2019-20 ROSTER & TACTICS
With the amount of money being spent on this roster it’s hard to say Solskjaer doesn’t have the players to compete, but United have fallen far behind the other top teams and will need to show some serious improvement to make it back to the Champions League. The potential appointment of a Director Of Football should help United rebuild for the future, but right now they are still a team full of big names bought at high prices that have failed to live up to the hype. There is plenty of blame to go around for the post-Ferguson failings, but Solskjaer can’t lean on any excuses to get through the season.
After José Mourinho was sent packing Solskjaer managed to win 14 of 19 games to close out the season, that included a stunning win over PSG in the Champions League but also included a lopsided beating by Barcelona in the Quarterfinals that showed how much farther United need to go to really compete . Mourinho’s sides were supposed to be defensively stingy with just enough scoring to make the 1-0 wins add up, but a penchant for failing to score and defensive frailty led to his removal. Solskjaer’s first games seemed to revitalize Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, but as the season came to a close the team crashed from 4th in the EPL to 6th by losing 5 of their final 9 games with only 2 wins. In all of those losses United either failed to score or could only manage a single goal while allowing 2 or more goals. The fans demand high scoring games, and unless Solskjaer solves his defensive issues he’s going to need them to win.
Solskjaer will head into this season with a 4-2-3-1 formation that will focus on defensive stability and an aggressive press. The talent on hand probably won’t develop into a high scoring side, but if the press works and United can start their attacks in the opposition half it will go a long way to winning games again. The attack will primarily come through the wings, acting as inside forwards, cutting inside and creating space for overlapping backs who will be the primary providers of crosses into the box. The deeper lying midfielders will play as a deep lying playmaker and a box-to-box midfielder and the more advanced midfielder will play as an attacking midfielder trying to play balls through to the center forward. The lone forward will play an advanced forward role and look to occupy central defenders and work the channels to open opportunities for through balls and clear space for the inside forwards.
Getting a massive pile of cash for David De Gea might have looked good on paper, but management definitely knows how valuable he is to the team. De Gea (28) is still fairly young and one of the best GK in the world, replacing him would be nearly impossible. It would likely cost upwards of £100M to find a comparable player and it’s unlikely Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, or Atlético Madrid are particularly interested in parting with their GK. Sergio Romero (32) and Lee Grant (36) are decent if not average backups, if either of them play a considerable amount of time it means something has gone horribly wrong.
Best Player : David De Gea (Captain)
If Mourinho had £1B this group wouldn’t be an issue, but Woodward just wouldn’t sanction spending that much so this is what Solskjaer has to work with. The addition of Harry Maguire (26) from Leicester City should, in theory, plug a massive hole but he doesn’t solve all of United’s issues. Eric Bailly (25) once looked like the CB of the future but he quickly fell out of favor and Victor Lindelof (25) emerged as one of United’s best defenders under Solskjaer. Chris Smalling (29) was shipped out on loan earlier in the summer which leaves United fairly thin at CB. Phil Jones (27), youngster Axel Tuanzebe (21), and converted left back Marco Rojo (29) fill out the rest of the depth chart. A single injury could be a major issue for Solskjaer, especially if that injury hits Maguire.
The fullback position is one of United’s most fragile, on paper they could be very good barring any major injuries. The problem with that is that Luke Shaw (24) is an injury waiting to happen, he has significantly improved his stock since coming to United but he hasn’t been able to reach the heights he seemed destined for when he came over from Southampton. Behind Shaw at LB is Ashley Young (34), and then things get really bad. Young is the oldest non-GK on the roster, the fact that he’s still around is impressive and a little concerning. At RB Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21) seems to be a first team lock after a £45M move from Crystal Palace, he has a chance to be a special player and Solskjaer’s system could flourish if Wan-Bissaka plays up to his potential. Where LB has a much older player filling out the depth RB has untested youth with Diogo Dalot (20) and Timothy Fosu-Mensah (21). Dalot has a leg up on Fosu-Mensah as he has shown some improvement since Mourinho brought him over from FC Porto, but he still has a ways to go before being a first team regular.
Best Player : Harry Maguire
Will he stay or will he go? Paul Pogba (26) has flirted with leaving, and while United would get a solid chunk of cash for him it likely wouldn’t match what they paid to bring him back to Old Trafford. As long as Pogba stays he is United’s best player and the potential lynchpin of their attack, he will likely play primarily as a Deep Lying Playmaker. He has struggled to live up to his billing, but well documented issued with Mourinho could be the cause of that after his form greatly improved under Solskjaer at the end of the 2018-19 season. Fred (26) will be second choice at DLP with Nemanja Matic (30) lurking if he fails to impress. Playing next to Pogba in the box-to-box midfielder role will be Scott McTominay (22), Matic will back him up but like Fred he has the potential to grab is spot.
The central attacking midfielder role could be a real problem for Solskjaer with few natural options. Juan Mata (31) is likely the best selection, but Andreas Pereira (23) might be a better player if given the chance. In an ideal situation this player would be a natural goal scorer, but the available players will likely lean more towards facilitating the offense to the center forward or providing a vital link between Pogba and the forwards.
Best Player : Paul Pogba
Will Pogba spend more time on the field or posting on Instagram?
After shipping out Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez the forwards on hand appear a little threadbare. The only player added to this group was Daniel James (21) and he is likely a player meant for future success rather than immediate playing time. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a path to the starting lineup, all it would take is a poor run of form or an injury from Anthony Martial (23) and Solskjaer won’t have many options left. Jesse Lingard (26) has been written off by many people, but he’s United’s only RW heading into the season. This may be his last chance for the Red Devils and RW may be a position Solskjaer looks to spend money on a better backup option, if nobody comes in Tahith Chong (19) might be forced up from the U-23 squad.
Marcus Rashford (21) is now the top man at center forward, after a brutal run with Jose Mourinho he had a spectacular run at the beginning of Solskjaer’s tenure last year. If Rashford can keep it up he will make people forget about Lukaku and give United the scoring threat they desperately need. The biggest knock here is issues scoring from open play, so the risk of long streaks without a goal could plague the offense. Rashford certainly has the speed to beat most back lines, but it isn’t clear yet if he can thrive on his own and develop into a striker with a killer instinct. Martial might fill in at CF if Rashford needs a rest, Mason Greenwood (17) is also an option but he’s more suited for the U-23 squad right now.
Best Player : Marcus Rashford