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It’s been another 12 months, and it’s time to see how Manchester United have fared during that time.
They started the year in fifth place, and a January nightmare brought them to seventh. However, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes changed things for the Red Devils, and they managed to sneak into the Champions League squares.
Best Player – Bruno Fernandes
Well … duh. Who else was going to go here?
Man Utd’s magnificent Portuguese has been nothing short of heroic since arriving at Old Trafford. Almost overnight they went from being a medium explosive team to one of the scariest teams in the division, and it was all due to the arrival of Fernandes.
Very few players have made it to the Premier League and made an instant impact like Fernandes has.
Best Game: Man Utd 2-0 Man City
In their last match before the lockout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team entered a Manchester Derby against a City team that had eliminated them from the Carabao Cup a few weeks earlier.
Man Utd gave their fans a welcome gift before the break, completing the double over their bitter rivals with a 2-0 victory. Anthony Martial opened the scoring after Ederson let his volley slip past the near post, before Scott McTominay sealed all three points with a long-range effort in injury time.
Worst game: Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur
When Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty in the second minute after Anthony Martial was brought down, Man Utd appeared to be on track for three points.
The reality was the opposite. Five minutes after taking the lead, the Spurs responded with two goals. Tanguy Ndombele slammed into goal after a frankly comical defense, and Heung-min Son converted from a quick free kick from Harry Kane.
At the half hour mark, the game was over. Martial was sent off after slapping Erik Lamela, and Kane took advantage of a more terrible defense to make it 3-1. They are later made it four before halftime.
Things did not improve in the second half. Serge Aurier hit a fifth and Kane got his second from the penalty spot to complete the humiliation.
Well, for the most part.
As explained above, Bruno Fernandes has made an immediate impact in England, and will undoubtedly go down as the signing of the year.
Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani was a highly contested signing at the time, but he has shown that he still has a lot to offer at the highest level. And, while they’re still trying to prove themselves, Alex Telles and Donny van de Beek seem to have brought much-needed depth to a lean team.
However, they have not had a 100% success rate. The Odion Ighalo credit takeover doesn’t make any sense yet and there are still areas that need to be strengthened.
Plus, it’s hard to ignore the long saga of Jadon Sancho. After haggling with Borussia Dortmund for months over its € 120 million asking price, Manchester United’s board was left with balls to its face while the Englishman stayed in Germany.
How has the manager been?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been questioned for most of his time in charge of Man Utd, but he has held up pretty well in 2020.
Their league form in the second half of last season was fantastic, elevating them to third place to seal qualification to the Champions League. And, after a rocky start, they are in the running for the current campaign title.
However, their cup performances have not been so promising. They crashed in the semi-finals of the two national trophies, as well as in the Europa League. The 3-1 defeat at Wembley against Chelsea in the FA Cup was particularly bad. And then they exited the Champions League early, finishing behind Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the group stage.
This season’s Carabao Cup gives Solskjaer another chance to win his first silver medal as Man Utd coach, when he takes on Man City in the semi-final. All eyes will be watching to see if you can finally overcome this hurdle.
In general, the performances have been quite good with Solskjaer. However, many wonder if it is because of the Norwegian or because of the individual quality in the Man Utd team.
Pretty good, I guess.
This time last year, Man Utd seemed a million miles away challenging the title. Fast forward 12 months and it starts to look a little more realistic. Of course, it remains to be seen if they will stay that way.
The disappointments of the cup are hard to ignore, and the shame of the Champions League should leave a big stain this season. However, progress has been made.
And while the Jadon Sancho debacle didn’t go their way, the innings have been mostly hits. It’s been a while since the Red Devils had one of the best outfield players in the world, but it looks like Fernandes has finally brought the superstar factor to Old Trafford.
2021 could be an exciting year for Manchester United.