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Return To Glory : Manchester United

Started on 8 November 2022 by OohAhCantona
Latest Reply on 24 March 2023 by OohAhCantona
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It’s hard to ignore the eye watering sums United have been spending on some players, but behind that you can start to see the formation of a development pipeline. The club has doled out large sums for first team starters, but all of that money has gone to younger players not yet in their prime. All the attention goes to the first team, but people are starting to notice the success Erik ten Hag has had with his second squad approach and how he folds young players into the team. This year will be the weakest second squad of ten Hag’s tenure, based solely on the age of a few players. He will be starting four players 20-years old or younger, three of them in their first full season at United. If this works out, we could see a more sustainable system where second team players get promoted to the first team instead of spending heavily every summer. This is also the first year that United bought more Academy players than senior squad ones, it will be interesting to see if United maintain this approach.

With David De Gea leaving the club and Dean Henderson out on loan (again), the GK picture is very clear for ten Hag. Diogo Costa, who is actually a year younger than his backup, has firmly established himself as United’s #1 and could be in that position for 5-10 years if things play out well. Alban Lafont is now firmly in place as Costa’s backup after a year on loan and looks to get solid playing time with the second squad, this is one area of the team ten Hag can feel safe with.

The back line should continue to be solid, but this is an area where ten Hag is now developing two players in key positions. Raphaël Varane and Eric García formed a solid CB pairing that will continue to work together at least until the end of the 2025-26 season with Varane agreeing to a contract extension. Varane has somehow managed to avoid the injuries that plagued his career, but even if they come back ten Hag will have players to plug in. António Silva and Zeno Debast will take up their spots in the second squad, with Silva looking like a great purchase and Debast doing his best to catch up. García is the odd man out here, being under 6’-2”, as ten Hag begins collecting tall CB who can play as ball playing defenders in an attempt to pass out of the back and perform better on set pieces. Harry Maguire continues to hang around the club, with reports floating around that nobody would take him as a transfer or even a loan. It’s hard to think Maguire’s career is going anywhere at United, he will need to move on next year with his contract expiring this summer. Ten Hag didn’t change a thing with his wingbacks, either because he’s happy with them or because the club opted to spend elsewhere, but in truth it’s hard to see them making any realistic upgrades. Tyrell Malacia and Pedro Porro remain the first choice LB/RB with Renan Lodi and Diogo Dalot as their backups. Things should stay like this for a while barring United landing a young player the club would like to develop into a potential first team player in a few years.

United’s midfield has gone through some drastic changes over the past few seasons, and it’s hard to argue they haven’t improved. Jude Bellingham will remain in the roaming playmaker role with the newly acquired Declan Rice manning the more defensive deep lying playmaker role. Bellingham proved to be a wise investment on the left side of a midfield pivot, providing a level of creativity on par (if not beyond) what Christian Eriksen was producing while bringing a level of defensive solidity the team needed. Rice will be a massive defensive upgrade over Eriksen, who was serviceable in that role, so things are looking good on paper for the first team. Eriksen, who is proving to be an invaluable member of the clubhouse, is back to his RPM role in the second squad and will be paired with Andrey Santos. The departure of Casemiro was surprising, but with ten Hag putting so much focus on mentoring young players they will be in a better place if Andrey Santos is given room to grow. He’s even drawn comparisons to Casemiro, so swapping a 32-year old one for a 20-year old one seems like a no-brainer. Scott McTominay remains at the club and will serve as a capable third choice at both midfield slots.

Ten Hag is making a big bet that Rice is the final piece of the puzzle.

Captain, Talisman, Future United Legend. Bruno Fernandes turned in an incredible season last year that should have him in the running for the Ballon d’Or, there was no chance United would let him go or even think about finding someone to replace him. He continues to be the center of United’s attack, and with the addition of Rice he may be given even more freedom to move forward. Hannibal was handed a new contract and will continue to serve as Fernandes’ backup, at just 21-years old he figures to have a long career at United and may supplant Fernandes whenever he decides to leave or retire.

