Well there we have it, Manchester United finish the 2019/20 in 3rd place and secure a place in the Champions League for next season. A penalty from Bruno Fernandes and a late opportunistic goal from Jesse Lingard gave United all three points and ensured they won this final day top-four shootout against Leicester City. Here are the five things we learnt:
1. United can produce when the pressure is on.
United were not always great today and at times looked like they were allowing the game to drift by not being proactive enough. But in a game that felt much more crucial for United than The Foxes, the players stood up to be counted and delivered a professional performance that they will be able to call upon in the future. They had control of the game in the first half and were more than solid enough at the back, with Victor Lindelof probably the pick of the defenders.
2. Players and staff are aware the club should be challenging for the top four and titles.
It was encouraging to hear the players and manager acknowledging that the team had done well to finish third, however, this is not a club which should just be happy finishing in the Champions League places every season. Harry Maguire spoke of how this is a minimum requirement and now we need to lift a trophy, and no better place to start than the Europa League next month. The manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær who of course knows what this club is all about stated in his post-match press conference that this club is all about winning trophies and titles and he wants to get that winning feeling into his squad ASAP.
3. We need better squad depth.
Again, today it was apparent to see the lack of trust Ole has in the players outside of the first 11. This is something he will look to address in the summer transfer window no doubt. We have seen in the last three or four games, the team has started to look leggy and tired and this has been because Solskjaer hasn’t felt like he can rotate the team as much as he would like to because of the lack of quality in depth. United need to be ruthless in the transfer market by selling the players who have no future at the club and signing three or four players of real quality. The club may have upwards of 50 games next season crammed into a packed fixture list, so Ole must feel confident that if he makes changes, the team will be just as effective.
4. Paul Pogba needs to be 20 yards further up the pitch.
It’s frustrating watching Paul Pogba play in this team at times and I feel that’s down to his position. He’s done a fairly good job for the team since the restart of the Premier League, but I can’t help but feel he would be so much more dangerous and influential if he played 20 yards further forward. Next season, especially in the home games, he needs to be alongside Fernandes for most of the game rather than Nemanja Matic. Paul Pogba will offer United the most when he plays in and around the opponents’ penalty area with his ability to link with the attacking players, rather than the halfway line where most of his passes are simple square passes to his midfield teammates.
5. United will be playing in the Champions League next season!!!
Last but by no means least, United will be dining at Europe’s top table next season. A top four finish for The Reds this season is huge. First of all, it’s a sign of progression for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team and vindicates the faith he put in the team throughout the campaign. It is also leverage now for the manager to negotiate with the board and ensure that he has the players he needs to make Manchester United a team who can win the Premier League again and be competitive in Europe. Finally, United have a number of players worthy of gracing Europe’s top competition and they deserve this opportunity to show what they can do on the biggest of stages.