Better than we think? Some optimism

SER19

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I should preface this by saying that I think we still need more depth and that I think solskjaer is so far being failed in the window by about 3 signings.

But on a note of optimism, if you consider our terrible form in the first stages of last season and consider who was often starting or featuring frequently, we have quietly transformed for a number of reasons including fitness, youth development and signings.

Looking at last season in the first third of the campaign we frequently saw starts or common involvement from

Lingard
James
Pereira
Young (made 15 starts before mid season departure)

Often, at least one of these was starting. I expect we will rarely see any start this season. We saw little of matic. Mata was commonly called upon.

This season we add the following, who we did not see for most of the first third to half of last season, or at all:

Pogba - return to fitness
Bruno Fernandes--January window
Van De Beek - new signing
Henderson--return from loan
Ighalo--loan

Not to the same extent but we could arguably add

Greenwood--lightly used initially and developed far beyond expectations.

And if rumours are to be believed

Reguilon - said to be close.

When you compare how we are starting this campaign, versus the first third of last season, we are arguably around 7 players stronger and that includes some real quality.

As I said I still think we need at least 2 more recruits (plus Reguilon) and if sancho is one then fantastic, but are we in better shape than we think, especially compared to the stages of last season when so much damage was done to our ambition?
 

Gazza

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We’re in the right track, but there’s a gulf between seeing the positives and fooling ourselves. I think at the end of last season we could all see the squad is moving in the right direction generally, but that some clear deficiencies remain. In that regard, the disappointment people are feeling is not because we have not magically become the finished article, but because it feels like we are squandering the momentum we have finally built up after years in the wilderness. It feels like an opportunity lost and I will be deflated if we don’t build on last season, regardless of all the positives in front of us. I am envious of Chelsea’s excellent work in the market when we finished around the same level as them last season, I can’t help it.
 

Gazza

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And to put a point on it, I would say we are aiming for 4th, maaaaybe 3rd if our squad remains as it is. So that’s how good our squad is, really.
 

el3mel

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If we got Reguilon, I can't see anything more than 1 more signing and that's actually being optimistic.

Otherwise, we'll probably finish 3rd or 4th again like last season. Hopefully we manage to win one of the 2 domestic cups, as 4th trophyless season in a row will be too much.
 

Woodenlung

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We're still going to see a lot of starts for players who clearly aren't good enough. The fixture congestion for this season is obscene and we can't keep playing the same 11 over and over without them burning out. I admire the optimism shown, but I don't feel the same. We simply don't have the quality to maintain a top 4 place as well as a CL/cup run.
 

Rood

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We are undoubtedly in a stronger position than we were this time last year and we will surely bring in one or two more (even if not Sancho)
 

NJM78

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As it stands I think we will struggle for top 4 again even with VDB and full season of Bruno etc.

We also have to remember how many injuries our players seem to get and how poor we can play, yes at times we look very good but I'm still not confident even when about to play Palace at home. This team just gives away too many stupid goals and tends to miss too many chances when on top.

For me a top class RW and CB was essential this window for us to improve and guarantee a top 4 finish. At present I would wager Chelsea will finish above us quite comfortably as their strength in depth is impressive and the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Spurs, Leicester and Wolves are going to run us close in my opinion.
 

UnitedFan93

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We're way short at the minute.

An injury to any of the front 3 and drop off in quality is enormous. Imagine if Martial is injured for 2 months, we'll be starting one of Ighalo, James or Mata ffs.

The squad still needs another 3 players adding to it; CB, cheap LB, World class forward.
 

Bebestation

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Some weird optimism to some maybe -

But I really think the defensive fullbacks can be good on either side considering how many teams play with inverted wingers.

If we get the right balance of an attacking minded 3 man midfield- I dont think we are going to miss an attacking aspect of a fullbacks game too much in my opinion.
 

