many ways. Of the 11 times the PFA player of the year was awarded between 2000 and 2010, a United player won it on seven occasions. And in 1999 and 2013, United players were robbed: David Beckham and Robin van Persie should have picked up those respective awards.

But since 2013 it has not been a debate. Both in the main award and the PFA young player of the year stakes, United have lagged behind as players from Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool have dominated. Even Tottenham and Leicester players have picked up gongs in that time.

Yet to read this season’s PFA young player of the year nominees was to spot a significant sea change, and recognition for what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing at Old Trafford.

The eight players nominated were: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, Mason Greenwood, Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Marcus Rashford.

Notwithstanding the slightly ludicrous rules that allow players as old as Grealish and Martial (both 24) to be nominated, it is a list that immediately reflects the exciting attack Solskjaer is building at United. The fact that no United players made the senior PFA award shortlist shows that it’s all about the future at Old Trafford right now.

Greenwood, Martial and Rashford form arguably Europe’s most promising attacking trio — having scored 52 goals between them — which could be complemented by Jadon Sancho if United get their transfer priority this summer. There’s little wonder United fans are enormously excited about the coming years, with their side looking to finally close the gap to Man City and Liverpool.

Yet the presence of Henderson, the only goalkeeper, should send its own message to Solskjaer. The 23-year-old, who has spent the season on loan at Sheffield United, is the only keeper on either list, which marks him as arguably the league’s best between the posts this season.

The big decision that is approaching Solskjaer is whether to promote Henderson above current goalkeeping incumbent David de Gea. Even if he doesn’t make it for the 2020/21 season, he should keep Henderson close to the first team and give him the role he clearly deserves in the squad.

Grealish is also on the list, a player United have coveted and for whom Solskjaer struggled to hide his admiration earlier this season when the 24-year-old starred for Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

All the talk so far this summer has been about United’s desire to sign Jadon Sancho. No doubt the Borussia Dortmund man would significantly improve United and add yet more exciting young promise to Solskjaer’s armoury.

But Grealish and Henderson are proven Premier League performers with the world at their feet. You might argue with some justification that United have Bruno Fernandes and De Gea in their positions, but the country has seen just how good these two English youngsters can be.

United need to make the right decisions on them this summer. They may have even more awards to celebrate next season if they do, not just on an individual level.

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