Manchester United 2021-22 Season Preview
Premier League football is back! Today is the first Premier League match of the season between Arsenal and Brentford, but most of the games in “Gameweek 1” will be played on Saturday, when Manchester United take on historic rivals Leeds United at Old Trafford.
It’s been a marvelous summer transfer window for Man-United after bringing in two world-class players who walk straight into our first eleven. Jadon Sancho, one of the most exciting young talents globally, is naturally a right-winger. Rafael Varane is a top-five center back in the world and has won the most famous trophies over the last ten years with Real Madrid and internationally with France.
A right-winger and center back were arguably the two most important positions that United needed to fill. Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left United twelve years ago, his role on the right has never been filled with a proper replacement. Sancho has the dribbling capability and creativity required for United to break down clubs set up in a low block, which juxtaposes Rashford’s responsibility on the left of having pace and flair for getting in behind. If Rashford’s and Sancho’s chemistry is just as good on the pitch as it is off it, we will likely witness one of the most potent winger duos in the world.
Since our captain Harry Maguire has arrived, his primary defensive partner has been Swedish international Victor Lindelof. When it comes to center backs, how they operate as a partnership is often more important than how they perform independently. Without a complementary partnership, even the greatest defenders will struggle. Lindelof is a competent center-back, but the issue is that when Lindelof and Maguire play together, they’re far too similar. Think of it like this, because of their game style similarities, their weaknesses are amplified. Both defenders are relatively slow, so long balls against United have been an issue in the past couple of seasons. To compensate for this, the whole team needs to play deeper to cushion its defense. This tactical setup has a cascading effect on how our midfielders and forwards line up, moving them farther away from the goal, which gives the other teams more time and space to defend. Rafael Varane changes this because not only is he extremely quick, but he also has a strong “football IQ” to read the game and help the defense line up appropriately. Between Maguire and Varane, where one struggles, the other excels. Varane has always been the “Robin” to Sergio Ramos being the “Batman” in Madrid. I see this playing out similarly with Maguire at United.
Below is my projected Week 1 lineup for Manchester United against Leeds United:
Edinson Cavani has had an extended holiday, so he will likely not start in the #9 role. Daniel James comes in for an injured Marcus Rashford, who will be out for two to three months after shoulder surgery. James also has the pace to get in behind a high pressing team like Leeds. Greenwood appears to be making the transition from a right-winger to his natural #9 position after the arrival of Sancho and will likely compete with Anthony Martial for the back-up position to Cavani. Sancho appears to be in the right mindset and condition to start. Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba pick themselves. Fred has the stamina and dynamism to start this game and often pairs better with Pogba than McTominay in a double pivot. Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are guaranteed starters, with Victor Lindeloff coming in due to Rafael Varane only recently arriving in Manchester and not yet match fit. Dean Henderson is reportedly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s #1 goalkeeper going into this season, but due to COVID issues, De Gea is likely to start.
Check out this great video by JTG Productions as a promo of Manchester United’s season. Fingers crossed it’s a good one, but early signs are looking good!
Image from here