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Return To Glory : Manchester United

Manchester United's Return To Glory
Started on 20 November 2019 by OohAhCantona
Latest Reply on 16 September 2020 by Lankyman22
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That's what dominance looks like! It seems the SAF years in terms of status and trophies are well and truly back.

2023-24 : KINGS OF EUROPE

Ah, the cyclical nature of the game. Manchester United are back on top of the football world, and so is Maurico Pochettino, but there isn’t any time to rest with the voracious appetite of fans and the media for more. The club will need to convert renewed success into a long term plan, the level of success seen across two managers (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pochettino) points to a massive improvement in the system. Winning doesn’t do all that much if they fall back into a post-Ferguson type funk where they survive off the fumes of Ed Woodward’s commercial sponsorships. They have solved the short term issue with Pochettino, signing him to an extension that will make him the highest paid manager in the Premier League at £27M a year, but it’s a little early to call him the next Ferguson despite his incredible success.


Welcome to Manchester.

The next step for Pochettino is to get closer to Liverpool in the Champions League. They have put more space between their hated rivals domestically but are still looking up to them in the Champions League trophy count. It might be unreasonable to think Pochettino can close that gap by himself, fans surely expect him to, but he seems to be committed to staying on top of Europe.

The team continues to work on upgrading facilities while the possibility of a new stadium is still lurking, the recent expansion of Old Trafford has United well ahead of the league on average attendance which is making a new ground less pressing. More non-transfer income is going to be more important going forward as the club ranks continue to swell with youngsters drawings quite a paycheck, United is starting to draw attention from UEFA with the number of players it has on loan every year and the number of players on the payroll that don’t have a work permit.
Leaving Old Trafford behind is a prospect a lot of United supporters have never even begun to imagine. That will be a massive decision should it eventually happen.
I think SAF might have Pochettino covered in terms of trophies for a little while yet

2023-24 ROSTER & TACTICS

After keeping the roster basically the same for two seasons it was time for a change thanks to finances. Even the mighty Manchester United doesn’t have an infinite pool of money to draw from, it was time to get a little leaner as the squad starts to add more youth players. Few fans aside from United’s will shed any tears over this, but with some of the reports leaking out about the club’s finances it makes some of the penny pinching look unnecessary.

Goalkeepers
David De Gea (32) still reigns supreme. After the terrible run of results when De Gea was out proved how important he is, the team is even more invested in keeping him upright. Dean Henderson was so bad in his backup role, getting tagged for all of United’s losses, he never set foot on the field again as De Gea finished the season in goal for every game. Replacing him is the England U-21 star Owen Flowers (18) who will be given a chance to be mentored by De Gea for a few years. England U-21 head coach Adrian Boothroyd, along with Gareth Southgate, have nothing but good things to say about Flowers. He might be young, but he couldn’t be as bad as Henderson.

Best Player : David De Gea (Captain)

Defenders
A second squad shakeup and a serious injury brings a few new faces to the central defenders. Dayot Upamecano (24) and Jean-Clair Todibo (23) return to form what might be the most solid central defensive pairing in the world, add in their scoring prowess and Pochettino is beyond spoiled. László Puskás (20), who had a good season coming off the bench, was in line to step into the second squad before an ACL injury knocked him out for months. Albin Elmander (20) retains his spot, he must have learned a lot from Upamecano as he was a terror on corners as well, but his partner is a little up in the air with Puskás out. Armel Bella-Kotchap has been sold to make room for Puskás and another youngster, but now it’s David Strange (18) and Venâncio (18) fighting for a starting spot. Venâncio is the favorite, but the difference between the two is razor thin.

Álvaro Odriozola (27) is still at RB and Jorge (27) is at LB, these two are looking like the best in the world at what they do and likely aren’t going anywhere for a while. Enzo Marino (20) continues to surprise everyone with his growth, and Pochettino is throwing a wrench into his season by moving him across the field to LB to make room for King Holland (18). Holland was a highly rated youth player and spent the last two seasons showing why at Reading and Spurs where he raised his game each season. The United coaches are extremely excited about him and fans cannot wait to see if he can continue improving. Edward Essex (19) is back as a super sub, he was almost indispensable last year as the 2022 World Cup created a brutal fixture gauntlet. Right next to him on the bench is Renato Leônidas (19) who is really annoyed that Pochettino has moved Marino to LB, he’s definitely next in line for a starting slot and can’t wait for Jorge to leave town.