Dominos

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If you extrapolate our post-Bruno form for a whole season then I can see a reason for optimism. I don't think it's quite as simplistic as that unfortunately. We fatigued heavily last season but we managed to scrape over the line in the end, but lack of squad depth could easily cost us a lot of points this season when we can't replace any of the first 11 when they're looking jaded/out of form.

I also don't see how we can make it through a full season with only 3 good attacking players for them front 3 positions. These are the players who win you games and win you the points generally speaking, you need top players who can score and create.
 

Crashoutcassius

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We dont have as strong a squad as city or chelsea. liverpool don't have a very strong squad but they somehow manage, bizarre.

I think we have a tough task ahead of materially improve on 66pts, I really do think it will be a tougher season and we are just one injury away from struggling at all times. Something like 75pts looks really hard to me. I would think different if we had more quality depth in defence and across the front 3, but we do not at time of writing
 

Luke1995

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It will be tough to get into the top four with the likes of Leicester and Wolves breathing down our necks

But a good partnership between Pogba and Fernandes and having a clear number one goalkeeper who manages to have a good season will go a long way...
 

Revan

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With good management, it should be more than enough to get into UCL zone, but it is nowhere near enough to fight for the title. If we did a couple of other good transfers, it still would not have been enough to fight for the title, but we would have been more closer, and in a very good position for the season after this. As it is, it seems that it might be a similar season to the previous one, when we have to fight for UCL and are out of title race within November.
 

AsonUnique

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I agree we are going the right direction. We have a lot of important games this year though. The fight for top 4 will be tougher and Champions League. I feel good about the midfield and GK. But if Martial or Mason get hurt I worry about our front line, if Maguire gets hurt our back line (amazing he played so much last year).

We have had a hole at RW for several windows now. I don't care if it is Sancho but we need a natural RW there. If we do that that allows Mason to rotate across the line, allows James to stay on the left when he plays and no more Pereira or Mata on the wing.
 

criticalanalysis

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If Conte was managing this squad, we would be expecting a solid title push. To win and to be there at the end of the season would be a stretch but we should be comfortably top four and at least sustaining some sort of form for a strong finish.

I honestly find it a bit small time how many say we are 'sooo far away from Liverpool/City' and that we need Sancho and a few more signings i.e we need a world class squad of a first eleven and bench. The sum of their parts are greater because of the managing/coaching.

That's not a dig at Ole because he's done great and perhaps an underrated job in getting us back on track with good transfers and squad man management. However, it would be inexcusable if we were still playing like last year.

Blizting teams with our athleticism and individual brillance then coming unstuck as we're unable to break down teams due to unrehearsed/coaching patterns and tactics. And then the excuses with 'the players are not good enough', 'what do you expect we can't bring on £50m xyz player', 'the first 11 is tired from carrying the team, we need more depth' etc.

If we're more than 10 points away from the league winners this year I would be disappointed.

This squad has lots of potential and talent, which is credit to Ole but to think we're on another planet to those front two is just underplaying the quality we have.

On the one hand, I'm not ignoring our woeful past seasons and the rebuild job we have. I'm also not expecting progress to be just a straight upward curve but if we're not solid 3rd and show great dominance (against all teams) through the season, it'll be just another by the numbers season for me.
 
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RedSky

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As soon as Rashford/Martial start picking up injuries we'll be in trouble again as their replacements have the goal threat of a 6 year old child. Our first 11 is a match for Liverpool/City but our squad is weak in comparison (exception being midfield).
 

Marcus

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We dont have as strong a squad as city or chelsea. liverpool don't have a very strong squad but they somehow manage, bizarre.

I think we have a tough task ahead of materially improve on 66pts, I really do think it will be a tougher season and we are just one injury away from struggling at all times. Something like 75pts looks really hard to me. I would think different if we had more quality depth in defence and across the front 3, but we do not at time of writing
In response to your first paragraph, from another thread, the key word seems to be "asthma" . ;)
 

Bebestation

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If Conte was managing this squad, we would be expecting a solid title push. To win and to be there at the end of the season would be a stretch but we should be comfortably top four and at least sustaining some sort of form for a strong finish.

