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Jadon Sancho Can Take Man United To The Next Level

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There is no currently no other player in world football that is creating more excitement or hype than Jadon Sancho.

With football being put on pause, there has been an even bigger focus on transfer stories and rumours, as we head into the summer territory. Such speculation is always met with large volumes of interest, but there is currently a bigger demand than normal, surrounding the news of new potential recruits at Old Trafford.

READ MORE: Thomas Partey To Manchester United?

Sancho has been heavily linked with a move to United this summer, from all the top-tier sources. Fans have welcomed such news with open arms, as he looks to be a player that can take the club to the next level.

Foundations for new arrivals to settle

New signings always hold the potential to bring new-life into a club, just look at Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese international has hit the ground-running at United since arriving last January, scoring three goals and assisting four, in just his opening nine games.

Whilst such form can be credited to the midfielder’s natural ability, we must also recognise the environment that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has created, for signings like Fernandes to settle in at. This season, the Norwegian has set some stable foundations in place with the team, filtering out large pieces of deadwood and establishing a much more positive looking squad.

Team selections have been consistent and players have started to form relationships on the field. Fernandes was welcomed into a starting XI with two sitting midfielders and three attacking frontmen, a shape that Solskjaer and his staff have been working on, for almost twelve months now.

Through remaining committed to their style of play and philosophy, Old Trafford has become a much more organised environment for new recruits to arrive in. There is no shoe-horning of players into unnatural positions, but instead, the manager is identifying specific targets to fill voids in his team.

Like Fernandes, Sancho would be joining with a clear understanding of his role. Occupying the right-wing spot, he will be playing in-front of the defensive figure of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with his responsibilities consisting of being the team’s direct threat in the final third. On paper, this is where things start to get exciting.

Match made in heaven

So far this season, 42% of United’s attacking play has come down the left channel. No doubt the largest contributing factor to this is from the influence of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, with their tendencies to drift out wide and then cut inside.

The latter has predominately been utilised as a number nine this year, but the Frenchman feels more comfortable running with the ball at his feet, when attacking down the left-flank. Whilst both forwards have enjoyed very productive seasons, the major downfall to such tendencies results in United’s play becoming a little predictable.

Their attacking intent is often shoehorned down the left channel, as there is no direct threat on the opposite flank. The likes of Juan Mata and Daniel James have been utilised there, but neither hold the flare or experience of a winger, to maintain a balanced look to Solskjaer’s frontline.

Up step Sancho. The 19-year-old has over two years under his belt in operating out on the right, playing an integral role in Borussia Dortmund’s dynamic and explosive front-line. Averaging 2.6 dribbles per game in the league, he offers a direct threat down the channel, hugging the touchline and beating his man around the outside.

Despite being a right-footed right-winger though, Sancho has also mastered the art at drifting inside and attacking the space in between the centre-back and full-back. Seven of his nineteen goals this season have come from the Englishman starting on the right, very encouraging stats for such a young talent.

Front three of dreams

Should Sancho arrive, a front-three of him, Martial and Rashford is quite a terrifying prospect.

It is a frontline that Solskjaer has been building towards since taking charge, as he likes granting his frontmen a licensee to run in-behind and interchange with one another. The system is deployed both home and away, with the Norwegian opting for two sitting midfielders that offer defensive security to the middle of the park.

READ MORE: Searching For Manchester United’s Next Number 7

This ‘comfort blanket’ allows the attackers to sit further up the field, a factor that maintains a counter-attacking threat for the team, at any given point. With such freedom, Sancho would be granted a free role to change between staying out-wide and drifting inside, playing off both Martial and Rashford.

This season, the three players have a shared total of fifty-four goals, making the thought of the trio playing together quite the exciting proposition.

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Searching For Manchester United’s Next Number 7

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There should only be a few weeks of the season left, but the with the coronavirus pandemic bringing a halt to football across the country, the wait for transfers both in and out could go on a little longer yet. 

Manchester United have been productive in the windows so far under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, bringing in younger talent and identifying players that want to play for the club and not just for the money. Equally, those who weren’t fitting the mould have been sent on to pastures new. 