The attacking forwards don’t change all that much, though ten Hag has shifted some players around to make room for a new addition. Jadon Sancho, who wasn’t phased by the weight of wearing #7, remains United’s first choice LW. After a rocky start under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, the former City youth player has blossomed under ten Hag as a creative player as well as a solid defender. With Athony Martial being sold, Yaser Asprilla moved over to the backup LW, keeping Alejandro Garnacho on the bench. Garnacho’s focus has fluttered, and for the moment he’s moving in the wrong direction after getting a solid run in ten Hag’s first season. Antony and his spinning antics remain entrenched at RW, with fellow Brazilian Angelo being brought in as his backup. Angelo is raw but extremely talented, ten Hag is taking a risk throwing him into the second squad but the upside could be tremendous. Anthony Elanga is still at the club and will be a bench regular with Garnacho, if Angelo struggles ten Hag has an excellent Plan B. When ten Hag sold Ronaldo everyone was concerned about the long term health of United’s CF position, and it looks like they nailed the answer. Marcus Rashford turned a good first season into a great one, something he should be in the Ballon d’Or conversation for, and will continue to be the club’s first choice striker. He signed a contract extension through the 2027-28 season, so he won’t be going anywhere soon. Vitor Roque was thrown into the deep end of the pool when ten Hag moved Martial to LW, and he started swimming immediately. Scoring (24) goals in (21) appearances is a great way to show your quality, considering he did it as an 18-year old is even more impressive. United may have lost out on Endrick, but they might be perfectly fine with Vitor Roque.

Can Rashford repeat his 2023-24 performance?

The 2024-25 Premier League season took a look at the bonkers events of last season and said “hold my beer,” and decided to take things up a notch. While the focus on the field was on Manchester United trying to make it three in a row, the focus off the field was the continuation of the Tuchel Saga. The first domino fell when Manchester City partially shocked the world by sacking Pep Guardiola, a move that some expected to happen but most couldn’t believe would happen. City and Guardiola parted on good terms, but the club stated they felt things had become stale under Guardiola and most felt that their failure to win the Champions League was the final straw. City were immediately connected with a number of high profile managers, including Erik ten Hag, and the media were circling Zinedine Zidane as the most likely selection. Nobody had City plucking Thomas Tuchel from the clutches of Chelsea in his second stint at the club, and even fewer thought Chelsea would be able to lure Guardiola… yet when the dust had settled the two clubs had successfully pulled off a manager swap. Teams would need to work hard to top that drama, and the season hadn’t even started yet.

Laughing all the way to the bank.

For the first time in ten Hag’s time at United, they are favorites for the league. The roster overhaul, along with two straight titles, puts them as an easy pick to win again. They will also be contenders for the Champions League after their improbable win, coming out ahead in an all-England final. Liverpool remain mostly the same, they did add Dani Olmo and Moussa Diaby over the summer to strengthen their depth, but their core roster is the same one that took them to the Champions League final. Based on Jürgen Klopp’s track record, United should be most worried about their bitter rivals. Manchester City find themselves a step (or two) behind Liverpool as the next contenders, but we have yet to see how the Tuchel Era will affect a City squad built for Guardiola. The squad is basically the same aside from the astonishingly expensive January acquisition of Ousmane Dembélé for £148M, a purchase that looks even worse when you line it up against Tuchel’s preferred 5-2-3 formation that doesn’t really even use wingers. Dembélé and Jack Grealish are £248M paperweights at first glance, but Tuchel may have a use for them. Arsenal find themselves right on the edge of this group, finishing a point back of City in 4th last year, but they are poised to move up. Mikel Arteta has the Gunner playing well enough to be firmly in the Top 4, but with a squad that hasn’t changed much outside of a £78M move for Roma’s Tammy Abraham and a £40.5M purchase of Atalanta’s Tommado Pobega, they might be stuck.

The “Next In” group is pretty thin with Chelsea the most likely team to challenge for the Top 4. Tuchel took them to 5th, six points back of Arsenal, and Guardiola is expected to do better with almost the same squad. Chelsea’s big moves of the summer were bringing in Dominic Calvert-Lewin from Everton in a £40.5M transfer and Raphinha from Barcelona for £37.5M. Guardiola reunites with Raheem Sterling and former City transfer target Marc Cucurella, and even though this is a good squad it isn’t necessarily a “Pep” team, they will be a difficult side to play based on the staff and talent on hand, but they will essentially be the “worst” team Guardiola has had since taking over at Barcelona.

