United are coming back. Yes, the Premier League have announced the return of fixtures on June 17th, with United likely to play Tottenham a few days later. With the pandemic, there has been a big cloud of doubt weighing over whether the season would return or not.
This article will look at five hopes for the rest of United’s season, purely from a football perspective. Of course, the main hope for all of us is the safety of all players, staff and the wider community from the virus is consolidated when the season restarts. However, this will simply look at the football perspective of United’s restart.
A Return to the Champions League
This may be an obvious starting point, as it is surely a given that we hope to finish as high up the table as possible. A return to the Champions League would allow us to be an even greater proposition for potential signings and ensure the wealth of the club remains intact during this pandemic. Currently, we are three points off Chelsea in 4th place. Additionally, if City’s appeal against their Champions League ban is not successful, 5th place will also become a qualification spot. Thus, it is certainly doable for United to get there, especially with returning players from injury and an ‘easier run-in’ than others around them. That being said, we have made a mess of the smaller games in recent times!
A Pogba and Bruno Axis
One of the most anticipated sights for United fans is to see how Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba operate in the same midfield. There is a potential for a creative goldmine from both the left and right side of midfield, dragging the opposition all over the shot. Opponents have often in Pogba’s second spell at the club been able to mark the Frenchman out of the game. With two maestros on the pitch, it will be significantly harder for teams to limit their creative output. There is one thing for sure, if this pairing has the results that you would expect on paper, it will be a great time to be a forward for Manchester United.
Picking up where we left off
Before the unprecedented pandemic which swept everything to a swift standstill, United were booming. Most recently, Old Trafford was rocking after a barnstorming 2-0 win against our city rivals. Moreover, many would attribute this significant momentum change to the signing of Bruno Fernandes in the January window. It is much talked about within the sphere of the club, that United were struggling to beat the ‘smaller’ sides. Often, teams could sit deep and know that we had no guile or creativity to break them down. Bruno has arguably instantaneously given us that creativity. Pogba, as talked about in the point above, will only add to that.
As well as the momentum of the team hopefully continuing, it is vital for United’s chances of qualifying for Champions League football for the next campaign, that Marcus Rashford picks up from where he left off before his unfortunate injury. He was unstoppable and looked set to be well in contention for his maiden Premier League Golden Boot. Having him rediscover this form would be crucial, especially with the creative outlets feeding him from midfield. He certainly seems to still have the swagger, after the official United social media channels showed a video of an audacious skill pass in training!
Defence Continues To Impress
A consistent theme of United’s consistent improvement has been the growing consistency of the defence as a unit. Maguire has shown an increased level of performance and a fantastic display of leadership since becoming permanent captain of the football club. Luke Shaw was starting to ramp up his performances and you would hope he can continue to keep his fitness in shape going into the latter parts of the season in order to maintain this form. You know what you are getting from Aaron Wan-Bissaka from a defensive perspective, but his attacking output has vastly improved. Taking the most recent City game as an example, he often had their defenders on the back-foot. You would hope this will continue as well. Even Lindelof, while getting criticism, has been part of this consistent defence. Thus, you would hope this unit can continue to show this dominance, spearheaded by our captain.
Youth Continues To Shine
Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams have been the big winners from Ole’s policy of developing youth prospects that he trusts. Mason is an absolute star. Defenders don’t know what to do with his capability with both feet, intelligence and crisp finishing. Yet, he is still so young. I believe Ole has managed Greenwood’s development well so far, slowly giving him more and more responsibility. You would hope the proposed five substitute rule will allow Greenwood to appear in even more games and gain vital experience.
Brandon Williams broke through at a time that United seriously needed him. Shaw at the time was in dreadful form and Williams was a breath of fresh air. Dynamic, persistent and confident. But above all this, his aggression has endeared many fans towards him, showing how much it means for him to play for us. As such, there is serious competition between him and Shaw, meaning you would definitely hope that Williams continues to flourish for the rest of the campaign.