Premier League A-Z: Can Solskjaer deliver genuine title challenge?
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Manchester United expect a title challenge this season – can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provide it? Mark Armstrong reports
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to have finally emerged from the suspicion he was keeping the manager’s hot-seat warm until a bigger name became available. There has been ample opportunity for the United hierarchy to pull in a manager with a more impressive CV but they have persisted with the Norwegian and last season it started to bear fruit.
Second place behind Manchester City is not where the club wants to be but it certainly marked progress and a decent platform from which fans will be expecting to push their ‘noisy neighbours’ harder.
United won a record 31 points from losing positions last season to demonstrate Solskjaer has moulded a squad with a tough mentality – something that had been sorely missing in the years after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
What’s the squad look like?
The Jadon Sancho saga is finally over – United have finally got their man after striking a £73m deal with Borussia Dortmund for the England international. The move will be officially completed after the Euros and Sancho’s addition certainly makes for an exciting forward line.
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United will be hoping Marcus Rashford rediscovers a bit of zip to his play after looking fatigued towards the end of the last campaign whilst Marcus Greenwood is expected to kick on.
Edinson Cavani will provide the focal point once more after agreeing a one-year extension although there is speculation Manchester United are keeping close tabs on both Harry Kane and Erling Haaland.
It would be a surprise for either deal to come off this summer given Tottenham’s hard stance on Kane whilst Haaland’s release clause of around £75m euros kicks in, in a year’s time.
Many fans would like to see another centre half added to their roster to play alongside Harry Maguire. Victor Lindelof has improved alongside the former Leicester man but still looks short of being the kind of player Premier League title-winning sides consist of.
Real Madrid’s Rafael Varane is number one on United’s wanted list and with the Frenchman having just one year left on his contract at the Bernabeu, he could be available at a relatively cheap price.
In terms of outgoings, there have been murmurs Paul Pogba could look to head back to the continent but this sort of speculation seems to take place every summer. He is entering the final year of his Old Trafford contract so some sort of end-game is approaching.
From a City point of view, they are keeping an eye on Brandon Williams’ situation but will only act if Max Aarons moves on this summer.
Last meeting with City...
Saturday, June 27: Norwich City 1 Manchester United 2
FA Cup heartache for the Canaries as Harry Maguire struck two minutes from the end of extra time to put United through to the last four.
The England defender reacted sharply to turn the ball home from close range after the match had looked destined to be decided on penalties.
The match turned in United’s favour after Timm Klose’s sending off for pulling back Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian had previously given United the lead before Todd Cantwell’s fine effort from range sent the match into extra-time.
Did you know?
Former England captain David Beckham once had a trial with Norwich City.