The middle of the league is a mess after a season in which eight teams finished within nine points of each other and the four teams that finished outside European competition slots were separated by a single point. Spurs are the most likely to finish on top of the group based on their roster, and the addition of Joachim Löw, but people said that last year and they finished 9th behind teams more likely to get relegated than make it to Europe. Newcastle are the next team most like Spurs, their spin on the Mourinho Merry Go-Round went poorly and they finished 15th, but most believe they can do better this year. The Saudi ownership group certainly spent like they could do better in landing Cody Gakpo (£68M), Emiliano Buendia (£51M), and Robin Le Normand (£48M).Outside of those two, it’s just about anyone’s guess as bigger clubs fell hard last year. West Ham avoided relegation on goal differential, and were just a point back of Southampton. Sunderland and Cardiff were horrifically bad last year, getting relegated well before the end of the season, some of these clubs won’t be able to rely on a similar performance to save them.

How long will the Saudi PIF stomach Mourinho’s antics?

The race for the Championship isn’t as clear cut as last year, with Sunderland and Cardiff rushing back, but Sheffield United and Blackburn aren’t going to have it much easier. Blackburn are massive favorites to be relegated, with the Blades, Crystal Palace, and Leeds right behind them. Leeds, who improbably finished 7th, have to be offended by those odds while also being wary of what the Europa Conference League might do to them. Aston Villa, finding their way back up, find themselves level with Crystal Palace with oddsmakers after winning the Championship last year.

The first two months of the season would see Erik ten Hag guide his team right back to the form that allowed them to be so successful last year, and the first year of the Champions League’s Swiss Model would change the face of European football. With no groups and more games, eight instead of the usual six, United would be handed an incredibly easy schedule. Ten Hag would have to plan for a ton of travel with fixtures against Ajax, Lyon, Maccabi Tel Aviv, PSV Eindhoven, Real Sociedad, RB Leipzig, Sparta Prague, and Lazio. Avoiding all of the big names in Europe would be a major boost to their hopes of repeating as champions, they would enter the year favorites to reach the final along with the other semi finalists from last year (Manchester City, Liverpool, and PSG).

The start of the Premier League season would be pushed up, landing in between the Community Shield and UEFA Supercup, but the schedule disruption would do little to affect the outcomes. A 1-0 win over Spurs in the Community Shield would be marked by an early Jadon Sancho goal with help from a Declan Rice assist. A 4-0 win over Wolves would open their title defense before ten Hag would send out his second squad in the UEFA Supercup. A trip to Finland’s Helsinki Olympiastadion would be more of a nuisance to the club, though it would end up being a great chance for the second squad and a number of young players to show their quality. Vitor Roque would walk away with the MOTM award with a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win over Real Sociedad, Vitor Roque’s goal would make him the Supercup’s youngest goalscorer ever at 19 years and 168 days of age.

Vitor Roque started off the year with a bang.

The good start to the season would roll right into an easy run of fixtures that United would handle as expected. Sheffield United (6-0), Blackburn (5-0), Fulham (3-1), and Southampton (2-0) would be brushed aside to finish the month before an early September international break would give ten Hag time to prep for his former club and the opening round of the Carabao Cup.

Everton would provide little resistance in a 2-0 win with the second squad looking very comfortable, United fans would be very encouraged by how well Vitor Roque and Angelo gel together on the attack. Both goals would feature an assist from Angelo to his fellow Brazilian, a combo that could fuel bigger things in the future. The club would travel to the Johan Cruyff ArenA for their opening game of the Champions League with Ajax, unfortunately for ten Hag’s former team they still haven’t recovered from his departure and the sale of Lisandro Martinez and Antony. Renan Lodi would miss the trip thanks to a torn groin muscle suffered during the international break on Brazil duty, with ten Hag’s second choice LB sidelined for up to five week Bruno Praxedes would get a seat on the bench between U18 fixtures. Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter as United made quick work of their hosts despite the warm welcome ten Hag received prior to kickoff. Just 13’ in Antony would lose the ball out wide in Ajax’s third, they would start to break on the attack but Antony would snag it back and catch them in a premature transition. He would cut inside and deliver one of his signature curling shots off his left foot and into the goal for a 1-0 lead. Just a few minutes later Antony would feed Bruno Fernandes in the middle to make it 2-0 and start the rout. Marcus Rashford, Fernandes again, and Jadon Sancho would score and close out their UCL opener 5-0.

