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2021/22 Premier League Previews | Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the return to their perch (Part 2)

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2021/20 Premier League preview: Manchester United

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2021/22 Premier League Previews | Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the return to their perch (Part 2)

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Siddhant Lazar

08/12/2021

The 2021/22 Premier League season is around the corner and for Manchester United, this season could be the start of what might be another era of dominance. The Red Devils finished second in the 2020/21 Premier League season, reached a Europa League final and are now looking to win it all.

How well did Manchester United do in the 2020/21 Premier League season?

For a side that lost via a combined scoreline of 9-2 to Crystal Palace and Tottenham in the opening fifteen odd days of the 2020/21 season, Manchester United actually did well. It stunned and shocked the world alike that the Red Devils were thrashed, rather badly, in their opening game to Palace and then again just over two weeks later to Tottenham. While the loss to the former definitely hurt, the 1-6 home loss to the latter was just humiliating.

It saw many call for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s head, Ed Woodward’s head, and a few other heads along the way but things improved, so much so that Manchester United were in first place. For the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the Red Devils looked like they could compete for the title and eventually ended the season as the closest side to Manchester City. Second place, Champions League football and a Europa League final, that they eventually lost, makes for a tidy haul. Not great but tidy.

And their numbers agree with that. Offensively they finished as the league’s second highest goals scorer (73), had the fourth highest xG per 90 (1.58), the fifth best assists per 90 minutes (1.07), the fourth highest key passes completed (402), the fourth most touches overall (26392), and the fifth best non-penalty xG or npxG (51.9) with the second most penalties awarded at 11. Defensively, is where things change although United did not struggle at the back, they did regress slightly as compared to the previous season.

The Red Devils had the fifth best defensive record this year (44-36). They combined that with the fourth best PSxG (Post-Shot Expected Goals) (42.1-37.5), had the fifth fewest errors leading to a goal/shot  (7-7), the ninth best successful pressure percentage (29.6%-28.2%), committed the third most fouls (454), had the fourth best clean sheet percentage (34.2%-34.2%) and they did that all the while averaging the second best Points Per Match (1.95-1.74).

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Improvements they’ve made so far

After spending the better part of the last decade (it’s a joke) chasing after a certain Borussia Dortmund wunderkid, Manchester United have finally signed him. No not Marco Reus, or Erling Haaland or Julian Brandt but Jadon Sancho. For a dirt cheap 80 million fee and the young English star should be just what they need to pump up those offensive numbers and turn things around. But as if that wasn’t enough, the club have gone and signed Raphael Varane.

The Frenchman is, reportedly, having his medical, and everything else, done at the time of publishing and is on the verge of a 40 million move. For the man who won three consecutive Champions League trophies, a couple of La Liga titles and the damn 2018 World Cup, that’s an absolutely ridiculous fee. Some might even call it a bargain, some might call it nuts but it's disgustingly cheap. Varane should be, almost singlehandedly, the transformation that the defense needs and suddenly Manchester United are title contenders.

It’s probably scared their rivals just a little bit but with more players set to sign, this summer may have been exactly what the Red Devils fans have been asking for from the owners and the club for more than a while. But the real question; is this team is complete? But while they could still do with a few additions in midfield and to their front-line, the club are about as close to complete as a team might ever get, and teams have won titles with a lot less. Question is..

How well could Manchester United do in the 2021/22 Premier League season?

As ambitions go, a title-winning season might not be beyond Manchester United's reach especially with the two superstars they've signed this summer but something tells us that this team needs slightly more before they're capable of that. Yet, should Manchester City lose their way, should Chelsea sack another manager and should Liverpool lose their minds, then the title is Manchester United's to lose.

But beyond that, a second place spot, for now, might just be the best Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and co can achieve with their current squad although the transfer window hasn't closed yet. Their floor, and this might be tough to say, may not be too low. Fourth or fifth place is the best worst-case scenario with them dropping lower only because of a serious injury crisis that completely destroys the team and forces Solskaer to field youth products.

Anything lower than that, and he just might be out of a job but with the Norwegian chasing after modern United history, that's one goal he may not want to try and achieve.

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