Why Manchester United WILL NOT Win The 2021/22 Premier League

After back-to-back top-four finishes for the first time since 2013, and a summer transfer window that has seen some of the world’s biggest talents arrive through the doors, Manchester United have arrived at the 2021/22 Premier League with some tipping them as potential title winners. 

However, underneath the hotshot announcement videos and early season form, there are some glaring issues at play that mean United WILL NOT win be champions come May.  

Lacking Prestige

If there is one team in the world that embodies ‘prestige’ in English football, it is Manchester United. With twenty titles under their belt, there has always traditionally been an aurora around the club that commanded respect from whoever the Red Devils were coming up against during a league campaign; it is a prestige that has slowly been eroded in the eight seasons without a serious title challenge ever since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. 

And whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has undoubtedly had the most success in restoring a harmonious training camp and building a much more consistent team on the pitch, there are still major questions hanging over the Norwegian’s head over whether he is the calbire of manager needed to win the types of trophies United are expected to deliver. 

Under Solskjaer, United lost four semi-finals before breaking their curse in the 2020/21 Europa League against Roma. However, United served up a well below-par performance in their clash against Villareal, losing out 11-10 in a dramatic penalty shootout and 

Whilst it is a real positive for the club to be going on deep runs at so many competitions, losing out in the clutch stages of these tournaments is almost more of a concerning trait than bombing out entirely, with it potentially signifying a ‘tough get going’ mentality present in the club under Solskjaer. 

Teams like Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool, teams who Manchester United are currently trying to emulate, have shown that building a serious elite mentality takes gradual improvement and an almost habitual-like approach to collecting silverware, with both sides winning the likes of the Carabao Cup and UEFA Champions League respectively before collecting their first Premier League medal. 

United’s trophy drought under Solskjaer has now extended past the four-season mark and is one campaign away from being the worst record since the club was last relegated from the First Division in 1974. 

Muddled Transfers

On the face of things, Manchester United are coming into the 2021/22 Premier League campaign with one of the most successful transfer windows of any side in the ‘traditional top six’. Four-time Champions League and World Cup winner Raphael Varane addresses a serious issue in the centre of defence, and Jadon Sancho is an undeniable world-class talent at the top of the pitch, albeit one that should have arrived last campaign. 

However, beyond that, there seems to be a real case of style over substance in the team’s business after these two players. 

The number one issue at Manchester United over the past few campaigns is the double pivot in their 4-2-3-1 formation. When deployed there, there have been concerns with Paul Pogba’s discipline, Donny van de Beek has rarely been trusted with anything more than the odd ten-minute cameo by his manager, and the Ole-favoured trio of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominany, and Fred simply not up to standard. 

What’s more, whilst the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly a headline-grabber and one that will raise the profile of the club hugely, it doesn’t necessarily feel like one United were always planning to make. The second half of the 2020/21 campaign was dominated by the club’s highly publicised attempts at keeping Edinson Cavani at the club, with the Uruguayan finally signing a new deal amid much press coverage earlier this summer. 

Cavani surrendered his no.7 shirt to Ronaldo this summer, and there’s no denying the role of a veteran number 9 has just become much more stacked than most would have expected from the end of last season. 

The holding midfield role is undoubtedly United’s biggest weakness, it’s an area most sides have their best players sitting in, so to see another window go by without addressing that area (at the expense of more glamorous, shirt-selling acquisitions) should be a huge red flag for their title chances this year. 

Stiff Competition

In hindsight, it’s hard not to look at the 2020/21 Premier League season as a real missed opportunity for Manchester United. The absence of crowds allowed for United to recover from slow starts frequently, and most of their competition were well below the levels most would have expected to see. 

Tottenham and Arsenal finished in 7th and 8th respectively with 25 losses between them, Chelsea had an inconsistent domestic campaign with Frank Lampard being replaced by Thomas Tuchel mid-season, Liverpool were ravaged by injuries that effectively made a title challenge impossible to construct, and Manchester City’s slow start saw them drop from 100 and 98 points during their previous title wins, down to 86, the lowest winning points tally since 2015/16. 

All the signs point to the 2021/22 season being a far more stacked and challenging league for United to win, with Liverpool back to full strength, Chelsea strengthening in the window and preparing for their first full campaign under Tuchel, and Manchester City have the proven pedigree of retaining titles. 

In short, to win the Premier League, United will have to prove themselves up against arguably the best teams in the world, something they haven’t been able to do in nearly a decade now. 

Underlying Issues 

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s time at Old Trafford has been defined by volatile swings in form, with the 18/19, 19/20, and 20/21 campaigns all-seeing United go through periods of long winning streaks, as well as barron periods that never fail to get the ‘PE teacher’ and ‘OleOut’ tags trending. 

On top of the volatile swings in form, United also developed an unhealthy reputation for starting games slowly and having to mount comebacks in the second half of games, with the team averaging 0.74 goals in the first half of games during 2020/21, but jumping up to 1.18 in the second half. 

52% of United’s goals conceded last season came during the opening forty minutes, and 47% of their goals scored came in the final half an hour of a game, with eleven of the team’s wins last season being settled by a single goal. These numbers are not the kind of output consistent Premier League champions are used to delivering, and showcase there’s a lot of work to be done at Old Trafford in regards to how United conduct themselves during a matchday. 

Winning a league title requires a steely amount of consistency across all 38 fixtures, a consistency that United have struggled to string together under Ole so far. 

Finding a way to take the handbrake off in true United style, whilst maintaining the level of composure and consistency needed to win 20-25 games a season is no easy task, however, it is the challenge facing Ole and co. as the campaign continues to kick into life.