The hot start would be tempered by a good-but-not-great finish to the season as the team started to look mortal. Grinding Tyrell Malacia into dust at LB with nobody to replace him didn’t help, but the young LB was up to the task at least through the end of the month. A disappointing 1-1 draw with Leeds would see Leeds score an unlikely goal after a free kick landed in a crowd and bounced off Pascal Struijk to level it late, to make things worse Fernandes would hit the woodwork with a penalty attempt in stoppage time that would have given them the full three points. Praxedes would get his first start for United in their Carabao Cup matchup with Everton, with the second squad winning 2-0 on an Angelo double. The win would book them a date with Stoke in the fourth round. The final game of September would be a 1-0 win over Aston Villa that saw the first team, Rashford specifically, struggle mightily to score. Aston Villa would go down to ten men at 58’ after Callum Chambers was booked a second time, seeming to create an opening for an attack that had already seen Rashford hit the woodwork three times. They would need to wait until 71’ for Sancho to feed Antony for the only goal of the game.

United’s hot start, with an unbeaten run going back (13) games to last April, would paper over a difficult start for Rashford. After two months of games he would only have (2) goals in all competitions. Clearly the team is finding ways to score, but after the season Rashford had last year this is a bit concerning.

After a good start to the season Erik ten Hag would be able to see his team settle into a familiar pattern as the Champions League and Domestic Cup season moves into full swing. The end of October would see the club surprised by a rare occurrence that ten Hag would like to make an annual event.

A visit from Lyon would open the month, and United would walk away from the game with an easy 5-0 win that featured Bruno Fernandes doing his usual thing with a goal and two assists. The easy win would have them riding high coming into a matchup with Spurs, with first year manager Joachim Löw, that should have been a routine victory. Perhaps the fixture with Chelsea and Pep Guardiola coming up had the team distracted, but they put on their performance of the season. United looked to be asleep, standing around letting Spurs go right through them. Oliver Skipp would pass right up the middle past stationary United players to feed Harry Kane at 24’ for a 1-0 lead. United would never improve, just letting Spurs walk away with this game apparently just happy to still be on top of the league.

A long international break would give the team time to think about the poor performance against Spurs, a break that would help them barely improve on their form against Chelsea. With Renan Lodi progressing well and set to return to training soon, Tyrell Malacia would come into this game exhausted. He wouldn’t be the source of the problem, but it certainly didn’t help. Once again United would open the game sleepwalking and let Marc Cucurella feed Kai Havertz for a 1-0 lead. Cucurella would give it right back courtesy of a penalty on Antony, converted by Fernandes, and then Raphaël Varane would head in a Fernandes free kick to make it 2-1 United. A Wesley Fofana header would pull Chelsea level 2-2 before Fernandes would blow a chance to take the lead, Marcus Thuram would trip Antony in the box but Édouard Mendy would block a poor Fernandes attempt. United would take back the lead at 78’, not long after Fernandes would hit the crossbar on a near empty goal, Jadon Sancho would play a cutback from wide for Rashford to make it 3-2. The final minute of the game would explode with drama thanks to Chelsea being awarded a penalty in the third minute of stoppage in a game with 3’ added on. Jude Bellingham would be called for gently nudging Havertz in the box, with Havertz blocked in with nowhere to go, sending ten Hag into a fury as Pep Guardiola pleaded his case. Mason Mount would convert and the whistle would blow immediately after, allowing the Blues to escape with a 3-3 scoreline.

“Unacceptable, on all sides. We had chances, but that was not a penalty. It is disappointing to see that happen, we move ahead.” said an upset ten Hag after the game.

Ten Hag would be able to focus the frustration of the past two games, admittedly against much weaker competition, to finish out the month with a solid string of results. A 3-0 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv by the second squad in the Champions League would roll into a 2-0 win over West Ham in the Premier League. The second squad would win again, this time 4-2 over Stoke in the Carabao Cup to earn a matchup with Burton Albion in the next round.

The end of October would see an incredible honor bestowed on Manchester United with Marcus Rashford winning the Ballon d’Or. Rashford would become United’s fourth award winner, the first since Ronaldo in 2008, and England’s fifth. Rashford’s incredible year, topped off with Premier League and Champions League wins, would push him ahead of Bruno Fernandes in the voting to underscore how much the two of them did for the club last year. Erling Haaland would finish third, though it’s likely these three will be seeing each other on the award stage again.

Rashford elevates himself to Legend status.

