Manchester United 2021-2022: Any trophy will do

Zomp

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This summer, the club should deal with the following, in order of importance:


1. Deciding what to do with Pogba.

His contract is up after the upcoming season, as the club triggered the last 1-year option. Its amazing that he's been here for 5 years, and the jury is still out on if he's been a success or not. On one hand, the expectations may have not been completely fair as his price tag wasn't his fault. He is a tremendously gifted player. Physically imposing while graceful with the ball, can ping a pass on a dime and by all accounts his teammates absolutely love him. And yet, there is a thought that he'd be better off moving on. Ole loves to play the 4-2-3-1 and Pogba ideally could use a try number 6 next to him in the holding roles, which allow him to go forward. Aside from an aging Matic, we do not have that. Mctominay and Fred do not have the positional discipline and though Mctominay was the only player to show up in the final, if we want to improve again on last season I think that position will have to be upgraded.

If Covid did not happen during last offseason, Pogba was a goner. Zidane wanted him at Real, and Juve fancied bringing him back. This summer the landscape looks different though as Zidane isn't at Real anymore and Juve just resigned Allegri. I'm sure Allegri would love to have him again but I don''t know if Juve have the funds available.

The worst case scenario is Pogba not renewing, winding down his contract, and going for free again. With each passing day, this unfortunately looks likely. I'd rather sign a 6 and keep him, but if he doesn't want to renew, selling him now is not the worst idea if the funds are used for new signings. The issue is who could afford and pay him...but he has the self proclaimed best agent in the world so...

2. New signings. Reports are the club wants a new RW, #6, CB, and striker if one becomes available.

After failing to sign Jadon Sancho last year, various outlets are saying United will go back in for him as he'd be cheaper this summer due to a combination of poor first half of the season, another year off his contract, and the covid economy. Sancho is the ideal marquee signing. He plays in a position of need, he's extremely young, and English. Signing Sancho would let Greenwood develop as a 9, learning one more year from Cavani.

There are other rumors that won't happen. I don't see Declan Rice coming, nor Varane. I won't pretend to know the scouting network of those two positions, but other rumored names have been Boubakary Soumare and Pau Torres. I also wouldn't mind Wilfred Ndidi.

3. Handling the keeper situation.

The club is in a tough spot here. De Gea was decent in stretches this year but his fall off is still such that he probably shouldn't be the #1 for a club with title aspirations, but he's also the highest paid goalkeeper in the world. Dean Henderson was given a run out and aside from a poor game against Liverpool was better than De Gea. However De Gea's contract makes it tough to deal him and off the top of my head I can't think of many big clubs looking for a keeper. PSG is always rumored but Navas is now beloved there and I'm not even sure De Gea is an upgrade.


You'll notice I haven't listed Ed Woodward's job opening up, nor anything about the owners. That's because, sadly, I expect nothing to change. The rumored names for Woodward's position are all Glazer stooges. The club will not be sold unless the government get involved.

My hope is that the owners want to have a successful transfer market to satisfy some of the fans. Joel Glazer is going to attend the fans forum on June 6th. The mad man. If he's smart, he'll make a few signings beforehand.
 

67YAZ

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A ManU supporting friend and I have been talking about a Pogba-Ndidi pairing for years now. They complement each other so well. Short of lining up next to Kante, Ndidi would allow Pogba the most freedom he’s had at a club since Juve and get close to the role he excels at with the French national team.

But Ndidi has 3 years left in his contract and Leicester are trying to build it up. Will United go £70m for him?
 

Zomp

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To be clear I don't think there has been any links between Ndidi and the club. Just saying, that's who I'd go for.

Some journalists think United can spend 150 million this year, aside from funds raised from player sales. Say Lingard goes for 30 mi, thats 180.

If Sancho takes up 90, its another 90 to try and get a 6 and CB.
 

teddykgb

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I kind of thought Ole was onto something playing Pogba left. There was a time where you could wonder if Pogba was going to become Yaya Toure combining class on the ball with power and size but he just doesn’t seem to have it in him to dominate a midfield. It’s a strange adaptation for such a big player but as a wide midfielder you get a lot of benefit of his creativity without having to sacrifice shape to partner him with someone who has to do the work of 2. Short of playing a diamond it may be the best way to maximize his very impressive attributes

Arent you also linked to Kounde? I think he’d be a fantastic partner to Maguire
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I think United's top priority should really be a CB. Lindelof doesn't seem good enough to start for a team of their ambitions and the defense looked pretty shaky without Maguire down the stretch. Maguire needs a better partner and also somebody who can be the rock if he gets injured. He has been a total ironman in recent seasons but its not realistic to expect him to play 38 league matches every year, especially as he gets older.

