It’s been 20 years since Manchester United completed the famous treble, and now they have stood helpless, watching neighbours Manchester City bag a treble of their own in consummate style, doing so by winning every single domestic game since the start of February.
With current United manager Solskjær playing alongside members of the famous ‘Class of 92’ during the legendary 1998-99 season, he too now desires to craft his own band of brothers from scratch. In doing so, he will shun those who seem to be more interested in career progression than the United project.
‘Class of 2019’: Taking form?
United’s aim for next season should be a top-four finish, and a wide range of bookmakers (including Marathon Bet) appear to back this overriding feeling. That said, a triumph in the Europa League should also be on the agenda, especially with English clubs winning out in all four European semi-finals this year.
With all title talk seemingly off the table for several years though, Solskjær appears to have ‘carte blanche’ in this summer’s transfer market. However, selling shrewdly will be just as important as buying.
If the post-match reactions on various United fan channels are anything to go by, Paul Pogba’s departure would be widely-welcomed by some supporters, with the Frenchman failing to dominate in the Premier League the same way he did during last summer’s World Cup.
Pogba’s departure has long held an air of inevitability, but so too has that of David De Gea. After a spring to forget, De Gea has thus far opted not to renew his contract, further underlining beliefs in an imminent revolution at Old Trafford.
The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling have also taken their fair share of flack in recent months, and they too could well be headed for the exit door.
An Alternative Approach to Resurrection
With Solskjær set to focus on a younger set of targets, in lieu of stars that could shatter the wage structure, 2019/20 will herald revelatory heaven or eternal damnation for United.
Of the young talents slated for an Old Trafford baptism, Daniel James is the nearest to joining Solskjær’s revolution, after ‘agreeing’ personal terms with the club.
Successfully stepping up from the Championship to the Manchester United starting XI is something only a rare breed of player can do. However, he would take to the field unburdened by expectation, while also carrying the innate skill needed to make a positive impact.
Already boasting one goal from two international caps, the Welsh youngster reminds more optimistic United fans of the great Ryan Giggs. He is fast and tricky to deal with, and when playing for Wales, has thrived under the man himself.
De Ligt: The New Stam?
James is just one piece of the puzzle though, and two exciting names have emerged in recent days.
The first is that of defender Matthijs De Ligt, who was instrumental in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals and the Eredivisie title. The price on his signature is reported at around £65m and £350,000 per-week in wages.
With United shipping goals at an extraordinary rate towards the end of 2018/19, the desperation for a ‘complete’ defender is understandable, but the teenager would be shouldering immense amounts of pressure – especially if the reported wage offer is genuine.
While De Ligt boasts the sort of passion and leadership so desperately lacking in the likes of would-be positional rivals (such as Smalling, Bailly and Dalot) his signing represents a huge gamble either way.
Joao Felix, meanwhile, seemingly has his pick of the clubs after a sensational 2018-19 campaign, which culminated in him becoming the youngest player ever to score a Europa League hat-trick. Again, however, this would be a massive step up from the Primeira Liga.
Realistic Objectives key to Progress
While some United fans see merely aiming for fourth as a lack of ambition, it is worth remembering that Solskjær’s managerial reign is still in a transitional phase. Nothing changes the fact that the former Stretford End hero inherited a broken squad filled with the arrogant, the selfish and the rudderless.
With promising, but not world-class names being the most readily linked to United at present, ‘experimental’ is perhaps the only way to describe the upcoming season at Old Trafford.
Those same fans demanding change in large quantities will do well to appreciate that James will certainly not become Ryan Giggs overnight. So too must they appreciate that De Ligt will not transform into the immovable Dutch defensive legend Jaap Stam, and Felix will not explode onto the scene like midfield all-rounder Paul Scholes.
While sacking culture is more prevalent these days, Solskjær is fully intent on playing the long game in the upcoming decade, just as mentor Sir Alex Ferguson did throughout the 1990s.
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