READ MORE: Reports: Thomas Partey To Manchester United?

The likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera both have their Old Trafford days behind them, and despite Ole saying Alexis Sanchez will prove us wrong in January, conflicting reports suggest that we are unlikely to see him again in a United shirt. 

That begs the question, one that has been asked a few times since Cristiano Ronaldo left the Theatre of Dreams, as to who will be United’s next number seven – either next season or post Sanchez?

Jadon Sancho

The former Manchester City man is reportedly high on United’s most wanted list with plenty of murmurings on social media suggesting that the deal to bring Sancho to Old Trafford is already signed and sealed. 

That would surely put him in prime position to take the seven shirt and he will certainly fit the bill, as almost all of the successful United heroes to wear the famous shirt have had a certain amount of flare. Namely Best and Ronaldo, who Sancho would be in a similar mould. 

He’s scored 19 times in 40 appearances for club and country this season – more than a decent return for an inside forward, rather than an out-and-out striker. 

United really require somebody on the right of the front three, with Daniel James having suffered a burnout, Juan Mata past his best and Jesse Lingard lacking in confidence. 

Sancho would slot in there perfectly and wouldn’t shy away from the pressure the seven shirt would bring. Just imagine starting next season with Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. 

Jack Grealish

If United wanted to fill the number seven jersey with somebody who could rival Eric Cantona in the confidence stakes, then Jack Grealish could be their man. 

Both United and Grealish have seemingly been flirting with each other for some time, and with Aston Villa struggling at the wrong end of the table, Ole could well make his move when the window opens, especially if Paul Pogba moves on.

If Villa go down then the claret and blue fans will be expecting Grealish to move on anyway, and if they stay up, he will have played a massive part and will likely have the Villa fans wishes to move on to bigger and better things. Either way, United will have a chance to go and get him. 

He’s carried Villa from the Championship, and although coming to United and doing the same thing is a much bigger task, it’s hard to argue that he wouldn’t at least show the same fighting spirit at Old Trafford. 

Grealish is a great ball carrier and isn’t shy at having a shot a goal – scoring nine times for Villa this season. At 24, he fits the profile of a Solskjaer signing and offers something slightly different than United’s current options in the heart of midfield.

James Maddison

Another young British talent that United have shown some interest in is Leicester City’s James Maddison. 

A set piece specialist, Maddison names David Beckham as his hero and inspiration, which suggests he wouldn’t mind donning Becks’ old shirt at Old Trafford. 

However, the 23-year-old hasn’t quite been at his very best this season and playing predominantly as an attacking midfielder means the signing of Bruno Fernandez in January is likely to have knocked him down United’s shortlist. 

It would be a surprise for United to renew their interest in him in the near future, especially with Pogba still around, but if attempts for Sancho don’t come to fruition then he’d be a decent backup to come and play off that right hand side. 

READ MORE: Manchester United Transfer News: Striker Update

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Harry Maguire’s Instant Impact At Man United

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Season one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s three year project at Manchester United was all about putting foundations in place, to stabilise the uneasy ship that had been rocking since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The first step in re-building the squad and laying down a platform to succeed on, was to solve the team’s defensive misshapes at the back. Solskjaer invested heavily in his backline last summer, spending £130m to find a starting right-back and centre-back, through the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire.

READ MORE: Juan Mata Speaks On Jadon Sancho Transfer

Both players have succeeded in their debut seasons for the club, with the latter being granted the captain’s armband. Having arrived for £80m, Maguire’s performances have been watched closely under a magnifying glass from pending critics, but they have had very little to shout about.

Building from the back

Having not missed a single minute in the Premier League this season, Maguire has already been a big hit for one reason – consistency.

Down the years, United have struggled to establish a reliable back-four, partly due to individual errors, but also injuries. The constant changing of the backline has hampered team selections and the ability to maintain a consistent shape to the side, as players have failed to strike relationships with their fellow teammates.

