The Premier League season is just five days away as multiple teams look to compete to earn the title of Premier League Champions. Over the next five days, I will go through which teams I believe are locks to finish in the top five this season. To start off, I have Manchester United finishing in fifth place. Now, many people may say I’m crazy, but this isn’t Project Restart. This is a full-length season: Premier League play, multiple competitions and Champions League football, which means there’s a ton of soccer to be played. The real question is, does United have the legs to last them all season?
Last season was successful in the eyes of Manchester United. They finished in the top four in the Premier League, securing Champions League football and the arrival of Bruno Fernandes. Who knew United fans would be so excited for fourth place after bantering Arsenal fans for years upon years for the same placement? It looks like United is finally heading in the right direction.
I have United finishing fifth for a couple of reasons. The main reason is their lack of quality in their defensive third. Now, most supporters will say they have a “world-class” center back in Harry Maguire, but to me, he has not lived up to the 80-million euro price tag United paid for him. Not to mention, the defender’s activities off the field have not helped him. Maguire was recently arrested in Greece for aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and bribery. He is facing a suspended jail sentence of 21 months, but has come out and said he was a victim of police brutality. Maguire has recently arrived back at the Manchester United training ground as the outcome of the situation is still uncertain.
The center back position is somewhere United needs to improve with their depth in that position being subpar. It looks like Chris Smalling will be joining Italian club Roma on a permanent deal after spending the past season with the club on loan. Maguire and Victor Lindelof look set to be the starting duo for the season opener with Eric Bailly attempting to force his way back into the team.
Now those are three experienced defenders that know the league well, but as I stated earlier, it’s a long season. Injuries occur and fitness levels drop. At some point, two out of those three won’t be fit to play, so who’s next on the depth chart? No other than the meme god himself Phil Jones. As experienced as Jones is, he is known more for his mistakes than for his play as a defender. After Jones, United’s last option is Marcos Rojo. The Argentinian has been at Manchester United for the last six years and hasn’t made a huge impact on the squad. To say the least, United needs to improve their center back play if they want to last down the stretch.
It seems United have found their right back for years to come in Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The 22-year-old racked up the most tackles in the Premier League last season and showed he’s one of the best one-on-one defenders. However, the Red Devils still have uncertainty at the left back position. Luke Shaw has dealt with injury problems and has shown he struggles with one-on-one defending at times. Youngster Brandon Williams came into the light last season and looks to challenge for the starting spot, but the 20-year-old lacks experience and has a tendency to get caught out in attacking positions.
Going forward, any fan of the game should get excited looking at United’s midfield and attack. Bruno Fernandes came in and made an instant impact on the United squad, while the transfer rumors surrounding World Cup winner Paul Pogba have seemed to disappear as the Frenchman looks to stay at United. To add some depth in the midfield, Manchester United added Donny Van De Beek from Dutch club Ajax. With Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Fred and Juan Mata, United has more than enough quality midfielders to last them through the season.
The Red Devils’ attack is something the club should be excited about going forward. Striker Anthony Martial had his best season yet as a Red Devil. The 24-year-old had 23 goals and 12 assists for United, showing that he is ready to take over as their number nine following the departure of Romelu Lukaku. Winger Marcus Rashford also had a very productive season for the club, tallying 22 goals and 11 assists across all competitions. Wonder kid Mason Greenwood forced his way into the first team and showed why he deserves to be a consistent pick in the Ole Gunner Solskjaer team. The 18-year-old tallied 15 goals across all competitions for the club in his first season of consistent first-team football.
Manchester United’s lack of signings in the transfer window is eye-catching as United are known for spending money. The club has spent nearly 850 million euros since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. On top of their lack of productivity in the transfer window, I’m not a fan of Solskjaer’s tactics. With the amount of speed and creativity on his team, the way he lines up his squad is questionable. He will also have to make a tough decision regarding who will get the number one shirt this season.
David De Gea struggled throughout the season, making mistakes he is not accustomed to making. He will have to work to get back into form as goalkeeper Dean Henderson looks to challenge for first-team play. The English keeper was sent out on loan this past season, where he impressed at Sheffield United. Several teams have looked into the opportunity of purchasing Henderson from United, but it doesn’t look like he will be on the way out anytime soon.
With so much talent in the midfield and attack, I still don’t see United finishing higher than fifth. The Red Devils will need their defense to stay healthy throughout a very long, grueling season, and I just don’t see that happening. The Red Devils open up the season home at Old Trafford on Sept. 19 against Crystal Palace.