I honestly find it a bit small time how many say we are 'sooo far away from Liverpool/City' and that we need Sancho and a few more signings i.e we need a world class squad of a first eleven and bench. The sum of their parts are greater because of the managing/coaching.

That's not a dig at Ole because he's done great and perhaps an underrated job in getting us back on track with good transfers and squad man management. However, it would be inexcusable if we were still playing like last year.

Blizting teams with our athleticism and individual brillance then coming unstuck as we're unable to break down teams due to unrehearsed/coaching patterns and tactics. And then the excuses with 'the players are not good enough', 'what do you expect we can't bring on £50m xyz player', 'the first 11 is tired from carrying the team, we need more depth' etc.

If we're more than 10 points away from the league winners this year I would be disappointed.

This squad has lots of potential and talent, which is credit to Ole but to think we're on another planet to those front two is just underplaying the quality we have.

On the one hand, I'm not ignoring our woeful past seasons and the rebuild job we have. I'm also not expecting progress to be just a straight upward curve but if we're not solid 3rd and show great dominance (against all teams) through the season, it'll be just another by the numbers season for me.
If conte was our manager Lukaku would be our striker and not Martial or anyone else.

I cant stand managers that only can use one type of striker - Conte, Jose, Pochettino all are reliant on a physical central striker.
 

CG1010

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If Conte was managing this squad, we would be expecting a solid title push. To win and to be there at the end of the season would be a stretch but we should be comfortably top four and at least sustaining some sort of form for a strong finish.

I honestly find it a bit small time how many say we are 'sooo far away from Liverpool/City' and that we need Sancho and a few more signings i.e we need a world class squad of a first eleven and bench. The sum of their parts are greater because of the managing/coaching.

That's not a dig at Ole because he's done great and perhaps an underrated job in getting us back on track with good transfers and squad man management. However, it would be inexcusable if we were still playing like last year.

Blizting teams with our athleticism and individual brillance then coming unstuck as we're unable to break down teams due to unrehearsed/coaching patterns and tactics. And then the excuses with 'the players are not good enough', 'what do you expect we can't bring on £50m xyz player', 'the first 11 is tired from carrying the team, we need more depth' etc.

If we're more than 10 points away from the league winners this year I would be disappointed.

This squad has lots of potential and talent, which is credit to Ole but to think we're on another planet to those front two is just underplaying the quality we have.

On the one hand, I'm not ignoring our woeful past seasons and the rebuild job we have. I'm also not expecting progress to be just a straight upward curve but if we're not solid 3rd and show great dominance (against all teams) through the season, it'll be just another by the numbers season for me.
I agree with you that in terms of overall talent we aren't as behind Liverpool and City as the points gap shows in the league. But its more to do with the fact that our talent is still distributed unequally with a few good/very good players and a large number of average & poor players (besides luck with injury, and relatively young age of our team).

In my opinion, a set of 11 players start performing as a team only when the entire set of players are upto a minimum level and able to gel together. Teams can carry 1-2 bad players or players out of form for a few games or even an entire season but even that only if they have already got the base set up. For a long time, we haven't been able to field a first XI with every player a solid 6-7/10 in terms of ability. We have always had atleast 2-3 players that have especially been extremely deficient, especially from technical and athleticism point of view, and probably rated at best 3-4/10. This has especially hurt our attacking rhythm and we are forced to rely on individual brilliance or a couple of players combining well to create openings for us. Eventually the well performing players also become demoralised, stop making runs and generally become ineffective as teams figure out our weaknesses and exploit them. For example, we lack a RW because we have had little attacking contribution coming from that side for a long long time and it makes us quite unbalanced as a team.

