Fernandes the missing spark but what next for Man United?
Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation since making the move to Manchester in January, netting 17 goals and registering 11 assists in just 27 appearances. He provides that spark that has really been lacking from United teams over the past few seasons but comparisons to Eric Cantona may be a little premature.
Cantona was a final piece of the jigsaw, one that completed a team that were just off the top. Fernandes is a quality piece that could lead United to great things but only if they invest in the team around him. A midfielder, minumum one center back and another attacking option with first team quality. While recruitment will be key to the success of United they also need to make a decision on their no.1 goalkeeper and at left back, is Williams the man to fill the position for the long haul or does his future lie on the right side(his favored side). While Williams is still only a teenager, it has become clear that Luke Shaw cannot hold down the position given his near constant injury struggles.
In-club decisions to make:
Who is no.1 goalkeeper: David De Gea was without doubt United's best & most consistent player under Van Gaal and Mourinho but since the 2018 World Cup we have seen a steep drop in form. Meanwhile, Dean Henderson has impressed following back to back loan spells with Sheffield United and while it is a big step to become number one at Old Trafford, he has certainly earned the right to be given a chance and after signing a new six year contract, you would have to assume he was given certain assurances about his playtime. De Gea lacks a box presence and is costing United points on a far too regular basis. The decision Solskjaer makes on his no.1 could shape his success at Man United.
Shaw/Williams or someone new: Luke Shaw is the current first choice at left back but he has consistently struggled with injuries since breaking his leg in 2015, making an average of just 23 appearances a season in his six years at the club. He's still only 25 but if Solskjaer believes that 19 year old Brandon Williams is the future, maybe now is the time to make the call. While Williams is naturally a right footer, he has chosen to play at left back, similar to United legend, Denis Irwin. The question now is, does his future lie on the left side or would he be better suited at right back. This is a decision that needs to be made within the club and perhaps if Williams is not yet ready, an experienced left full will need to be signed.
Players to sign:
Declan Rice: The West Ham midfielder fits the mold that United are looking for perfectly, young(21)British and has been a stand out player in a struggling Hammers team over the past three seasons. A player capable of picking out a pass but also adept at breaking up play, often MOTM when West Ham take to the field and a regular in the England team. The type of midfield player United need and one still capable of improving.
Alessio Romagnoli: The Italian center back could be just what United need in their defense. Since the partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ended in 2014, United have lacked a leader in the defense, Romagnoli, although only 25, appears to have all the characteristics to become the commander of the back four at Old Trafford. When it comes to defenders, Italians are usually your safest bet and Romagnoli has created a reputation as a quality defender, who leads from the back and can also step forward and pick a pass. The modern center half that United are looking for that can also defend.
Jadon Sancho: The 20 year old has been identified by the club as their top summer target but as of yet they have refused to meet Dortmund's valuation. The England international has registered 33 goals and 39 assists across the past two season, including 17 goals and 17 assists in the Bundesliga in 19/20. United clearly want Sancho and should do all the can to make a deal happen, not live in fear of past mistakes. If they want to compete they need the best and Sancho is someone they clearly believe can be a difference maker for them, don't look at other options go with your no.1 target.
The upcoming season is huge for Manchester United and for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future at the club. The 47 year old has some big calls to make within his starting eleven and the club have some important work to do in the transfer market.
Bruno Fernandes will likely be the leading light for United again but the current supporting cast are not all up to the task. The Portuguese midfielder laughed off comparisons to Cantona ahead of the Europa League semi-final and rightfully so but with a few quality signings and some big decisions from Ole, he could be right up there with the United great by the time his Old Trafford career comes to an end.