The historic award win would be an appetizer for the coming month, with United facing Liverpool at the start of November. Malacia would miss the game through bookings, putting Renan Lodi in at LB. The award winner would start things off with a 17’ goal, fed by Pedro Porro wide right Rashford would fire from outside the box and hit the crossbar to set it down and in for a 1-0 lead. The ensuing kickoff would see Liverpool drive deep into United’s third, but give up the ball to allow United to drive back even harder wide left through Renan Lodi and Jadon Sancho. Sancho would send a long cross into the middle of the box for Rashford and Fernandes to close in on. The two would essentially collide, with both of them trying to fire off a shot, but Fernandes would get more on it and send it in for a 2-0 lead. The chaos of that goal would only be a preview of the rest of the match, with Fernandes limping off at 26’ with a foot injury, Jürgen Klopp would double down on his reputation as an agent of chaos. Liverpool would take advantage of the swap from Fernandes to Christian Eriksen to get on the board, with Fabinho feeding Andrew Robinson at 31’ to make it 2-1. Antony would cross into the box for Sancho to get the goal back at 40’ before United could escape the first half up 3-1. The second half would be relatively calm compared to the beginning of the game, and a huge mistake would doom Liverpool late. At 70’ Declan Rice would play a long ball to the edge of the box with Alisson, Dani Vivian, and Joe Gomez closing on the ball to halt United’s attack. At the last second, all three would pull up thinking the others were going to handle the ball, allowing Eriksen to slip into the middle and play the ball to Rashford for an easy goal. Alisson would be furious, yet shoulder some of the blame himself, and the game would finish 4-1.

The big win against Liverpool would have United riding high until the second squad would put on an incredible collapse against Ruud van Nistelrooy managed PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League. Alban Lafont would have a day to forget, with terrible defending handing PSV goals at 3’ and 8’, and United’s attack basically non-existent throughout the game. Xavi Simons would be gifted a goal 53’, putting PSV up 3-0 and out of United’s reach. Vitor Roque would score late in the game, but it would do little to avoid an embarrassing 3-1 defeat. Once again, ten Hag would be able to spin a poor performance into a run of great form. Even with Fernandes out injured, and Hannibal playing for him, United would trounce City 5-0 before going on to beat Brentford (1-0), Real Sociedad (2-0), and Crystal Palace (5-2). Even with United “struggling”, they would still sit on top of the Premier League while other big teams were going through some real struggles. Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and City would finish the month sitting 4th-7th having to watch United slowly pull away.

November would end with Rashford getting more accolades, while less prestigious being named the top player in GOAL50’s 2024 list just added to the year Rashford has been having. Fernandes and Haaland would finish second and third on this list as well with Kevin De Bruyne and Kylian Mbappé rounding off the Top 5. Rice (7), Jude Bellingham (14), Raphaël Varane (19), Diogo Costa (32), and Pedro Porro (47) also made the list, quite a change compared to past United teams under ten Hag.

The final month of 2024 wouldn’t give Erik ten Hag much time to enjoy the holidays, with eight games on the schedule across three competitions United would be very busy. Ten Hag would also need to face a solid slate of teams, domestically and in Europe, so his balancing act between first and second squads would be critical.

December would open with a matchup against Arsenal, and Mikel Arteta would be looking at serious trouble if they didn’t walk away with points. The other traditional Top 4 teams are looking to turn their seasons around quickly, and with the way United have been playing, facing the Red Devils was not an easy task. Arsenal would have an encouraging start to the game, with Takehiro Tomiyasu opening the scoring at 10’ and putting the Gunners on the right path. Tomiyasu would deflect a free kick toward goal, with Raphaël Varane trying to clear it but ending up nudging it just over Diogo Costa for a frustrating goal. The Gunners would be flying high after that, but things quickly flipped on them and United took control of the game. Jadon Sancho would score twice, at 20’ and 22’, and suddenly Arteta was down 2-1 with momentum swinging hard away from him. The rest of the game would be typified by United’s third goal at 39’ when an Arsenal shot nearly went in, just barely hitting the post, and United would break in the opposite direction and finish with Bruno Fernandes feeding Antony for a 3-1 lead. Sancho would log a hat-trick at 43’ and Arteta would be more than happy to get his players off the field for the half. The second half would be just as bad for the Gunners, though they would have a moment of hope, with Antony scoring at 57’ and putting them in a 5-1 hole. A lapse in United’s rest defense at 79’ would gift the ball to Aaron Smith-Rowe who would hit Martin Ødegaard for an easy goal that would leave Costa furious with his back line. It would be a nice moment for the Gunners, but Antony would complete a hat-trick at 85’ and put the game away 6-2. Arsenal really ran into a buzz saw with this game, and United’s wingers wrecked them with all six goals, a feat that would earn Sancho and Anthony 10.0 ratings.

