Manchester United’s season ultimately came to a close in disappointing fashion in Gdansk, as the Red Devils were agonisingly beaten on penalties by Villarreal in the Europa League final. The result has threatened to take the gloss off what has been a hugely progressive season under the tenure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this term, which saw United finish second in the Premier League, and overcome the semi-final hoodoo that was a much talked about issue.
Forwards Shine Throughout The Season
There is no denying that United will be in the market this summer for some more reinforcements in the forward areas, but it can’t be underplayed how well the players in the final third performed throughout the 2020-21 season. Bruno Fernandes continued his excellent form from the previous season with another 28 goals in all competitions this term, and added a further 17 assists for good measure. Marcus Rashford’s performances throughout the season also went under the radar as he scored 21 goals and made 15 assists in all competition.
Rashford also finished the Champions League season as the third-highest scorer despite United crashing out in the group stages. Edinson Cavani was a revelation throughout the season, and scored an impressive 17 goals in all competitions to silence his doubters. Mason Greenwood also found his form towards the end of the campaign with a strong return of 12 goals. Sure, United need another forward, but there are certainly goals in abundance when it comes to the players already at the club.
Defensive Issues Remain
United came a long way over the previous season, but defensively there are still big issues to answer. It would seem that United have almost every piece in place, with a special mention going to Luke Shaw, who has arguably been the best left-back in the world this past season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is solid at right-back, but a partner for Harry Maguire is still desperately needed. Victor Lindelof isn’t a bad central defender, but his and Maguire’s skillsets do not complement each other, as they are too similar. It’s no surprise that United have already been muted with a move for Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, which would go a long way to making the United defence one that could potentially mount a serious title challenge.
The question of number one looks set to dominate over the summer, as Solskjaer must finally make a decision whether it will be Dean Henderson or David De Gea. All the evidence points to Henderson being his man as he played the majority of the games towards the end of the season in the league. United conceded 44 goals last season, which was their second-worst defensive return since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Certain Progression Ahead Of 2021-22
Overall it has been a hugely progressive season from United this term. Ole has brought back the desire that was sorely missing during the Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal eras, as it is very rarely questioned that this squad of players aren’t giving their all for the club. The commitment was always there throughout the season, even when potentially the quality needed wasn’t. That commitment went a long way to making United one of the most difficult teams to beat in the league last season, as they lost the joint-fewest games in the league. One of the staples of this great club also returned, as United so often came back from losing positions to win points.
No other club got near the 31 points that United picked up from losing positions last term, and that is certainly another positive that will make United hard to beat again next term. Away from home, this team have been irrepressible in the league under Ole, as United joined a handful of teams to go a whole season without defeat on the road. Luke Shaw, Mason Greenwood and Scott McTominay also grew throughout the season, and look primed for increased roles next season.
United still need to add some much-needed quality to lay down a title challenge, but the club were certainly moving in the right direction throughout the 2020-21 campaign.
Article contributed by Contributor Alex. Comments are appreciated on our Facebook page.