I would be tempted to make a top class defensive midfielder/string puller the next priority. In general, I just don't really see a deficit of attacking talent being United's problem. They seem to have plenty of firepower, including some really exciting young talents, but they don't score as many goals as City or Liverpool (in prior years) because they can't control matches in midfield and they can't throw enough players forward without leaving themselves exposed since they don't have the elite CBs and CDM to clean up behind. If I'm comparing the sides, where United really falls short is their analogue to Dias/Stones/Rodri or VVD/Gomez(or Konate now)/Fabinho, not their answer on the attacking end.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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It's nice. Wonder how much is the clean detailing choices and how much is just a sigh of relief not having that chrome-ass Chevy logo?
 

tmracht

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Fabro tweeted it you're good, commence celebration.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Sancho and Varane is an excellent summer, perhaps with one or two other smaller signings also coming.

New deal or not, Ole shouldn't have any excuses if this comes off. The expectation really should be to compete for the title and if he doesn't seriously compete for the title - not necessarily win it, because so much can happen in football, but at least be in the race next spring - they should be on the phone to Conte or somebody similar.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Last week, the Athletic had an interesting article on expectations for United next season based on data forecasting by Real Analytics. Without Sancho or Varane, they projected them at 66 points (about 4th in table). Sancho alone boosts that to about 70 points, and then Sancho, Varane, and Camavinga would take them to 76 points.
The squad that finished second last season is projected to win eight fewer points in the next one, which gives them only a one in 80 chance of winning the Premier League title for the first time since 2013 and a likely finishing position of fourth, behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Says who? Says Real Analytics, a team of computer science and mathematics professors who have become football’s favourite soothsayers.

They were probably the first forecasting firm to spot Leicester would be champions in 2016 and they backed that up by predicting Chelsea would win in 2017, by seven points, and that Arsenal would finish outside the top four for the first time in 20 years.
By signing Jadon Sancho, which is only a formal announcement away, Manchester United have already added four points to their expected points total (from 65.8 to 70.2), improving their chances of a top-four finish in 2021-22 by 50 per cent (40.4 per cent to 63.3 per cent) and their hopes of a 21st league title by 250 per cent.
Camavinga earns them almost six extra points on his own (from 65.8 to 71.7), improves the top-four finish forecast to nearly 70 per cent and lifts their title hopes to 6.4 per cent.
Wait until you hear what adding Camavinga and Sancho and Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane would do for your chances: an improvement of more than 10 points (65.8 to 76.2), an 87 per cent chance of a top-four finish and a 14.7 per cent chance of a first championship since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

That trio, according to McHale, would lift United from a scrap for the fourth and final Champions League place into a head-to-head battle with old chums Liverpool for second place.
- The Athletic: How data and analytics are changing how clubs approach transfers – and why Man United should sign Camavinga next
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I am all for the increased use of analytics but that firm's claim about Camavinga made me really question their credibility.

-He is 18 years old.
-Everybody (including himself) seems to agree that he actually had a relatively poor season last year.
-Even highly rated more experienced midfielders have a pronounced pattern of needing a half-season or full season to really settle and adjust when moving to big clubs in the PL (Fabinho, Partey, Gundogan, Fred, Rodri, Jorginho, Ndombele all might be included in this category).

To claim that Camavinga would make a bigger difference to United than Sancho and Varane together is a real stretch for me. I feel like you should really be re-evaluating your process if that is what your model is spitting out.
 

teddykgb

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Yeah it’s such an impossible thing to analyze. I think you can logically process that Sancho and Varane will improve United but like you I can’t grasp Camavinga. Especially in that position, on that team, where they’ve been trying for years to find someone who can “free” Pogba and so many players have struggled to find that balance. Maybe a kid like Camavinga is that player but I don’t see how you can possibly model the fit. Sancho really struggles the same way, I think, in that his xG and other stats are a function of the team he operates in and could go up or down based on style. I’m most comfortable with Varane as defenders need to defend no matter what but even the amount of defending he may need to do could vary wildly.

There is no doubt in my mind that United are hugely improved. Getting Varane at a relative discount to other top defenders is a real coup. There are no excuses for a backline with Varane and Slabhead to not be a top 3 pairing in the league. They may even be the best. United will be well positioned to model Chelsea’s model of being willing to sit deep and counter in difficult matches
 

Tuff Ghost

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I think part of the difference in total points is also what the model thinks of Fred / McTominay.