Best Player : Dayot Upamecano

Midfielders
The skies above Manchester parted and the chosen one descended to save the faithful. If you turn on a TV in England it’s hard to avoid that kind of proclamation, Pochettino is going to need a little more to get to that point. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (28) and Florentino Luís (23) still make up the double-pivot, but Danny Ginger (18) has finally arrived to help fans forget about the sale of Ryan Gravenberch. Eduardo Camavinga (20) did more than enough to earn a first squad slot, despite the hype around Ginger he’s the one who will step in first if Luís or Milinkovic-Savic are injured. Alanzinho (18), fresh off a season long loan at West Brom, is on the bench and hopefully won’t see the field all that often.

Bruno Fernandes (28) is absolutely perfect for Pochettino’s system, the team lost twice last year when he was out injured and it wasn’t an accident. Fernandes asserted himself as United’s best player and might be on the cusp of becoming a Legend. He came in second in so many big awards, this year might be his year if he can just up his game a little bit. Lurking in his shadow will be Pedro Durán (20) who had one hell of a season on loan at Borussia Dortmund last year. Durán winning German Player Of The Year with (13) goals and (13) assists made shipping out Dani Olmo an easy decision. He might not be as good as Olmo now, but scouts and coaches feel his ceiling is much higher. United apparently has a thousand CAM in their system now, but Andrès Landman (19) has won the bench spot for this year. He’s likely to bounce between the bench and the U-23 squad, but he is well liked by coaches and pegged to be a solid player.

Best Player : Bruno Fernandes (Vice Captain)


Can Fernandes keep improving?

Forwards
Ousmane Dembélé (26) and Jadon Sancho (23) return as the most valuable RW/LW pair in the world that just couldn’t seem to score much. United surprised everyone when they sold Anthony Martial after the season he had last year, but Pochettino feels that Sancho is untouchable and will see more scoring opportunities in the future. Both of these guys did so much more without the ball, playing solid defense and helping to create chances, it’s hard to sum up their season just on goals. With Martial and Tsygankov gone it opened up slots for Byron Caicedo (20) and Ousmane Kanté (18) to move into the second squad. Caicedo was a valuable sub last year, taking over LW with the ability to step in at RW if needed, and Kanté had a surprising loan stint at Arsenal where he made (34) appearances. Yes, two French Ousmane is going to be weird, but it’s a problem Pochettino is happy to deal with.

Mason Greenwood (21)! MASON GREENWOOD! While Marcus Rashford was struggling from the field Greenwood was feasting, it didn’t seem to matter what teams did; they just couldn’t stop him. It’s doubtful he can repeat his scoring rate from last year, but Pochettino is certainly going to let him try. Everyone with a pile of cash came calling for the young striker, but United have him locked up through 2026 and will likely invest in keeping him around. Backing him up is “The Next Ronaldo” Luís Nazário (19) who did a pretty good Ronaldo impression on loan at Real Madrid. In (34) games he scored (20) goals, one hell of a follow up to his previous loan spell at Norwich. If Greenwood struggles like Rashford did there would be a window for Nazário to slip through, although the sale of Rashford says that United are pretty invested in Greenwood.

Best Player : Ousmane Dembélé
Not to put down any of the other young talents, but Duran looks to be an exciting prospect. Very fresh into career yet already showing his quality in the Bundesliga.
You have such a talented squad, average age must be like 24 or something right? Busby Babes 2.0!

2023-24 KIT RELEASED

Nike look like geniuses after snapping up Manchester United at the best possible time. They have seen a dramatic increase in kits sales with two Nike clients (Bruno Fernandes and Ousmane Dembélé) the most popular, and news that Danny Ginger has been signed to a long-term sponsorship deal strengthens their grip on the club. So many United players are signed to Nike and with their rising profile in Asia and Europe the deal they signed is starting to look like an even bigger bargain.


