Manchester United have plenty to sort out in 2022 after another calendar year without a trophy or a serious title charge.
Here are five objectives the club have which need to be accomplished by this time next year…
Sort out a style of play
In 2019 and 2020, United went through two full years under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer without a clearly defined style of play or a philosophy which defined the club.
There were constant but vague references to a ‘United DNA’ and attempts to claw back what made Sir Alex Ferguson’s sides so successful.
That was not good enough and now Ralf Rangnick has been brought in to oversee the implementation of a rapid pressing game based around high-level coaching and more modern methods.
By the end of 2022, if United are still as shapeless and reliant on individuals as they are now, something will have gone badly wrong.
Nail down a long-term manager
Rangnick may well continue beyond the end of his interim contract but if that is the case, it should be because his months in charge have gone exceptionally well and there are clear signs of sustainable progress.
It should not be done on a whim or before the end of the season like it was for Solskjaer. Nor should it be done because Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold do not want another managerial search.
Mauricio Pochettino may be more attainable at the end of the season but there has to be a thorough recruitment process where the man to be United’s long-term manager is identified, hired and given the tools to succeed, and Erik Ten Hag is another highly desirable choice.
United have left themselves in a position of needing short-term fixes because of how they handled the Solskjaer situation but there are no excuses to be in a similar position this time next year.
Win a trophy
The FA Cup and Champions League are United’s only realistic remaining chances to win a trophy in 2022, although clinching one of those would earn United a shot at the Community Shield or Super Cup also.
No silverware since 2017 is not good enough for United and they do now have a squad which – on paper at least – is capable of winning right now.
Rangnick may take inspiration from Roberto di Matteo’s 2012 heroics with Chelsea, where he won both the aforementioned trophies having taken over from Andre Villas Boas.
United cannot go into given year without the aim of winning a trophy and 2022 is no different.
Sort out key players’ future
By the end of 2022, Paul Pogba will have signed a new Old Trafford contract or left the club.
This writer thinks it is time for United to cut their losses and cut him loose but whichever side of the fence you are on, most will agree that the uncertainty is not helpful for anybody.
Anthony Martial is another one in limbo; potentially looking at a January loan exit and maybe a summer transfer.
Edinson Cavani will leave in the summer and Dean Henderson has a big decision to make too, which essentially boils down to how patient he wants to be.
Experienced heads like Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Lee Grant may also depart within the next 12 months, but it is the Pogba situation which really needs sorting either way.
Sign a new defensive midfielder
The base of United’s midfield was ignored for too long by Solskjaer, who put his faith in Fred and Scott McTominay in there throughout his reign and prioritised other areas in the transfer market.
That looks negligent now, and a new anchorman has to be a priority in the next 12 months.
In truth, a new long-term striker is likely also needed, although Mason Greenwood’s quality makes that a less pressing issue while Cristiano Ronaldo remains around.
Whatever Rangnick or any other manager tries to implement will not be as effective without a world-class holding midfielder.
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