What a difference a year can make. It wasn’t all that long ago when Manchester United were the laughingstock of the Premier League, much to the delight of their rival fans. And yet here we are, with Manchester firmly in the Champions League position, and not that far away from the top of the table. While it’s too early to proclaim that Manchester United are “back,” they do seem to be moving in the right direction. Indeed, there’ll be a fair few using an introductory betting deal from comparison platforms such as OddsChecker to back the team for Premier League glory next season. Let’s have a look at a few factors that could go in their favour — and one big one that might work against them.
The End of the Glazer Era
Few — if any — Manchester United fans have anything positive to say about the Glazers, their current owners. Any progress the team has made this year has been in spite of the owners, not because of them. United’s improvement on the pitch could be enhanced significantly if the rumoured takeover from Qatar comes to fruition. If that happens, then United will have deep pockets again, and they could well be in a position to rival their neighbours Manchester City once more.
Whether that’ll happen still remains to be seen. Qatar has signalled its interest in purchasing the club, but there’s a lot that needs to happen before any potential deal goes through. There are other parties interested in buying the club, too, including Sir Jim Ratcliffe and, apparently, Elon Musk. If even a multi-billion pound investor is found, it’ll take time for the fruits of that planted money to grow. Still, it would mark a significant and psychologically important moment for a club that hasn’t been anywhere near where it expects to be for some time.
Ten Hag in Control
Ten Hag didn’t have the biggest reputation when he took over at Manchester United. There was a chance that we would be another manager on the Manchester United conveyor belt that has been in motion since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
But Ten Hag quickly dismissed that possibility. First, he laid down the law to Ronaldo, which is no easy task. Second, he engineered a system that made the team difficult to beat. And then, he cajoled the best of his players. Marcus Rashford’s career has looked to be in limbo for the past couple of years, but now he’s showing his class, and that’s thanks to Ten Hag. If United can get all their big players firing on all cylinders, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Whether that’ll happen remains to be seen. Ten Hag is, based on his early performance at least, here to stay. Yet there are still huge questions around his ability to take Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League. His success so far has been to steady the sinking ship and get the team playing positively once more. There’s no pressure on him at the moment; it was all up from where they were when he took over. In a year or two, he’ll be expected to challenge for titles, and United’s future will depend on his ability to do that. The jury is out.
Some media pundits were perhaps too forgiving of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s performance. He had a better team of players than the vast majority of other clubs, it’s just that he didn’t know how to use them effectively or how to develop their skills. Manchester United have a lot of good, young players that, if they’re nurtured correctly, could go onto become regular players for the team in their quest for success. It’s true that the club has struggled to develop players in recent years, but that might be beginning to change. Marcus Rashford, for example, looks like a different player since Ten Hag took over. The arrival of senior players such as Casemiro meant that younger players were taken out of the starting eleven, but that actually might be a good thing for their development.
There’s a wealth of young talent at United, including Alejandro Garnacho, Hannibal, and James Garner. If Ten Hag can work his magic with them, then United’s future will look much more assured.
Potential problems? Yes: rival teams. United might be playing well, but so are many other teams — or, at least, they will be. Manchester United probably wouldn’t be third if Liverpool and Chelsea were both performing well. They’ll be back next season, and with Tottenham and Newcastle also on the rise, it’ll take a heroic effort for the side to cement a place in the top four positions.
The Premier League is extremely strong at the moment. And while that’s good for English football in general, it’s bad news for anyone looking to nudge their way up the table. It’s likely that next year will be the most competitive year we have on record, with Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham, and Chelsea all challenging Manchester United for the top positions.
Back in the Champions League
So what would mark progress for Manchester United? While they’re within touching distance of the league leaders, it seems unlikely that they’ll provide any sort of meaningful threat. If they did, it would go down as one of the most remarkable stories the Premier League has seen. The more realistic goal is that they finish third in the league, which will offer guaranteed Champions League football, and then add a few more signings in the summer. A title bid next year might be a little soon, but the way the club has been progressing in the last few months, you wouldn’t rule it out.
One thing’s for sure, and that’s that miserable Old Trafford days have come to an end. Whether they can reassert themselves and experience a level of dominance like they did under Sir Alex Ferguson remains to be seen, but United have refound their spirit, and that should worry everyone else in the league.