Quite a departure from last year, especially the third kit, this set is all based on “classic” United designs with a very simple approach. Ownership continues to talk about the history of the club and rebuilding their reputation as a global giant, these kits aren’t going to turn heads but they don’t need to if United keep winning.
Simplistic is often the way these days in fairness.
Really like the kits! Especially the away kit will look nice on-pitch I can imagine!

2023-24 PRESEASON : LIKE 1946 ALL OVER AGAIN


Yes, I'm recycling this image.

Manchester United didn’t quite proclaim a Crown Colony, but they definitely made their presence known on the field. The level of success the club has achieved recently made them a popular draw with a number of people from the Chinese mainland coming to see them do everything from sneezing to shooting a commercial.


Friendly (H) : Manchester United 5 - Bayern Munich 0
Friendly (A) : Admiralty 0 - Manchester United 18
Friendly (A) : Singapore Khalsa 0 - Manchester United 20
Friendly (A) : Fenerbahçe 0 - Manchester United 8
Friendly (A) : Olympiakos 0 - Manchester United 5

Well now everyone knows the answer to what happens when semi-professional teams from Singapore go up against the best team in the world. United’s second squad with some youth players sprinkled in did some bad things to the local teams with Luís Nazário scoring (4) in a single game. This was mostly about marketing before the team really got to warm up for the season during a tour of the Aegean Sea, Pochettino isn’t a fan of grinding down his senior squad in these games since they play enough during the season. Summer tours are becoming more about marketing, rest, and mental preparation for now.
0 goals conceded, over 50 scored in 5 matches. If that isn't a perfect pre-season, then I don't know what is!
Have some mercy on these poor teams!

SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW : COLD FINANCIAL REALITY

Yes, even Manchester United has to deal with financial difficulty. Mauricio Pochettino and Luís Campos have looked like geniuses over the past two seasons thanks to one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the world. There are some teams you can argue have better starting lineups, but United’s ability to field a highly talented second squad has allowed them to plow through domestic and continental competitions without much of a drop off. There is no “weakened” squad at United, and that kind of setup costs money. The team has been more than willing to spend big on the 1st squad, but now that the second squad players are either demanding to be promoted or paid like they are a first choice player some tough choices need to be made. These moves have been made easier by the tidal wave of youth prospects ready to be given a chance, the team has spent so much money on them it’s about time they see if their investment is going to pay off.

The players most in the news were the Pay Me / Play Me Three ; Anthony Martial, Victor Tsygankov, and Luce Pellegrini. Martial was by far the loudest, having a much better scoring season than Jadon Sancho fueled his complaints for first team football and with that came a demand for a new contract. Martial was already making £9.4M a year, a hefty sum for a second choice player, and reports are that his demands went as high as £15M. While the Frenchman has had a good relationship with Pochettino, the amount of interest from other teams was a clear sign these two were headed for a break up. Tsygankov was taking the approach of demanding a loan, which wasn’t in the cards, and much like Martial he became a very expensive (£9.8M) malcontent who was blocking a youth prospect. He definitely made some noise in the media, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Martial’s campaign. Pellegrini was firmly in the “pay me” camp, demanding a significant raise (£10M) that United can’t afford.

The next tier of players were the much loved guys caught in the turnover grinder, these were the hardest moves to make and by far the least popular. Marcus Rashford, a son of Manchester, found himself in a bad position and suddenly became expendable. Rashford had a bad 2022-23, is highly paid, and had to watch Mason Greenwood put up an excellent season. With “The Next Ronaldo” looming, Rashford became the odd man out. Pochettino has been very enamoured with Armel Bella-Kotchap, but his salary is enough that moving him on makes sense after buying him for £20M and TransferMarkt valuing him at £60M. Bella-Kotchap also has a crowd of less expensive and highly regarded youth players hounding him, he became one of the most expendable players through no fault of his own. The final hard call was Ryan Gravenberch, he apparently saw an opening with his move to CAM and demanded £14M/year which is astronomical for a second choice player. With Fernandes blocking his way, Pochettino and Campos had to make a tough call.

