Man Utd have a lot of ground to make up on their title rivals next season, but they will have one advantage heading into next season
If Premier League clubs can’t use the transfer market to solve their ills this summer it will put a premium on good coaching and eliciting improvement from the players already at your disposal.
That might come as a shock to some top-flight bosses who are used to the transfer window and the untold riches of the Premier League bailing them out. But as Ed Woodward recently said it’s unlikely to be “business as usual” for any club this summer.
At the moment nobody knows when the transfer window will open and close, how long it will last for and what the financial picture will be. It’s difficult to know just how busy clubs can be and putting the framework of a deal in place ahead of the window opening is fraught with danger at the moment.
So it might well be that Premier League clubs head into next season with squads almost identical to the current campaign. While that might not necessarily be good news for Manchester United, given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is midway through a rebuild of the squad, it’s not as disastrous at it might have sounded at the end of January when Burnley had just cruised to a win at Old Trafford.
In an 11-game unbeaten run since then, the impact of the coaching at Carrington has been visible and the majority of United players have improved from August to March.
A lot of the credit for that must go to Solskjaer and his coaches, especially Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick, whose influence on the group has clearly grown. The one-on-one work with a lot of players has reaped rewards as the season has gone on and while an award for the most improved player would probably have to go to Fred, it would be a competitive contest.
United could have another advantage if it comes to the same squads having to go again next season, however, specifically that this is one of the youngest groups in the Premier League and the level of natural improvement that comes with age is greater than at clubs such as Manchester City and Liverpool, where the players are already at their peak.
Under Solskjaer United have often fielded one of the youngest starting XIs this season. In Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams, Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, United have five players 22 or younger who will hope to make a natural improvement from one season to the next for a player of that age bracket.
Then there are the players who might be better for their first year at Old Trafford. Wan-Bissaka and James fit into the bracket, as does Harry Maguire. Bruno Fernandes’ impact has been instant and he’s achieved that without a pre-season. Given a period of time to adapt further to the league he offers the tantalising prospect of seeing even more from a midfield who, at 25, still has his best years ahead of him.
Even players such as Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, both 24, have improved this season and will aim to prove that they are beginning to grasp what it means to be a Manchester United regular.
It would be a surprise if the improvement within this squad, both natural and through coaching, will be enough to lead to a title challenge without further reinforcements. But there are reasons to believe that this squad could get much closer to those of Liverpool and Manchester City next term. Continue reading…