Manchester United’s 2019-20 season brought some successes and some failures throughout the campaign. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had parts of the season when that midfield lacked any real quality and often looked shambolic during the first half of the campaign. But then, on the other side of the spectre, there were periods of the season when that midfield was imperious, thrashing sides like Manchester City and Chelsea.
That is why today we will be exploring the reasons behind all of that, how things were changing and how did certain individuals do this past twelve months.
When we talk about the first half of the campaign, there were numerous matches when Man United failed to control the match properly from midfield, when that centre of the park did not bring anything useful to the attackers, often lacking tempo, incisiveness and positional awareness. There were matches like the losses to West Ham and Newcastle, draws against Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Southampton when United seemed powerless in these positions. Scott McTominay was not doing so well as many have expected after his burst onto the scene and Fred was never a reliable player week-in week-out. Paul Pogba’s injury and Nemanja Matic’s mixture of injuries, form and lack of gametime did not help either. United lacked creativity in the advanced areas, which was going to change from February onwards, due to a certain Portuguese signing.
Then, in the second half of the season things started to change. Nemanja Matic was back in form, ready again and he seemed reinvigorated, being one of the best players in the club during second half of December and whole of January. He made those around him look better, especially in central defence, Fred and McTominay also had some better spells of form, whilst attackers started ramping up the goal tallies upfront. And then Bruno Fernandes came and nothing remained the same.
He immediately showed quality, started improving those around him and his eagerness to be proactive on the pitch, in all areas of attack showed right away. He started making things happen around him and the entire team suddenly had more confidence in their ability. Paul Pogba returned from injury and suddenly, Man United started winning matches consecutively and that’s what helped the team finish third in the Premier League.
Signings Will Be Needed
Two main things are there for us to learn from 2019-20 season in terms of midfielders. There is a serious need to further improve the depth in that area of the pitch and the good news is that it looks like very soon Donny van de Beek will be announced as new Manchester United player. The other thing is that through Bruno Fernandes’ case, we can see how drastic improvements can be if proper signings are made for those positions which need improving.
Pogba is now happier at the club and performing better, Matic earned new big contract due to his great displays and there is still time for the likes of Scott McTominay to grow into their roles in this squad. Attacking options in midfield need reinforcements as well, due to Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira showing this season that they are not the players to rely on in the long run.