5 Things for United to Improve on for the 2020-21 Season

Darren Fletcher: 'Manchester United ahead of schedule under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer' - Sports Mole
Soskjaer has some work to do if United are to improve on their third place finish last season
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Manchester United pulled a rabbit out of the hat to finish third as they were six points behind Chelsea in fourth and fourteen behind Leicester in third after the 2-0 defeat to Burnley. While this is not success, it is progress for the club who were better in most, if not all, aspects of their game from the disastrous season before. Nevertheless progress still must be made if United are to improve as a third place finish, 66 points and three semi-final exits is not what United should be accustomed to or should be looking for next season as both the players and Solskjaer have said many times when the season ended. While better players in and clearing the deadwood out are the obvious improvements needed, I will be examining the in-game improvements that United need in order to compete for/win the title.

1. Cutting out Individual Errors

It would seem this is the biggest but most difficult task for Manchester United to achieve. While Manchester United conceded substantially fewer goals in the 2019/20 season to the season before, there were still a lot of issues with the goals they did concede. Having re-watched every game United have played, I took a look at every goal United conceded and have come to the conclusion that the players committed 40 errors leading to goals over the season, be it directly or through poor positioning, marking or goalkeeping in some circumstances (some errors lead to the same goal, for example, Bergwijn’s goal was the fault of Maguire, De Gea and Shaw) but overall these are staggering numbers. While some can be given to the set-piece issues, which will be discussed later, there are some big issues that need working on. There is no need to single players out as each and every player needs to be consistent and disciplined if United are to win the title and their focus must be on that so unless they can perform without errors, Ole must be brutal in his decisions of squad selection. 

2. Set-Piece Woes

Manchester United had one of the worst defensive records from set-pieces in the Premier League until around February in which they were overtaken by the likes of Norwich, Villa, West Ham and oddly, Arsenal. Following the defeat to Burnley, Manchester United had conceded nine goals from set-pieces including two in the last two games. After this point, United only conceded two goals from set-pieces in their next 25 games (14 in the league, 1 in the Carabao Cup, 4 in the FA Cup and 6 in the Europa League) and of which the two conceded were a wonder-goal by LASK’s Wiesinger and the other was the late equaliser by Martin Obafemi as United were down to ten men. I think this part of the game has improved but their standards must remain consistent and they must avoid these problems from set-pieces as zonal marking has been criticised many times in its application. 
The bigger concerns are in attack. Manchester United have been awful at scoring from set-pieces. They have scored from a total of eight all season from a total of 208 corner kicks. Another fact is that Harry Maguire had the most shots from a defender in the Premier League last season and recorded just one goal. United need to sort out their corner routines and the deliveries must also be better as I cannot count the number of times the corners have hit the first man. Hopefully we will see far greater improvements from last season. 

3. Attacking Impact from Full-Backs

This one is unquestionable. Our fullbacks are very good defensively but need to improve substantially in their attacking play. Between all the fullbacks we have had this season, they have registered seven assists between them with Wan-Bissaka leading the pack with four. Reports suggest Reguilon is moving to Old Trafford and Shaw will be his backup and so both will push the other for starts with Williams moving to the right side and the likes of Dalot and Fosu-Mensah going on loan. Even if the Spaniard doesn’t join, the fullbacks need to improve substantially as the modern fullback is praised more for their attacking play than their defensive contributions apparently. Nevertheless, all of United’s wide defenders are under the age of 25 and will have plenty of time to improve and become much better from the attacking side but it must start with this season. 

4. Not Letting Heads Drop

The winning mentality has been something that Sir Alex installed and maintained at the club throughout his tenure at the club in Manchester United’s most successful period ever and is something United need to bring back if they are to return to such heights achieved under the Scotsman. We have seen in all three semi-finals that Manchester United concede a goal and they capitulate, especially in the domestic finals when United conceded first and ended up letting three go past David de Gea on both occasions. Against Sevilla, it was a slightly different story as, while United went a goal up, they became frustrated after the equaliser and failed to make their chances count when searching for the lead and ended up conceding late on to lose the game. In the league last season, United conceded the first goal and failed to score after the deficit on seven separate occasions, of which, in five, the score-line worsened. Moreover, United have dropped points from leading positions seven times last season, all of which lead to draws and the dropping of two points. On a brighter note though, Manchester United have rallied and gained points from losing positions six times in the league last season, all of which occurring from December onwards, but only two resulting in a victory (Newcastle (H) and Bournemouth (H)) and the other four ending in a stalemate. 
United need Harry Maguire to bring the team up and raise their spirits when they go a goal down or more and to keep them focused and hungry for the win. They also need the big voices in the dressing room to boost the side and we have already seen the impact Bruno has had but the likes of Pogba, De Gea, Mata and Matic to use their experience and voice as the leading figures for this young side which will have dips and rises. This is also needed by the manager too and he will need to rally his players when the chips are down and drive the team forwards if they are to win trophies. This winning mentality is trialling to install but easy to maintain if the squad can win trophies and push for titles season-in season-out. 

5. Being Ruthless with the Starting XI

There have been times where the starting XI has been questioned based on form as Solskjaer has often been forced into selecting players based on availability and not form which is no way any top club should have to act let alone Manchester United. The likes of Lingard and Pereira were chosen because a number 10 was not brought into the club in the summer and the same can be said for a right winger but including when James’ form dipped. Similarly, when Shaw came back to fitness or when Jones came into the team while either Maguire or Lindelof was injured alongside Bailly and Tuanzebe. Even with De Gea’s form, Romero never challenged the Spaniard’s place. This season, the additions that need to be made must inject competition for places in the side to keep everyone playing at their best as they know that those waiting on the bench or on the sidelines can and will come into the side and offer quality when the starter isn’t performing. 
The obvious example is Dean Henderson, who has signed a new deal and will look to compete with De Gea for the starting role and will be a great competitor for the seasons to come. Van De Beek is an excellent signing for such as he could push Pogba and Bruno in the starting roles and even Fred and McTominay to be sharper in training just so they are in contention. Sancho could do the same for Greenwood, James and Rashford as all four are capable of playing on either wing and could rotate easily with injuries or drops in form and the same can be said when Tuanzebe is fit and if another defender is added into the ranks. And the more quality added is more competition to keep players playing at the top level. 
All that remains is that Ed Woodward gets the deals done and backs Ole for the upcoming season. Then it is up to Solskjaer and the team to improve and drive Manchester United back to winning trophies and competing in the top competitions in Europe. Whether this happens remains to be seen but not long left until United face Palace in the opener for their Premier League campaign. 

Author: TUD Author