Pre-Season Preview: Manchester United


Out with the old, in with the new they say. So bringing in a new man that was known to the Old Trafford faithful seemed to be ideal right?

Success will be expected this season as Manchester United look to finally bring back the glory days they once embraced under a man that fans call the Baby Faced Assassin in 2019/20.

Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer was brought in as Jose Mourinho’s successor in December 2018 as boss of the Manchester giants. Ole had been managing at Norwegian club Molde since 2015 after leaving Cardiff City in 2014 after nine months in the role as manager. The second half of last season was very much a transitional time for United as Solskjaer got to work with his squad and eventually he was named as permanent boss of the side in March.

Ole’s appointment immediately brought in a lot of positivity to the club which had been in a rather negative state under predecessor Jose Mourinho’s reign.

The Red Devils finished in sixth place despite a fantastic unbeaten run of 12 league games on the trot follow Ole’s appointment from December 2018 to March 2019. Despite an impressive win over Paris Saint Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, United bowed out to Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the last eight whilst also bowing out to Wolves in the FA Cup Sixth Round.

Under Mourinho, United lost to Championship side Derby County in the Third Round of the EFL Cup which was their first defeat at that stage since 2007 when they lost to Championship side Coventry City 2-0 at Old Trafford.


It’s been an interesting summer of transfers to say the least for United. They’ve spent a reported £145 million with many critics having tipped them to spend a vast amount of money this summer as Solskjaer looked to get his squad right to make up for last season’s disappointing end to what had been a rollercoaster campaign.

There hasn’t exactly been a strategy deployed by Ole in signing players this summer I found. The Norwegian has brought in three players so far in the form of Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire who coincidentally play in midfield and defence.

Daniel James was the first player through the doors of United’s Carrington training ground complex this summer as he signed from Championship side Swansea City for a reported fee of £15 million pounds in June. As a midfielder, he had been with the Welsh side for the last five years where he made 33 appearances whilst scoring four goals alongside having represented Wales through its various age group since 2013.

James was close to joining fellow Championship side Leeds United in January 2019 following a reported £10 million pound deal being agreed between the two sides. Everything was agreed and ready to go with the medical even passed before the deal was pulled at the eleventh hour on Transfer Deadline Day.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka joined from Crystal Palace for £50 million pounds a few weeks later after James had signed for United. The 21 year old English right back had been with Palace for the last 10 years and since signing his professional forms in 2016, had made 42 appearances whilst at Selhurst Park.

England international defender Harry Maguire signed for United on Monday following an £80 million pound bid being accepted by Leicester City despite interest from United’s close rivals Manchester City. Maguire, 26, had been with the former-Premier League champions since 2017 after signing from Hull City for £12 million.

As for departures at United, Ander Herrera’s free transfer to Paris Saint Germain is the highest profile name in what has been a quiet summer of not too many players leaving for pastures new. Antonio Valencia ended his 10 year stay at Old Trafford by signing for Educadorian side LDU Quito after being released this summer.

Young goalkeeper Dean Henderson went back on loan to newly-promoted Premier League side Sheffield United for his second spell there after an impressive first spell where he ended up making 46 appearances and winning the Sky Bet Championship Golden Glove.

First Six

11th August – Chelsea (H)

This is a tough opening test for Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer’s side. On paper, United should secure a win against Frank Lampard’s side but with Chelsea, they’ve still got a good squad available to them that they can use despite having been placed under a transfer ban this summer. Subsequently, Lampard has had to look at his youth players as quite a few of them were brought along for the club’s pre-season tour this summer.

Ideally in United case, this game has to set the foundations down for the upcoming season ahead with a victory over Chelsea or fans and critics might be thinking is the club set for another season of finishing in sixth place again? I personally think United will put Chelsea away but not as a comfortable as what some might think.

19th August – Wolverhampton Wanderers (A)

This first away tie of the season is a tough one as Wolves have recently demonstrated they can get results against the top six as seen with Liverpool and Tottenham being the only sides to come away from Molineux with a victory last season in the league.

I do think United have the capacity to beat Wolves but it will be a tough game regardless of the result.

24th August – Crystal Palace (H)

United welcome Crystal Palace in what will be a somewhat easier game for them to get three points from unlike their previous two games which will have been hard tests. I personally think United will sweep Palace away here but I do also think the visitors will do themselves proud regardless of the result.

31st August – Southampton (A)

A trip down to the south coast sounds easier than what it perhaps will appear to be for Solskjaer’s men here and given there’s a bit of momentum around St Mary’s following Southampton’s summer signings that they’ve made recently and the form they finished in at the end of last season, this game won’t be an easy job from the first minute as some might think. But again, I don’t expect to see a shock on the cards here.

14th September – Leicester City (H)

After the international break, Manchester United return to Premier League action by hosting Leicester City in what could be a momentous occasion for defender Harry Maguire who takes on his former side for the first time. With Europa League action taking place on the following Thursday, United could be in two minds to rest one or two players ahead of that clash but no doubt, this will be a tough test against a Leicester side who have become visibly more technical since Brendan Rodgers’ appointment earlier this year.

22nd September – West Ham United (A)

West Ham vs Manchester United clashes have gone in history as some of the best matches in the past and with Manuel Pellegrini doing a great job as manager by managing to secure some fantastic new signings this summer, this could be a tough test and one that United need to seriously not underestimate.

By all means, like the previous games where I have said that I expect United to win, I do think the same for this game but like that of the Chelsea, Wolves and Leicester ties, I don’t expect this to be any easier.

Solskjaer Confident Of A Better United

“It’s been encouraging so far. Everyone went to their summer holidays with a bad taste in the mouth and disappointment with the way the season ended.

Football is an emotional game. It’s always difficult when a new manager has to come in and the previous one loses his job. But the players handled it well over the summer and they’ve come back really fit and sharp.

I know how fine the margins are in football and how easily things can go from good to bad. It’s a mental game, it’s all in the head.

We didn’t handle the ups and the downs well enough, we know that. That would be down to mental tiredness because it was a draining season for everyone. But we’ll be better this year.”


For Manchester United, like Arsenal, their expectation will be to simply to qualify for the Champions League this season after what will have been a season away from Europe’s elite competition. So obviously a finish in the top four will be required for that goal to be achieved. But there could be a feeling that with the squad that United have, they could take the fight to rivals Manchester City and Liverpool who in all fairness haven’t spent much on their squads this season.

A run to the Europa League final wouldn’t go amiss by United fans as for them, any European silverware is appreciated rather than have nothing at all. And if United’s last campaign in the tournament proved anything for them, it proved that they can have a disappointing league campaign whilst still managing to qualify for the Champions League if they go via the Europa League route as Jose Mourinho found out in his debut season as United boss.

Expectations in the EFL Cup will be high as United will be hoping not to repeat last seasons exit of falling out of the competition in the Third Round again whilst there will hopes that they can also do better in the FA Cup this season and even potentially strive towards winning the competition for the first time since 2016.

Expected Starting XI

De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Matic, Lingard, Pogba; James, Martial, Rashford



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Photographer who's gone everywhere from covering non-league football to covering England internationals. Occasionally write but mostly at football matches with a camera and mono-pod.

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