A huge game from Sancho sinks the Gunners.

The run of games between Arsenal and Newcastle would see United run rampant, scoring freely and winning when not playing their best. A 4-1 win over Leicester without a suspended Pedro Porro would lead to a tight 1-0 win over RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena. Leipzig would be enduring a terrible UCL run, sitting 18th heading into the game, so a 1-0 win was a good result but many expected more. A 3-0 win over Brighton would come before the second squad obliterated Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup quarterfinal. Angelo would score twice in the first two minutes of the game, and Vitor Roque would have a double before the half as United would win 10-0 in an absolute bloodbath.

A visit from Newcastle would turn into the kind of game that drives lingering questions about ten Hag’s tenure. Despite all the wins and trophies, the team still has the ability to look like they are asleep and completely unfocused. The vast majority of the first half would be that kind of game, with Cody Gakpo scoring at 11’ thanks to complete defensive indifference. Nobody even challenged him in the box, letting him have a free shot on goal as though the flag had gone up. Sven Botman would pull down Rashford in the box at 34’, but Fernandes would have his attempt blocked by Emiliano Martínez. United would continue to stumble through the half before a burst of competence would see them score twice in a little over two minutes. First Porro would feed Sancho for a leveler at 44’, and then Antony would find him again at 45’+1 to go into the locker room up 2-1. They must have assumed the game was over, because they tried to outdo Gakpo’s goal by letting Newcastle score again just after the half. This time Emi Buendía would be allowed to run right through the box, shoot, and score to make it 2-2 with United’s players just standing around watching it happen. At this point Newcastle had two shots, both on goal, and both of them went in. Ten Hag would have to storm up and down the touch line until Antony made it 3-2 at 89’, taking the ball off Botman just outside the box and rushing past him to fire in the winner.

The final two games of the month would give United a chance to widen the gap in first, and they would run with it. A 3-0 Boxing Day win over Aston Villa would put them (10) points clear in first with a game in hand, and then a 2-0 win over Leeds by the second squad would extend that lead to (11) points still with a game in hand. Spurs would hang tight up until these final two fixtures, but a shock 1-0 loss to Brentford and a 4-1 loss to Arsenal in the North London Derby would be a gut punch and send them below Chelsea and into third.

Going great guns at the moment man. Don't think anyone will be stopping you soon.
2023-03-18 10:48#292232 Nerazzurri : Going great guns at the moment man. Don't think anyone will be stopping you soon.

The other big teams keep losing to teams in the bottom half of the table, I don't get it.

Midway through the season Marcus Rashford has become the face of United thanks to his Ballon d’Or win, but the team is playing really well as a whole and covering up the less-than-stellar season Rashford is having. Outside of the Ballon d’Or, which is a massive win, United have not garnered many awards. Erling Haaland beat Bruno Fernandes for the FIFA Best Men’s award, but lost out to him in the FIFPro Player Of The Year. Diogo Costa came in second to Thibaut Courtois for the FIFA Best GK award, and Aurélien Tchouaméni topped Raphaël Varane for French Player of the Year. Awards are nice, but Erik ten Hag has tried to keep his players focused on silverware.

Even though Rashford isn’t living up to last year, United’s attack is doing an excellent job of making it hard for teams to shut them down. With five players scoring double-digit goals, led by Jadon Sancho, it’s easy to see how they are closing in on defending their Premier League crown and possibly the Champions League. The combo of Sancho, Fernandes, and Antony has proven deadly to opposing teams with all three of them hovering above a goal involvement a game.

Two players that really jump out are Vitor Roque and Angelo, who are at or exceeding (1.5) goal involvements a game. Vitor Roque’s (13) goals in (10) games more than doubled Rashford’s scoring rate, a tantalizing stat that could honestly be attributed to playing weaker competition. The same could be said of Angelo, but it isn’t hard to see how well he could fit into the first squad with a goal involvement profile similar to Sancho and Antony. The hype around the two young Brazilians has been pulling everyone’s attention away from another young player having a solid season; Hannibal. Hannibal is definitely starting to look like he can step into Fernandes’ role once he decides to retire, and he’s young enough to continue improving.
2023-03-19 00:13#292240 OohAhCantona :
2023-03-18 10:48#292232 Nerazzurri : Going great guns at the moment man. Don't think anyone will be stopping you soon.