See in the last three seasons, we have played the following players just in the league:

2017-18 season: Mata (28 appearances , by now completely past his peak), Mikhitaryan (15 appearances ), Sanchez (12 appearances) - all of them scoring combined 6 goals in 56 appearances

2018-19 season: Sanchez (20 appearances), Mata (22 appearances), Lingard (27 appearances), Pereira (15 appearances), Fellaini (14 appearances) - all of them scoring combined 9 goals in 98 appearances

2019-20 season: Lingard (22 appearances), Pereira (25 appearances), Mata (19 appearances), James (33 appearances) - all combining to score 5 goals in 99 appearances

Besides just the goal output, none of those players contributed much in terms of attacking rhythm on a consistent basis.

The positive part of the last season was that we finally saw for a few games how our team could potentially look if we are not carrying deadwood. But we were quite lucky to have all our top guns injury free at the same time. Generally, it is highly likely that we will have an injury to atleast one of Greenwood, Martial, Rashford, Bruno at any single point of time. This again limits how much we can grow into as an attacking unit. Liverpool and City have much more complete teams and it shows in their overall team performances even if individually the gap in talent in their teams and ours isn't as big.

And I haven't even started about full backs yet. We haven't had an attacking full back for a long long time. Which would be fine if we adopt some sort of system where full backs are supposed to defend only (not sure if there is one used in the modern game). But our full backs do bomb forward to varying degree across managers and especially under Ole they are a key part of attacking play. But over the last few years we have had some really poor footballers playing at the full back level. This again makes the entire team playing more than sum of its parts very difficult proposition. Again this season, we have seen Shaw improving gradually and becoming decent. But he is also not great and again is the only one we have at that position.

We may perhaps still sign Sancho and/or a left back yet, but if we don't, my general expectation is that we can probably aim to reach 75 points and 75 goals this season. But there is no way we would be anywhere close to the PL title. Maybe comfortably reaching 4th is all we can hope for at this stage. It certainly delays Ole's plan of three years to complete rebuild and win a PL title.
 
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bosnian_red

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There was a lot of positivity on the back of last season, but it simply had to be followed up by an aggressive summer window. Liverpool won the league, Leeds got promoted and then City were strongly linked with Messi after making some good signings (will likely get him next year) so the gap is only getting bigger there. It was a big summer for us to respond, especially after Chelsea showed they are serious about competing. So far... nothing.

Its blatantly obvious we need depth. Our starting 11 is decent, lacking in some positions and then players that don't suit others in some other positions. But there just isn't any depth. It can be as simple as Reguilon to compete with Shaw, Perisic on loan or whatever and we'll be ok and have enough to build on last season, but without those depth signings, we are 100% without a shadow of doubt going to get fecked over by big injuries to our attackers. We'll be playing twice a week, every week, for pretty much the entire season. That much football will hurt their form, hurt their fitness and lead to big injuries that harms their development. We saw with Rashford what happened last season when we had no depth and he was overplayed. Think that, but much more serious as its basically a December schedule for the entire season. Not signing depth is pure negligence towards the well being of our own players, and it'll cost us unless we do something about it.

Anyway, it's easy to get some positivity back. But as is right now, we'll get an injury crisis pretty quickly because we can't keep our players fresh as we have no depth, and that'll lead to worse and worse performances as we won't ever have a chance for a breather the way the season is laid out. Honestly, if we sign nobody, Ole should throw out the reserves in every cup comp and just focus on getting top 4 in the league. The board treated this summer window like a write off so far, so I wouldn't give Ole any stick for writing off the cups given its our only hope to have a doable fixture list, considering our lack of depth.
 

