Goalkeeper quandry highlights United squad imbalance
Manchester United face a dilemma at goalkeeper after Dean Henderson was handed a long-term extension. Sky Sports report the 23-year-old will compete with David de Gea for a first team spot.
Add Sergio Romero into the mix, and United have three top class players who would be starters for most Premier League sides, competing for one position.
This is a good problem to have, but the same headaches do not exist at other positions. In fact it serves to highlight United’s squad imbalance, and years of poor planning.
United have options up front, but not quite enough. A lack of cover was evident earlier this year when Anthony Martial was out injured.
At present United’s only recognised centre-forwards are Martial and Odion Ighalo.
Mason Greenwood will in time become more of an option centrally, rather than playing out wide.
For now though, United are a little lacking. Ighalo is only considered a back-up, starting only two of 15 matches since the lockdown.
Consistency can be a positive, but United could do with a back-up striker who commands Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s faith. A younger option like Moussa Dembele, for instance, would give the manager more variety.
This is where United’s options are desperately thin. United rely on two converted forwards, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood as wingers.
Beyond that United have Dan James, and then unsuitable options like Juan Mata to play out wide. Tahith Chong is out on loan, and may be back to provide competition for 2021/22.
United should really have four top quality wing options, and be relying on James as a fifth. This is why there has been such a push for a move for Jadon Sancho.
If Sancho does not sign, then an alternative option should be found to add more flair and trickery out wide, ease pressure on Greenwood, and take some of the creative burden off Aaron Wan-Bissaka at full-back, who is still a work in progress in an attacking sense.
Bruno Fernandes was signed to meet a glaring deficiency in the squad mid-season, and the club did well to eventually get him.
Over the final few weeks of the season though, it has become apparent just how reliant we are on him.
Plans for Andreas Pereira to develop into a top class option just haven’t worked out.
Jesse Lingard has badly regressed to the point that his recent omission from the England squad was not even a talking point, two years after being a starter at the World Cup.
Juan Mata is an option but one who was trusted to start just two of the 15 matches post-lockdown.
So United really do need another top level creative attacker who can replace Pereira and offer the team more quality.
32-year-old Nemanja Matic is by far and away United’s best option as a defensive midfielder. He is also the only natural fit in such a role.
Scott McTominay and Fred are being groomed to try and play the role, but both lack the discipline Matic does, and both are better as box-to-box players, essentially as back-ups for Paul Pogba, at this point.
United would benefit from adding another defensive midfield destroyer in the Matic mould, just one who happens to be 10 years younger.
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