The last group were just low hanging fruit being sold to make room for players United are heavily invested in. Ryan Gravenberch is much loved by Pochettino and fans, so Dani Olmo needed to go to make room for Danny Ginger. It also didn’t help that he demanded a doubling of his salary after a very good season. Nadiem Amiri played well in limited use, but he’s taking up space for a youngster that needs some senior level playing time. The fact that both of them came so cheaply and could be sold on at a solid profit made it even easier to send them packing. Antonio Marin was the last emotional cut, he seemed like a future star but fell flat on his face in a loan stint at Leicester after having a really good season at AC Milan. He was bought prior to Pochettino and there were other choices to fill in at LW, hopefully he can revive his career elsewhere.

Some teams tried their best to dismantle United’s roster, with PSG doing the most damage. With the media engine of Qatar Sports Investment running at full power the £110M bid for Mason Greenwood was all over the place before Pochettino even put the phone down, the bid was rejected immediately, and it blew up in PSG’s face a bit as Atlético Madrid spoiled things by jumping in at £126M. Once Rashford was out the door Greenwood wasn’t going anywhere and likely won’t be, PSG’s interest didn’t draw much discussion from Greenwood (at least in public) so it’s safe to say he’s committed to staying for a while. Real Madrid and PSG seem to be sharing the same mantra after the past few windows; If you can’t beat them, buy all their players. PSG purchased Tsygankov and Gravenberch along with their attempt to prise Greenwood, and Real Madrid have now purchased three United defenders. All of these sales have helped push United way in the black, their transfer spend numbers are eye popping for the opposite reason one would expect of United. The team would close out the transfer window with a dizzying £1.08B in transfer funds, enough to build multiple new stadiums and fueling the ever present rumors of a bid for Kylian Mbappé.


A tale of two Manchesters.

Senior / Major Transfers (Out)
Victor Tsygankov (RW, PSG) £80M
Anthony Martial (LW, Inter Milan) £80M
Marcus Rashford (CF, AC Milan) £77M
Ryan Gravenberch (CM, PSG) £76M
Dani Olmo (CAM, Chelsea) £66M
Armel Bella-Kotchap (CB, Real Madrid) £65M
Luca Pellegrini (LB, Real Madrid) £52M
Nadiem Amiri (CM, Zenit) £41.5M
Antonio Marin (RW, Napoli) £20.5M
Dean Henderson (GK, Bournemouth) £15M

Senior Transfers (In)
None

Final Transfer List (Impact Signings)
Prince Mars (RW, Chelsea - England) £16.5M
Thomas Brown (RB, Chelsea - England) £8M
Amine Bessières (CB, Nice - France) £7M
Ferdy van Velde (RB, AZ Alkmaar - Netherlands) £5.5M
Mark van der Linden (RB, Ajax - Netherlands) £4.5M
Jorge Ríos (CB, Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Germany) £2.3M
Obrendo Kluivert (CAM, FC Eindhoven - Netherlands) £2.1M
Júlio Franco Grandi (CB, Parnahyba SC - Brazil) £1.2M
Mattia Werlé (RW, AS Saint-Étienne - France) £1M
Merlin Latour-Maubourg (CF, AS Saint-Étienne - France) £500K
Elenilton Gonçalves (CAM, Porto - Brazil) £300K
Alisson Pagodinho (CAM, Benfica - Brazil) £250K
Tiano Nepomuceno (CB, Boavista - Brazil) £185K
Rodrigo Aparecido (LW, Corinthians - Brazil) £175K

With more money than sense and all the momentum they could possibly ask for, United are finally stepping into the domestic market and Chelsea is feeling the pain. The Blues are moving in the wrong direction and were willing to part with two of their best youth players for prices that might look foolish in a few years. Thomas Brown looks like an excellent player, but he will struggle in a RB depth chart dominated (and likely owned in a year or two) by King Holland, if he can reach his ceiling he could be an England regular and a great second squad player for United. Prince Mars is the real catch, getting him for only £16.5M is likely to look like a massive bargain. His incredible pace and skill on the wing have scouts comparing him to Raheem Sterling (£110M value per Transfermarkt), but less sanguine evaluations have him closer to Theo Walcott. Pochettino is certainly hoping the Sterling parallels are valid, he’s more likely to see a loan spell right away since he’s too good for U-23 football.
Some of those sales are ridiculous. You certainly pushed clubs all the way in terms of getting the most for them.

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