Having secured a solid second place last season, Man United will be aiming to close the gap on their City rivals. They will also face a tough challenge from a resurgent Liverpool. While newly crowned European Champions Chelsea are pushing for a Premier League title.
Reinforcements are vital if United are to push on, and the size of the task they face is underlined by the fact that leading bookmaker Ladbrokes sports betting places United as the third runner up for the title.
Ole Staying at the Wheel
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to ride out some harsh criticism last season. However, the end result was vindication for the hard work he has put in to transform the team. There had been some speculation that United could be looking for another coach, but that was ended when Solskjaer extended his contract.
Varane to Strengthen Defence
Copyright: imago/Alterphotos Real Madrid s Raphael Varane (l) and Manchester United s Robin Van Persie during Champions League 2012/2013 match.
One of the most impressive features of the United team that Solskjaer has built is the dramatic defensive improvement. In fact, between February 14 and May 9, United conceded just six goals in 11 League outings as part of a 14-game unbeaten run. That performance was all the more remarkable considering that they had conceded 12 goals in their first 4 games of the season.
Yet no team can afford to stand still in the Premier League. It seems that United are focused on adding further depth and class to their defensive roster. Raphael Varane is considered likely to land in defence at Old Trafford, although negotiations have been prolonged.
Varane’s arrival also follows the signing of Aston Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton, signaling Solskjaer’s determination to keep pushing for perfection at the back.
Goretzka a Ready Made Replacement
United are on the other end of a Varane-like situation with their star midfielder Paul Pogba. He is also entering the final year of his contract and there is a possibility that he could opt to leave. Paris St Germain is an obvious possible destination for Pogba. Losing a player of that calibre would be a significant setback for the club. But Leon Goretzka could be a ready-made replacement.
He is one of the most highly rated players in his position. And, like Varane and Pogba, Goretzka has one more year on his contract. He is arguably yet to reach his peak at the age of 26, and his class and experience could help to propel United to greater heights. According to reports, Goretzka is likely to want an annual wager of €20m. A significant upgrade on his existing €12m salary, and United could decide to wait another year to pick him up on a free.
Another option in midfield could be Saul Niguez. He is the same age as Goretzka and is fresh from helping Atletico Madrid win La Liga. Niguez is one of the most exciting midfielders in Europe, though his wage demands were reported to be too much for Real Madrid and Barcelona.
After the solid finish to last season, there is no doubt that expectations have been raised ahead of the new campaign. A serious title challenge top of the list for United fans. The signing of Jadon Sancho will give Solskjaer’s team a major offensive upgrade. If they are successful in securing their targets they could be in a strong position to deliver the silverware that is long overdue.