Another 12 months has passed, and it’s time to have a look at how Manchester United have done during that time.
They began the year in fifth place, and a nightmare January took them down to seventh. However, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes turned things around for the Red Devils, and they managed to sneak into the Champions League places.
Best Player – Bruno Fernandes
Well…duh. Who else was gonna go here?
Man Utd’s Portuguese magnifico has been nothing short of heroic since coming to Old Trafford. Almost overnight they went from a bang average side to one of the most frightening teams in the division, and it’s all down to Fernandes’ arrival.
Very few players have arrived in the Premier League and made an instant impact like Fernandes has.
Best Game: Man Utd 2-0 Man City
In their final game before lockdown, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side went into a Manchester Derby against a City team that had knocked them out of the Carabao Cup a few weeks earlier.
Man Utd gave their fans a welcome treat going into the break, completing the double over their bitter rivals with a 2-0 victory. Anthony Martial opened the scoring after Ederson let his volley sneak in at the near post, before Scott McTominay sealed the three points with a long range effort in injury time.
Worst Game: Man Utd 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur
When Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty in the second minute after Anthony Martial was brought down, Man Utd appeared to be on course for all three points.
The reality was quite the opposite. Within five minutes of taking the lead, Spurs hit back with two goals. Tanguy Ndombele slammed home after some frankly comical defending, and Heung-min Son converted from Harry Kane’s quick free kick.
By the half-hour mark, the game was effectively over. Martial was sent off after a slap on Erik Lamela, and Kane capitalised on some more dreadful defending to make it 3-1. Son later made it four before half time.
Things did not get better in the second half. Serge Aurier hit a fifth, and Kane got his second from the penalty spot to complete the humiliation.
Good, for the most part.
As explained above, Bruno Fernandes has had an immediate impact in England, and will undoubtedly go down as the signing of the year.
Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani was a highly questioned signing at the time, but he has proven that he still has plenty left to offer at the top level. And, while they’re still yet to prove themselves, Alex Telles and Donny van de Beek look to have offered some much-needed depth to a thin squad.
They haven’t had a 100% success rate, however. The loan acquisition of Odion Ighalo still fails to make any sense whatsoever, and there are still areas that need strengthening.
Furthermore, it is difficult to ignore the long-running Jadon Sancho saga. Having haggled with Borussia Dortmund for months over his €120m asking price, the Man Utd board were left with egg on their faces as the Englishman stayed in Germany.
How Has the Manager Done?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been questioned for most of his time in charge of Man Utd, but he has held his own fairly well in 2020.
Their league form in the second half of last season was fantastic, elevating them into third place to seal Champions League qualification. And, after a rough start, they find themselves well in the title race for the current campaign.
However, their cup performances have not been so promising. They crashed out in the semi-finals of both domestic trophies, as well as the Europa League. The 3-1 defeat at Wembley against Chelsea in the FA Cup was particularly poor. And then they exited the Champions League early, finishing behind Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the group stages.
This season’s Carabao Cup provides Solskjaer with another opportunity to win his first piece of silverware as Man Utd manager, as he faces Man City in the semi-final. All eyes will be watching to see if he can finally get past this hurdle.
Overall, the performances have been pretty good under Solskjaer. However, many wonder whether it is because of the Norwegian, or the individual quality in the Man Utd squad.
Pretty good, I guess.
This time last year, Man Utd looked a million miles off challenging for the title. Fast forward 12 months, and it’s starting to look a bit more realistic. Of course, it remains to be seen whether they’ll keep this up.
The cup disappointments are difficult to ignore, and the Champions League embarrassment should leave a huge stain on this season. Nonetheless, progress has been made.
And, while the Jadon Sancho debacle didn’t go their way, the incomings have mostly been hits. It’s been a while since the Red Devils had one of the world’s best outfield players, but Fernandes seems to have finally brought the superstar factor back to Old Trafford.
2021 could be an exciting year for Manchester United.