Bebestation

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:lol:

Literally people coming here and being pessimistic.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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Major problems last season and whether we have/haven't deal with them for upcoming next season:
  • Lack of creativity due to Pogba being injured and relying on Pereira & Lingard as our no 10 - We solved this by signing Bruno and we saw the massive improvement, not only that, if Pogba can stay away from long term injury again it's like a new signing.
  • Lack of depth squad quality, this hasn't been totally solved because we still have Lingard, Mata & Ighalo - We signed Van De Beek but he's pretty just an upgrade one or two Lingard/Pereira. We still need to sign another two good attacking option. Think about it, Chelsea have Mount, Giroud & Abraham while we have Lingard, Mata & Ighalo.
  • DDG made errors - We dealt this situation by giving him a proper competition which bring in Dean Henderson
  • Shit in defending crossings, I'm getting sick of us conceded goals from crossings whether they are set pieces or non-set pieces - So far no new recruitment in defensive department so I expect us to improve them through coaching is the only realistic way.
Not much major problems but still there are few problems that we haven't solved. On the positive side squad looks very promising with Pogba coming back, Bruno will play full season, Greenwood new development & Van De Beek upgrading Pereira/Lingard last season role.
 

WR10

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Many have forgotten the state we played in for the first half of the season
 

Marcus

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Better, but to what end? Get 4th at least or challenge for title / win trophies?
 

Bilbo

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Todays headline

Positive thread attempt immediately put in its place by pessimistic forum
 

Amerifan

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Our starting XI can compete with anyone, period.

If we have Liverpool’s luck with fitness and focus exclusively on the PL the title could well be ours. I’d support Ole if he rested the starters in CL and cup competitions and focused exclusively on winning the PL.

We focus our attention on the starters, but our results are determined by our bench. Last season our bench was a big step down in quality in many areas of the pitch. The bench and youngsters need to step it up this season. If they do, we’re in for a good season.
 

SER19

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Continuing a positive slant (and I agree we need depth in attacking places), without it, in the case of let's say martial injury, does anybody see the van de beek addition an option to go with 2 up top ie rashford and Greenwood with a more creative 4 behind them.

Van de Beek's addition is proof of how important depth is not just for like for like depth but flexibility in style in games where things aren't working or where we're faced with injuries.
 

Bilbo

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Continuing a positive slant (and I agree we need depth in attacking places), without it, in the case of let's say martial injury, does anybody see the van de beek addition an option to go with 2 up top ie rashford and Greenwood with a more creative 4 behind them.

Van de Beek's addition is proof of how important depth is not just for like for like depth but flexibility in style in games where things aren't working or where we're faced with injuries.
The VDB signing opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities in terms of formations we can play.

Many of those options require only 2 of our forwards to start so if we do suffer an injury or simply need to rotate up top, or be flexible for a particular opponent, we are now able to do that without concern
 

londonredmaniac

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If the front 5 is at it, it's enough to cause anyone problems.

Adding DVB is definitely a positive when considering we have little creative influence if Fernandes and Pogba are injured or misfiring.

The issue is that beyond that, we don't have an awful lot of quality...we have bang average players at best...and at worst some are absolutely stealing a living and have no business at a club like United.

We still need a CB partner to Maguire, we desperately need a DM who is better than what we have and we need our full backs to offer width if we are going to play with forwards wide.
 

londonredmaniac

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Our starting XI can compete with anyone, period.
I disagree tbf. It's still got far too many key positions where quality is questionable for me.

Though as I said in my post prior, going forward we should be able to cause problems.

Issue is getting the ball to those players in effective areas at times...and that we need to add real quality to get them there.
 

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Kind of disagree with being very optimistic. Yes, we are in a better position now compared to under Mourinho in relation to squad strength and the perceivable unity amongst the players in the squad. Still, we are not playing the type of football that is going to make us competitive again at the highest level. And we play with fullbacks that are not particularly good in attack, goalkeepers that are not comfortable in the sweeper role or passing under a high press and centrebacks with obvious limitations in their game. We still struggle with shifting players due to them being on stupid wages and the club demanding prices that do not reflect the ability or performance of the player in question.
And the owners of the club are still more interested in ensuring the club's' ability to be a cash cow and paying out dividends rather than being competitive. Competitive as in challenging for EPL/ECL.

