After a rollercoaster opening period, this season, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed to revive his team and could yet still salvage a fairly successful season by the end of August.
On the back of a 3-3 draw against Sheffield United, Solskjaer and United sat at a dismal ninth position in the log with just 17 points collected in the opening 13 matches and a gap of already 20 points from log leaders Liverpool.
The Red Devils had won just four matches at that stage, drawing five and losing a further four. It was painfully obvious that the team lacked something creative in the absence of the injured Paul Pogba with United continuously struggling to break teams down and finish off an opponent.
The signing of Bruno Fernandes and the arrival of Odion Ighalo marked a significant shift in United’s season with the men from Old Trafford going on a nine-game unbeaten streak which featured six wins and three draws as well as two 5-0 scorelines.
United had finally built up some momentum before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a pause to the season.
With the negatives, you must always look for positives and in United’s case, the break meant a return to fitness for Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.
After a frustrating draw against Spurs, United showed just what they could do with a 3-0 dismantling of Sheffield United which showed the complete turnaround since being held 3-3 back in November.
Anthony Martial netted the first hat-trick from a United player since Robin van Persie in 2013 and Pogba and Fernandes demonstrated just how devastating a combination they could be.
Unfortunately, a tight 2-1 victory over Norwich in the FA Cup quarter-final demonstrated that the United squad as a whole is still lacking quality however, it is clear that when Solskjaer puts out his best side, it has the potential to be what a United team is expected to be.
There seems to be a renewed excitement surrounding this side now. Pogba looks a different player to the one under Jose Mourinho and the squad chemistry seems to be at an all-time high.
Equally, as pleasing is the form of the other Frenchman. There has been a lot of doubt cast over Martial’s ability to lead the line for United, but he demonstrated just what he can do in every one of his three goals last week and his coach has recognized the forward for his efforts.
“He’s playing with a smile on his face,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports in an exclusive interview.
“Anthony has had a really good season, he’s been really important for us. We felt it during the couple of months he was out injured; we struggled.
“But he knows that we trust him. He knows that we’ll have patience with him and that we’ll keep working with him.”
Solskjaer has also been very vocal on how Pogba returning has made the team much more adaptable and improved the quality of the squad.
“I think we can play in many different ways.
“Bruno has played in central midfield, to the right, to the left, as a No 8, a No 10, in a diamond. It’s the same with Paul. And I have Scott McTominay, Fred, Nemanja Matic giving me a headache when I have to leave them out. It’s a good position to be in.”
“If we keep playing well, keep developing, get into the top positions… I know we can attract good players and everyone knows that Manchester United at some point will start winning trophies again.”
In terms of what remains in the coming months, United have a top-four battle with the likes of Chelsea, Leicester and Wolves, and with a favorable run in, there is no reason why Solskjaer cannot achieve Champions League qualification based on league standings alone.
Should that fail, there is still the Europa League route in August which is the second possible trophy that United can still win this season with a semi-final against Chelsea next up on the FA Cup run.
Should Solskjaer manage to secure top-four qualification and two trophies, there is no doubt that the season can be considered a success as a whole. However, failure to secure Champions League football will be a massive blow for the summer transfer window with United already linked to some big players.
Jadon Sancho will be the name that immediately springs to mind with the talented forward continuously linked with a move to Old Trafford.
The 20-year-old capped off another groundbreaking season with Borussia Dortmund scoring 20 goals and assisting another 20 in 40 matches across all competitions.
Sancho has been tipped as the final piece of the puzzle for a United front three that can rival ones from the past with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez combo definitely one that stands out.
United have remained coy about their chances of signing the former Manchester City youth player with Solskjaer laughing it off in press conferences while reports have surfaced stating United will not spend more than £50m on him.
Dortmund seemingly value Sancho at closer to £100m which means it looks like there is another long Man United transfer saga in store for the summer.