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United’s road ahead

After a disappointing last season, and a lukewarm transfer window, Manchester United have shown both positives and negatives in the first two matches of the EPL

Two games down, and the pressure is at its peak, the English premier League is certainly up and running, with all teams showing a glimpse of what might lie ahead of them in the season that follows.

But we are here not to talk about all teams involved, but one team in particular. The team with the most followers in the world – Manchester United. I too, am one of the millions of fans of this club around the world. You may remember me as the fan from last season, who went on a rant after United lost to Barcelona in the quarter finals of the Champions’ League.

Since that loss, we really did not have a great season last time round, having failed to reach the top four finishing in a dismal 6th position. Our manager Ole Gunner Solksjaer started off on promising note, but after last season’s failure, he promised to revamp the team, which meant a pretty busy summer transfer window.

But alas! That was not meant to be. We managed to sign only three players – Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. Though solid additions, just three signings were not enough to fill up the gaping holes that already plagued our team. This, after being linked to more than 50 players.

In addition to this, we let go of two of our most important players – Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera- without bringing in any major replacements. So as the season was about to start, we faced a monumental task of facing one of the top teams in the country, Chelsea, who too had their fair share of problems, as they were going through a two-year transfer ban.

What followed was something quite extraordinary- a thumping 4-0 victory against them- with United shining throughout the 90 minutes. What a way to start the season, a drubbing of Chelsea that too at home.

The next match was a trip to Molineaux Stadium to an away match vs Wolverhampton Wanderers – a tricky fixture considering the fact that we failed to beat the team in three meetings last season. The trip indeed proved to be a pretty tricky one, as we drew 1-1 against them.

So, while I expected this United team to look wayward, it certainly wasn’t the case in the first two matches- we now have 4 points from two very crucial matches, and till the October 1 game vs Arsenal, we don’t have any so called difficult opponents to look forward to.

In these two matches, we definitely saw a lot of positives, as well as a lot of negatives in the squad.

For instance, in defence, United looks a completely different team that we were last few seasons. Solksjaer made two very important signings to the back four in Wan-Bissaka and Maguire.

Wan-Bissaka in particular has been an absolute sensation in the first two matches, and may be the best right back in the club since Gary Neville. The Englishman has the exceptional skill to tackle the ball, and can track back and put his body on the line to disrupt the run of the opposition wingers. In addition to that, he can also run forward and participate in the attacks. Considering the fact that Ashey Young was our first-choice RB last season, this is definitely a huge upgrade

Harry Maguire too has been a crucial addition. He is right there rock solid in defence, marking the strikers, and in set pieces can be a great presence inside the box, with his great headers. His partnership with Lindelof at the heart of the defence has been a great sign for us.

In the left, Luke Shaw was the weakling against Chelsea, but a stupendous performance against Wolves proves he is a great first choice left back and someone that we can trust. His defensive skills however need some improvement.

At the midfield, however, we have a major concern. Pogba has been given the role much deeper than what he is used to play. He can get the ball, make runs and find passes. He is the pivot between the defence and the attack, and though he may have not performed upto potential, he looks to get set at this role, but according to me, he should play in a more advance position, a role he is much more suited to.

Scott McTominay seems a sort of an average player, and his role is that of a defensive midfielder. Though he is strong and has quite a presence, he has not looked up to speed, and thus there is a lot of pressure on Pogba to do a lot of the work in the midfield.

Jesse Lingard however is the weakest link in the team. He is just not suited to the no. 10 role- and that is where we need a signing. A Bruno Fernandees or Paulo Dybala would have added so much to that position – perhaps the most vital one in the team. In my opinion, Juan Mata should start the game in the following games, and Lingard should come in as a substitute.

In attack, however,Anthony Martial in the upfront position is a sort of a revelation. He may not have performed that much in the wings, and is definitely more suite to this role, and in the absence of a proper striker, he scored two goals in two matches from open play, and that too two poacher’s goals.

Marcus Rashford on the left too seems decent, and his link up play with Rashford has been the highlight of our attack, and especially in counter attacks, the Pogba-Martial-Rashford combination has proved lethal.

On the right wing, there is another reason to worry. Daniel James is a good prospect, but right now he needs to be used a super sub and not a starter, due to his inexperience at this level. As a sub, when he is brought in late to the games down, his flashes of pace would be a sight to behold.

But the problem is we don’t have a sure shot starter in the right wing. Maybe bring Sanchez upfront and shift Martial in the right, and all three of Sanchez, Rashford and Martial can interchange their positions at crucial points in the game.

However, what I have liked about Solksjaer’ approach is that he is willing to give youngsters a chance- be it McTominay or even using academy player Marcus Greenwood as our second-choice striker. But one major concern that all of us United fans have is the squad depth, and if any one of our starters get injured we may not have an effective replacement.

It is still a long way to go- 36 more matches. So, only time will tell how United perform for the rest of the season, As a fan, I hope and pray that Solksjaer works his magic and we somehow pull off what Ferguson managed to do in 1996- lift the trophy when all of the footballing world had written us off.