Manchester United’s 2021/22 season: 5 predictions on how it will end, including Cristiano Ronaldo twist
Our United writer has given us his views on how the season could wrap up at Old Trafford, and why it could result in mixed feelings among the fanbase.
The 2021/22 season has been one of the worst at Manchester United in the tumultuous post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, perhaps, even the most disappointing of the lot.
Eliminated from the League Cup at the first attempt, dumped out of FA Cup in their second outing, and beaten by Atletico Madrid as soon as the Champions League reached the knockout stages, there has been precious little for United fans to savour.
In addition, the Premier League campaign has been hugely frustrating. The Red Devils simply cannot play well for a full 90-minute game, are too porous through the centre, and have only amassed a few ‘good’ performances all season.
As a result, Ralf Rangnick’s men are currently sixth in the table, and approach the business-end of the season with just a top-four place left to fight for.
The final chapter of the 2021/22 season commences on Saturday when United host Leicester City, and our writer Michael Plant has given us his views on how he thinks the campaign will end…
No Champions League football
This might be the biggest revelation, but with Arsenal’s lead in the race for Champions League football and Tottenham Hotspur also looking good, I think United will miss out on a top-four spot.
Two years ago, the Red Devils ended the season strongly after a disappointing start, but that team were capable of the odd gallant display, this one simply isn’t. There’s been nothing so far this term which suggests Rangnick’s United have the characters or fight to mount a late-season resurgence.
For that reason, I’m predicting United to finish exactly where they’re currently positioned: sixth. That means no Champions League football next campaign, and another year in the Europa League.
Ronaldo to finish strong
Cristiano Ronaldo is continuing to split the consensus of United fans, with some marvelling at his goalscoring exploits at 37, while others feel he’s held the team back this season.
Regardless, age does finally seem to be taking its toll on Ronaldo, and the Portugal forward has been quite ineffective since the turn of the year. That, in part, is due to the number of midweek games United have had to contend with, an issue their Champions League exit has inadvertently resolved.
It’s for that reason, I think Ronaldo will end the season strong and pitch in with his fair share of goals before the end of the campaign.
With the eternally injury-plagued Edinson Cavani not offering much competition up front, Ronaldo will likely start the majority of the Red Devils’s final nine matches, and should benefit from the extended recuperation he’ll now be afforded.
Anti-Glazer anger to return
In many senses, the anti-Glazer sentiment has never really gone away, but it has certainly waned since the hostility shown following the failed creation of the European Super League last season.
However, that sort of resentment is beginning to return among the fanbase. Talk of a new stadium, the Glazers’ failed promise of a fan share scheme and even the comments from the influential Gary Neville, have again whipped up the ire of supporters in recent weeks.
The on-field failings haven’t helped, and there’s already been talk of protests on social media. If United miss out on the top four, the situation will only become more exasperated, and it would be no surprise if the green and gold scarves were back on mass in the coming weeks.
Dalot to cement place
One of the few United men who have taken positive forward strides in their career this season is right-back Diogo Dalot.
Last campaign the Portugal international oddly lined up against the Red Devils while on loan at AC Milan, but he returned in the summer and is continuously improving under Rangnick’s stewardship.
Dalot has certainly benefited from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s downturn in form, and I can’t see that shifting by the end of the season.
In fact, my prediction is Dalot will start the majority of the Red Devils’ final nine games and move into the summer as the clear first choice at right-back.
Positive sentiment despite disappointment
All the talk of United’s poor 2021/22 campaign, the frustration at the owners and likelihood of missing out on the top four should, in theory, lead to a toxic atmosphere at Old Trafford.
Yet, United approach the end of the season with a sense that many of this squad will move on, and it’s hoped there will be serious investment in the team this summer.
In addition, the appointment of an astute, young manager such as Erik ten Hag or Mauricio Pochettino could provide some positivity ahead of 2022/23.
It might seem like believing the grass is always greener, but in this instance, surely it has to be? And for all the anger this season has brought, I’m predicting United supporters to approach the end of it with some sense of hope, and not allow the online rancour to be evident at Old Trafford during May’s fixtures.