The article's author did answer some questions in the comments asking why such a young player was predicted to make such a difference:
@Frank W. Sure, I hear you. What RA (and others) would say, is they have lots of data on Camavinga (2 full seasons for Rennes, incl European games & 3 internationals) so they've got a good handle on what he can and can't do. They also have loads of data on players like him, what they were like at that age, against similar opponents. And then they know what players like that have done in the PL and the value they add to their teams. Marry all that up and you get the stats above! It sounds like they're making dozens of subjective calls to me but I've had a brief look at their recruitment product and it made a lot of sense.
@Deepanshu S. I'm not an expert but I suspect there is enough data now - loads of players have come from France to England, 25+ years of loads of European games, international football & so on - to work out the type of player that translates well or not, and then to work out if that player has the attributes. The more data you have the better and I think one of the reasons Camavinga is one of this summer's hot topics is because he's young but has played two full seasons in L1, including European games. In terms of advanced metrics, I believe RA (and the other high-end providers) have gone way beyond xA/xG and counting up passes. They believe you can break up an entire game now, measure each action and give it a value-add rating based on how likely it is to contribute to victory. So all these companies are big buyers of data themselves: performance data, tracking data, physical data.
He also isolated the Varane effect in the comments:
@Ahmed M. I didn't mention Varane's in the piece, Ahmed, but RA believes he, on his own, would add 2.7pts, improving their chances of winning the title from 1.2% to 3%. The real impact would come if you could add all three, 10.5pts. But then I assume that would need one or two to leave and I don't know if RA modelled all of those permutations, too.
And if curious, like I was, he also posts the whole table as predicted by the company (as of last week) in the comments section:
1. Man City, 70.2% chance of winning, 84.5 avg pts, 99.2% top 4, 0% relegation
2. Liverpool, 19.6%, 77.2pts, 92.4%, 0%
3. Chelsea, 7.2%, 72.6pts, 78.7%, 0%
4. United, 1.2%, 65.8pts, 42.6%, 0%
5. Spurs, 0.9%, 64.5pts, 35.3%, 0%
6. Arsenal, 0.7%, 63.5pts, 31.4%, 0%
7. Leicester, 0.2%, 59.7pts, 14.9%, 0.1%
8. Brighton, 0%, 50.7pts, 1.5%, 2%
9. Wolves, 0%, 50.6pts, 1.5%, 2.2%
10. Leeds, 0%, 49.1pts, 0.9%, 3.3%
11. West Ham, 0%, 48.7pts, 0.8%, 3.6%
12. Villa, 0%, 46.2pts, 0.3%, 7.1%
13. Everton, 0%, 45.1pts, 0.2%, 9.3%
14. Palace, 0%, 44pts, 0.1%, 11.8%
15. Brentford, 0%, 43.6pts, 0.1%, 13%
16. Watford, 0%, 37.7pts, 0%, 38.9%
17. Southampton, 0%, 37.2pts, 0%, 40.7%
18. Newcastle, 0%, 35.6pts, 0%, 50.9%
19. Burnley, 0%, 35.3pts, 0%, 52.1%
20. Norwich, 0%, 33.3pts, 0%, 65.2%
 

Zomp

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34 million pounds for Varane. It helps that he wanted to come and was willing to run his contract down but that is an incredible deal for one of the worlds best defenders who is 28 years old.
Agreed with those above. No excuses for Ole.
 

Zomp

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I'm a fan of this one, and its a throwback, but generally I agree. I always like the black away kit look for United.

Like if the blue was black? Now we're talking.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I'm genuinely curious how Ole sets up and apportions the minutes.

Ronaldo has never really been a player to lead the line by himself. Whether listed as a LW or CF, he has almost always played with a strike partner who will do a lot of work off the ball and help open space for him. Cavani would actually be ideal for this role IMO, but if they play with two real forwards in that way, where does that leave everybody else? Bruno's whole game is to be the guy that has ultimate freedom behind the striker and I'm not sure you can have a two striker system and then Bruno behind them as well. But Bruno isn't going to be the strike partner for Ronaldo either, his whole thing is to get on the ball not make runs to open space. Sancho, Pogba, and Rashford are also used to being players that have a lot of freedom, and very few defensive responsibilities, when on the wing.

Some rotation aside, it seems like whatever the system Ronaldo and Bruno will play nearly every match when fit. Assuming Ole still wants to play two relatively defensive CMs (which seems even more important with Ronaldo given that the front four isn't going to be doing much defending), that leaves two spots for Sancho, Rashford (when back from surgery), Cavani, Martial, Pogba, and Greenwood. It'll be tough to juggle that.

People will hate it but IMO they should loan Greenwood. You would get plenty of takers in the Prem and it would do him good to play 30 matches rather than whatever he will get now.
 

Zomp

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We now have a gaping hole in midfield.

For now, when everyone is fit I think I go:



------------------------Henderson----------------------
AWB---Varane---------SLabhead---------Shaw
---------------Fred-----------Mctominay-----------
Sancho-----------Bruno-----------------Rashford
--------------------Ronaldo-----------------------------


That front 4 can be as fluid as possible. I think Pogba should go. If I'm Ole I try to sell Pogba and Lingard to raise enough funds for Neves or Declan Rice or Bissouma and park them next to Mctominay.
 

tmracht

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Yeah, you remind me a lot of Chelsea at the moment, you don't turn down the chance at a huge upgrade up front (Lukaku, CR7 etc.) But it really is not the position you really needed to fill. So you should offload for sure similar to Tammy going bye bye.