In a blockbuster summer transfer window, Manchester United have made significant moves to sign Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane to strengthen their forward and defensive lines. These two players possess outstanding pedigree and are no doubt excellent transfers to boost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad.
However, United may have overlooked a potential flaw in the squad in their bid to end an eight-year drought without the Premier League crown. Fred and Scott McTominay were impressive in the first game of the campaign as United drubbed Leeds United 5-1 at Old Trafford, with the Brazilian getting himself a rare goal with a neat finish in the box. The midfield tandem was then broken up by Solskjaer as Nemanja Matic was called into the starting line-up against Southampton.
The Serb struggled to maintain the standards set by his teammates in the opener, lacking the movement and the ability to work the ball towards Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the final third. Fred was also off the pace in the contest, displaying his lack of consistency that has plagued his United career since his move from Shakhtar Donetsk.
McTominay has been solid since rising through the ranks, but he does not provide a significant upgrade over Fred or Matic, presenting Solskjaer with a quandary, especially since he does not appear to have faith in Donny van de Beek. The Dutchman only signed for the club last year but has not been trusted with a regular place in the side.
Compared to their rivals in the race for the Premier League crown, United have the weakest midfield. If you bet on football at Space Casino, it is one of the reasons why the Red Devils are considered behind Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool at odds of 7.8/1 to win the Premier League this term. Their attacking frontline and solid rearguard could be enough to end their drought without the crown, but it will take a brilliant effort from Fernandes and Pogba, along with Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani, to force the issues themselves in the final third.
At City, Rodri and Fernandinho are not overly creative players, but their distribution is flawless and they always manage to maintain their discipline at the back allowing Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo to raid forward down the flanks. Chelsea arguably have the strongest midfield in the Premier League with N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. All three players complement each other brilliantly, possessing a different range of abilities, allowing Thomas Tuchel to rotate them with ease on a weekly basis. Despite the loss of Georginio Wijnaldum, Liverpool boast a potent midfield of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita. And that’s without mentioning Curtis Jones and the versatile Harvey Elliott.
United’s rivals have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, which could make all the difference over the course of the campaign. Although the Red Devils have made ground with their defensive and attacking signings in recent transfer windows, a playmaker and a strong defensive shield are still missing in the middle of the park. It has halted previous attempts to challenge for the crown, and may well be their undoing once more.