After Manchester United’s electric display against Bournemouth, the Sunday Supplement panel assess the club’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, the continual impact of Bruno Fernandes and what the future has in store for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s improving side.
United’s 5-2 win over struggling Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon kept them in fifth place in the Premier League, still two points behind Chelsea with only five games left to play this campaign.
July 9, 2020, 8:00pm
With fifth position set to result in participation in the Champions League next season – subject to Manchester City’s appeal against a two-year ban from European football not being overturned by the Court of Arbitration of Sport on July 13 – and a favourable run-in ahead of them, United now have Champions League qualification in their own hands.
Here the Sunday Supplement panel discuss United’s hopes of achieving that aim, how Fernandes has galvanised the squad, before debating just how far this team can go under Solskjaer.
“United have some very winnable games coming up and it all points to that final game of the season at Leicester. United are certainly now on a fantastic unbeaten run, so they will really fancy putting the pressure on and I really do think it will come down to that game at the King Power on the final day of the season. And that would really be a great end to the campaign and really exciting.
“There is a note of caution with United and one of the things that will concern Solskjaer is there are a few little defensive flaws in there at the moment. The way that Junior Stanislas turned into Lionel Messi when faced with Harry Maguire yesterday will be a cause for concern, particularly as Maguire did not really cover himself in glory at Spurs a few weeks ago when Steven Bergwijn scored that goal.
Simon Mullock, Chief Football Writer, the Sunday Mirror
“David de Gea as well, there are question marks over him at the moment with the possibility of Dean Henderson coming in next year, De Gea beaten at his near post. So there are a few issues that will concern Solskjaer.
“But in terms of going forward, United look like the Manchester United of old. They just have such an exciting (attacking) quartet, while Paul Pogba has not hit full form yet and if he raises his game and settled down and keep fit, then United are really well placed for that final stretch.”
“He has been absolutely transformative, I do not think we can underestimate or overstate just the effect he has had on the psychology of the squad, the confidence, he has become their reference point so easily.
“I remember Solskjaer saying in his first training session that he just walked in there and took responsibility and he knew from then that he was a natural leader. In terms of the numbers and his influence in the final third, that has been staggering. But more so, just how he has galvanised that squad.
“It is not an underestimation to say that in the last few years, he has probably been the biggest and most promising thing to happen to United. And the other element to him is that while he is so individualistic, he has made his team-mates better.
“But also, every time he speaks, it is all about the collective and in terms of everything, he is looking like the perfect fit and I think he walked into a club that really suited his stylistic attributes and also, they needed someone to come in and really be the main man, to be that lighthouse. And he has done that.”
“The discussion as so often with United is about recruitment – sometimes they want a director of football, sometimes they do not. And the question has to be raised as to why they did not get that Fernandes deal over the line in the summer?
“Can you imagine the difference he might have made to Solskjaer and where United would have been if he had been there the complete season? Some United fans are even saying his impact is on a par with Eric Cantona 28 years ago and maybe we will look at this period in the coming months and years as being a key point in raising the fortunes of United.
“Because, if we look back to where United were in January when he joined, that home defeat to Burnley was a real low point and Solskjaer’s position was under threat. And now, these other positions do need addressing going forward, another centre back maybe, looking at the goalkeeping position long term.
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