Manchester United’s new season kicks off on Saturday and there are mixed hopes.
United’s prospects have been played down since the highs of July, after a summer which so far feels pretty underwhelming.
If there is one thing we learned from United’s post-lockdown success in June and July, it is that the club’s key players have to stay fit.
Even an injury to Luke Shaw proved damaging towards the end of the season.
Keeping everybody fit all year long is sadly unrealistic. United just have to manage it as best possible, and hope for luck along the way.
Last season injuries to the midfield left United badly stretched, while a defensive crisis at the start of January left Phil Jones starting the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.
One player United cannot do without
There is one player who Manchester United cannot afford to lose. And that is Anthony Martial.
Martial’s performances in 2020 for United were simply outstanding.
Even when he was not scoring, he was changing games, whether that be with the assists he provided for teammates against Southampton and Wrest Ham, or the penalties he won against Leicester and Copenhagen.
Martial is the link man in United’s attack, with an established connection already forged with Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.
Last season he finished as top scorer with 23 goals, while also providing three assists.
The worst part of Manchester United’s season came in September and October when Martial was out injured. The team just was not the same.
United do have Odion Ighalo now as back-up, while Mason Greenwood may benefit from a run as centre-forward if required, but you would then lose the team’s top right wing option.
More options in midfield
The prospect of being without Bruno Fernandes would be terrifying, but not quite as scary as it was previously, thanks to the signing of Donny van de Beek.
Paul Pogba can also shift forward into an attacking role if required, so United do have options in midfield if the worst case happens.
We don’t know how well Pogba can cope and push on without Fernandes in this side since his return, because we have not needed to, thankfully.
Looking at the squad, United still lack cover in key areas, especially out wide, and there is still a quality gap between the first XI and the bench players.
Getting lucky and keeping our top players fit is crucial. But Anthony Martial is the most important of the lot.
Take the Frenchman out of the side, and United will quickly discover how irreplaceable he is.
- United will be impacted by Everton’s double suspension
- Manchester United loanee Levitt substituted off at half-time in Charlton win
- Manchester United now have an unpredictable approach which Solskjaer must master
- Manchester United tested switching Elanga’s position with encouraging results
- Bruno Fernandes at top of Premier League creative rankings
- Three players Manchester United should leave out of XI v RB Leipzig
- Brandon Williams looks like he may have switched to right-back
- Maguire and Lindelof share the same view on United’s draw with Chelsea
- Manchester United fans praise Victor Lindelof’s performance