My only source of long term optimism is from the recruitment done by the academy, as the players bought seem to be done without involvement from the owners/Judge/Woodward and they seems to operate somewhat autonomously. And if some of the youngsters turn out like Greenwood or close to, we can be competitive despite being owned and governed by people with only an financial interest in the club.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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Many have forgotten the state we played in for the first half of the season
Beating City, Spurs, Leicester, Chelsea twice & drew to Liverpool. Pretty good and could have been more consistent if it wasn't because relying on Pereira & Lingard as our creative source.
 

londonredmaniac

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Kind of disagree with being very optimistic. Yes, we are in a better position now compared to under Mourinho in relation to squad strength and the perceivable unity amongst the players in the squad. Still, we are not playing the type of football that is going to make us competitive again at the highest level. And we play with fullbacks that are not particularly good in attack, goalkeepers that are not comfortable in the sweeper role or passing under a high press and centrebacks with obvious limitations in their game. We still struggle with shifting players due to them being on stupid wages and the club demanding prices that do not reflect the ability or performance of the player in question.
And the owners of the club are still more interested in ensuring the club's' ability to be a cash cow and paying out dividends rather than being competitive. Competitive as in challenging for EPL/ECL.

My only source of long term optimism is from the recruitment done by the academy, as the players bought seem to be done without involvement from the owners/Judge/Woodward and they seems to operate somewhat autonomously. And if some of the youngsters turn out like Greenwood or close to, we can be competitive despite being owned and governed by people with only an financial interest in the club.
The sooner those leeching cnuts feck off the better.

Scumbags.

Great point about the academy by the way.
 

cyberman

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I think our front 3 will improve some more. Martial was just growing into the 9 role as the season wound down and Mason really should kick on a couple of more notches. A full season of Bruno and Pogba behind them and we are in a far better position than whats being touted on here.
 

kafta

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Better than we think, but not as good as we should be. So still not good enough all in all.
 

Nickelodeon

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Pessimistic View / Optimistic View:

  • We have no cover for our front 3 and all of them have shown inconsistencies and one of them is an 18 year old / We have a front 3 which scored 62 goals last season despite all of them missing a significant portion of the season and all of whom are expected to improve
  • We did not get a world class CB and our defence could suffer / We were 3rd lowest in goals conceded in the league in the first year of Maguire and Lindelof partnership which could improve further
  • Our FBs aren't offensive enough and cover is minimal / Shaw did very well and is fit again while we can expect AWB to maintain his defensive strengths while increasing offensive capability. Also, we might sign Reguilon as Shaw cover or LWB position in a back 3 which is a significant improvement on Williams
  • Midfield is looking fine / The midfield could be one of the best in the league and with strength in depth as well with VDB added
  • Bruno score most of his goals from penalties / Bruno played every single game in a short period of time in what was his first 6 months in PL; He will hopefully have learned more and will perform better
  • Ole isn't in the league of the WC managers like Pep and Klopp / We were 14 unbeaten in the league and delivered mentally and physically when it mattered the most. You have to credit the manager for it.
  • Pre-season has been dodgy and filled with controversies / Players are out with a point to prove and we have that bit of an underdog status again which is helpful for the team
 

EwanI Ted

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The difference on last season is easy to overlook. Going into the season we had basically 3 decent attackers - Pogba, Martial, Rashford. However Pogba promptly got injured and missed basically the entire season until restart. Martial and Rashford also took turns to get injured, I think we had 9 league games where only 1 of those players was fit to play, which is almost a quarter of the season.

Then we bought Bruno. Then Pogba got fit. Then Greenwood matured enough. Now we’ve added VDB. If Martial and Rashford stay fit we now have 6 quality attackers. We seem likely to get another attacker too, whether that’s Sancho or someone else. Which means we’re likely to go from 1 or 2 decent attackers, as we had in the grim days of last season, to 7.

Its hard to overstate what a difference that’s likely to make. Last season we struggled to put out a decent first 11 in the first half of the season. This season, when everyone’s fit, some decent players arent even going to make the bench. We had 12 draws last season and half our defeats were by a single goal. Even if we retain many of the same flaws as last season, the extra firepower could easily claw back a chunk of those points dropped.