What factors will decide Manchester United’s season? Seven key things to consider

We’ve outlined seven areas the Red Devils must sort if they’re to enjoy a successful campaign.

<p>Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Credit: Getty.</p>

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Credit: Getty.

As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer begins his third full season in charge of Manchester United, the pressure to bring silverware back to Old Trafford has never been greater.

It’s now eight years since the Red Devils last claimed the Premier League title and they haven’t won any trophy of note since 2017, when United lifted the League Cup and Europa League under Jose Mourinho.

But expectations are high among supporters ahead of the new season, with many believing this summer’s transfers can help close the gap with Manchester City at the top of the table, and guide the club towards another cup triumph.

But what barriers could stop United and Solskjaer from achieving success in 2020/21? Or, more pertinently, which factors will determine the Red Devils’ fortunes this season? Let’s look at some key factors.

Choosing a No.1

Unusually, United head into a new campaign with confusion surrounding who is the team’s first-choice goalkeeper.

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David de Gea will probably start the first few games as Dean Henderson continues to recover from the long-term impacts of Covid-19, but who will maintain that berth throughout the season is still up in the air.

Henderson played in the majority of league games during the final stages of last season, while De Gea featured predominantly in cup games. The smart money would be on a similar arrangement this term, but Solskjaer’s ability to control that situation, placate both stoppers and maintain high standards will be vital throughout 2021/22.

Integrating new signings

To date, United have only confirmed two signings in Jadon Sancho and Tom Heaton, but having agreed a fee for Raphael Varane, the transfer is expected to be completed imminently.

While Heaton won’t feature often this season, getting Sancho and Varane acclimatised to life in Manchester and to Premier League football as soon as possible will be among Solskjaer’s top priorities.

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Even supremely talented players can struggle to immediately adapt to the English top flight, but United will need both marquee signings performing at their best if they’re to mount a title challenge this term.

Further transfers

The Red Devils’ squad is a little bloated at present and a clear-out could well be on the cards before the transfer window closes on 31 August.

Phil Jones, Brandon Williams, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard and Daniel James have all been linked with moves away from Old Trafford, with any fees potentially set to be reinvested into the first-team squad.

Will this man still be at United in September? Credit: Getty.

Speculation has been rife that United will try and add another midfielder in the coming weeks, with Corentin Tolisso, Ruben Neves and Leon Goretzka among those touted as possible incomings.

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Managing the young talents

Several United youngsters impressed during pre-season and the club have a real array of youth talent on their hands.

Teden Mengi, James Garner, Amad, Hannibal, Anthony Elanga and Shola Shoretire all have incredibly bright futures. For Solskjaer, the debate will be whether to send any of these talented youngsters out on loan - like Facundo Pellistri and Tahith Chong - or integrate them into the first-team picture.

The latter option could prove more advantageous in the long-term, but with supporters desperate for silverware this season, finding minutes for youngsters is always a tall order for Premier League bosses.

Solskjaer’s tactics

During his two and half years in the United hotseat, Solskjaer has more than proved himself to be a tactically astute manager. However, questions remain over his approach in high-pressure encounters.

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The Norwegian’s record in semi-finals is rather lamentable and his decisions during last season’s Europa League final also came under scrutiny.

Solskjaer will be hoping for more scenes like this in 2021/22.

There were other questionable moments last term, such as failing to substitute Fred in the Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain, only for the Brazilian to subsequently be sent off.

The United manager also failed to stop an alarming run of conceding first last term, meaning the side had to repeatedly come from behind, while there has also been an over reliance at times on Bruno Fernandes.

Get Fernandes firing

Speaking of the Portuguese midfielder, Fernandes has been United’s go-to guy over the last 18 months but his form dropped markedly in the latter part of 2020/21.

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Overall, he registered 28 goals and 17 assists last term, but a run of two goals and one assist from his last nine league games demonstrate how drastically his numbers plummeted in the spring.

He also looked jaded in Euro 2020 with pundits suggesting the player is suffering from burnout. Whatever the issue is, getting the No.18 back to his best will be huge for the Red Devils this season.

Fan sentiment

With the summer break and Euro 2020, it’s easy to forget just how volatile the feeling among United supporters was at the end of last season following the botched plans for a European Super League.

Fan protests even led to the Red Devils’ game against Liverpool being postponed, while some supporters broke into the club’s Carrington training ground.

The transfers of Sancho and Varane may have placated some fans, but there’s still a hardcore who are vocal in their dislike for the Glazer ownership. It won’t take a lot to enrage that section of the fanbase and if that spreads to matchdays, it could have a negative impact on team performances and results.