Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Premier League Season in Review: Manchester United

As with league champion Manchester City, a loss to end the season in a tournament final was a disappointing end to a season of progress for Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s project took another step forward with a second-place finish in the league reflecting an eight-point improvement on last season’s third place finish. Tied for joint fewest losses with Manchester City, United incurred three of their six defeats in their opening six games. From there the Red Devils put together 13 and 14 match unbeaten runs sandwiched around an incongruous loss to Sheffield United before the club dropped two late games to Leicester and Liverpool during the final run-in. 

A highlight for Manchester United fans came when the Red Devils put an end to the 22-match unbeaten run by cross town rival Manchester City. The Red Devils also completed the entire season unbeaten in away matches. On the downside, the club drew more of their matches in the league than all but 16th place Brighton and relegated Fulham. The dropped points prevented a meaningful run against their league winning rivals. Midfielder Bruno Fernandes was far and away the club’s most valuable player this season, leading the Red Devils with 18 goals and 12 assists. Striker Edinson Cavani, acquired on a free transfer in October, was also a huge success as the Uruguayan veteran found the net 10 times in just 26 appearances, 13 as a substitute. Cavani has signed on for another season in Manchester after some early doubt regarding his future plans. Cavani’s goal scoring abilities were essential to United’s attack. Forward Marcus Rashford regressed as his 11 goals were six fewer than his prior season output. The club is overly reliant on Fernandes for offensive production and the team suffers when he comes up short as was the case in the Europa final. While Cavani’s extension is helpful, the club will likely be looking for another goal scoring threat in the transfer market. Defensively, the team received solid performances from captain Harry Maguire and major improvement from left back Luke Shaw who responded positively to the competition provided when the club acquired Alex Telles. There was change at goalkeeper as Dean Hendersen became the first-choice goalkeeper in league play after David De Gea spent time on a family matter in Spain. Overall, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s project is progressing but a trophy is sorely needed which made the loss in the Europa League final so painful. The club’s investment during the transfer window activity will be closely monitored by fans who have expressed unhappiness with United’s Glazer family ownership. Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund remains a rumored addition to the attack while there has also been suggestion of potential upgrade at center back alongside Harry Maguire. 

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