The other big teams keep losing to teams in the bottom half of the table, I don't get it.

Which is good for you :) and plus i like that anyone can beat anyone, makes it abit more open. Not in your case though, you're running away with it.

Erik ten Hag and John Murtough deftly managed to have a January transfer window that flew under the radar despite making a move that would have garnered a ton of attention a few years ago. Sending Harry Maguire on loan to Real Sociedad went nearly unnoticed, with the former England star failing to play at all this year and most of last year. They also didn’t purchase a single senior player or sell off anyone, a sign that the current roster is built to last.

The only spending, and they spent quite a bit, was on youth players they feel very excited about. They better be excited about Simone Giovannelli because they paid quite a bit for him, and most scouts feel he won’t be ready for senior football until next year at the very earliest. The Italian DM has impressed with his ability in the midfield, though he has yet to play for Genoa’s senior squad, and many think he has enormous potential. They also spent heavily on RB Leipzig’s Tim-Sebastian Weiss who many believe isn’t far from the German national team, United are going to be loaded in the DM position if these transfers work out. At the opposite end of the spectrum they landed Dušan Nedeljković for a relatively tiny sum, many sources at United have corroborated rumors that the club have been watching him for years and couldn’t wait for him to turn 18. United agreed to loan Nedeljković back to FK Partizan for the remainder of the season, with him getting senior squad playing time it was a no-brainer to let that continue.

The final bit of news out of the January window was Jadon Sancho agreeing to a new contract that starts at the end of the season. The new 5-year deal worth £350K/week would make him the highest paid player at the club.

Senior / Major Transfers (Out)
Harry Maguire (CB, Real Sociedad) - Loan

Senior Transfers (In)

Final Transfer List (Impact Signings)
Simone Giovannelli (DM, Genoa - Italy) - £38M
Tim-Sebastian Weiss (DM, RB Leipzig - Germany) - £31.5M
Feliciano (CAM, Internacional - Brazil) - £18.5M
Ivo van Velde (GK, Cambuur - Netherlands) - £17M
Dušan Nedeljković (DM, FK Partizan - Serbia) - £4M

The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson meets with Manchester United’s winger Jadon Sancho to discuss his new contract and the path of his career.

You recently signed a new contract making you the highest paid player at United, do you feel greater pressure to perform?

On some level, yes, there will always be pressure from fans to live up to your billing. I feel like I’m getting what I deserve based on my current form, I’ve become an integral part of the team and it isn’t wild to say I should be compensated as such. I actually feel more pressure after being given the number seven, that meant something to the fans.

That was going to be my next question, being handed the number seven went under the radar a bit, how did you feel about donning a legendary number?

I think real fans, the die-hard fans, they really noticed when that happened. I got an earful from some, mostly good but a few telling me I didn’t deserve the number yet. The shadow of Ronaldo still looms large here, so there were people who felt like I was trying to put myself on his level. I’m not a club legend, not yet at least, but that’s where I’d like to be. I got some encouragement from Becks [David Beckham] and Eric Cantona, that was actually more motivating than anything, to think I was on track to have my name alongside theirs.

You have had your share of drama, going from City to Dortmund and then to United. Does United’s handling of your transfer from Dortmund affect your relationship with the club?

No, not at all. I’m not one of those guys that’s like, I want a club to spend X amount on me or it means they don’t want me, I wanted the move from Dortmund because I thought it was my time to come to the Premier League. Whatever went down that window, it’s in the past. I’m focused on being here now.

It was a rough start for you at United, but when ten Hag arrived everything turned around. What do you attribute that change to?

I think there were a number of things going on, I have to shoulder some of the blame because I was found out in the league. I think with the way Ole [Gunnar Solsjkaer] wanted to play, I needed to be faster on the wing and the speed of the game here caught me out. When ten Hag arrived, I think he looked at my technical abilities, my creative strengths, and found a way for that to work in his system. I work well in a structured system, nothing against Ole or Rangnick for that matter, but there was a loose approach to the attack that I wasn’t fitting into.

Now that you have number seven, I’m sure it puts some pressure on you, but what kind of future do you see for yourself at United? Do you think you will ever leave the club for a different challenge?

I didn’t put much thought into that before, but playing alongside Bruno [Fernandes] and seeing the fire he has into his thirties, I’d like to finish my career here. I’d love to finish my time here as a club Legend, be able to have my name next to all the other great number sevens.

You are reading "Return To Glory : Manchester United".

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