Now though, Solskjaer has settled on his defensive line. Maguire is to be partnered with Victor Lindelof, with each CB not only striking up a solid understanding between each other, but also their flanking full-backs (Maguire and Shaw/Williams, Lindelof and Wan-Bissaka).

With two midfielders also sitting in-front, in the 4-2-3-1 formation, United operate rather rigidly, cutting out space for opponent’s to run into. Even when their full-backs push forward, the midfield like to offer a blanket of security, to their frontrunners.

Maguire has been integral in maintaining this solid defensive shape, acting as the side’s vocal leadership figure. His experience in the league has benefited his teammates, as he is not afraid to dictate instructions to the midfield or wingers. Such a role may sound like the basics expected from a defender, but this is what United have been lacking since the days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

The stats don’t lie

On paper, United have been successful in implementing a solid foundation at the back. In practice, this message translates through to the field. In fact, no Premier League team this season has kept more clean sheets than the Red Devils, across all competitions.

Domestically, United have only conceded three goals once in the division, whilst also keeping eight clean sheets – one more than last season, despite having played nine less games. Such an improvement has established Solskjaer’s side in being a tough team to beat, as they have become much more resilient in shutting opposition’s out.

No defender in United’s squad has averaged more clearances per game than Maguire, whilst Wan-Bissaka is the only figure to average more interceptions. His positional awareness inside the box has helped shore up the Red Devils defence, with his presence injecting a bit of solidity into the spine of the side.

Moving forward, Maguire will continue to be a key part of United’s backline, and no doubt play his part in any success that the club experiences, over the next few years.

READ MORE: Man United Interested In Bayern Munich Midfielder

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Dealing With The Angel Gomes Predicament

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Even before his first-team debut, Angel Gomes had long been one of the most exciting youth prospects to have come through the Manchester United academy in recent years.

The 19-year-old Englishman has shined throughout all age groups, most notably the u18s – where he netted 12 goals and half a dozen assists – and has been likened to everyone from Paul Scholes to Andres Iniesta. 

However, despite other graduates like Scott McTominay, Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams regularly breaking into the first team, Gomes’ chances have been few and far between.

Impatience growing

Other fringe players like Tahith Chong and James Garner have also managed to surpass his total play-time in just a handful of appearances, and whilst they have shown glimpses of potential, Gomes has still only made a few modest cameos in lesser fixtures. 

READ MORE: Who Is Man United Transfer Target Dennis Zakaria?

After only playing nineteen minutes in the Premier League and just three starts in the Europa League, it is no surprise that he is considering his future. According to reports, Gomes is still yet to sign a new deal, with the current offer of a three-year contract worth up to £30,000 a week still on the table. 

This comes after United’s previous offer of a two-year deal and a salary of £25,000 a week was rejected, during the club’s last spree of extensions. But why has the supposed starlet not seen quite the same treatment as his contemporaries?

Blood runs red 

Gomes maintains that breaking into the first team was a dream come true and that competing for major trophies as a senior player has always been the plan. What’s more, the midfielder has an even deeper connection to United than many, as not only did he join his boyhood club at the age of six, but he is also the godson of former winger, Luis Nani.

So, if United has always played such a huge part in his personal and professional life, why would he be so ready to leave so soon? The easy answer is lack of minutes: the frustration at seeing other academy graduates feature more frequently in the first team is perfectly understandable. 

However, he is still one of the youngest players in the squad and shouldn’t expect too much too soon. Part of the reason other fledgling talents have begun to seal their spot in the tea is not only through injuries, but because they grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself.

It remains unclear as to whether any other factors are playing a part behind the scenes, but with all of his fellow graduates accepting new deals, as well as renewals for other players that remain a key part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plan, like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, it is entirely possible. 

Pastures greener?

With his future in doubt since the summer, Gomes has been courted by a number of clubs, including Barcelona and Inter Milan, with the most serious interest coming from Stamford Bridge.

On the one hand, Frank Lampard’s set up at Chelsea makes a lot of sense: he is still looking to fill the creative void left by Eden Hazard and, similar to Ole’s approach, has been building a young, primarily British squad.

On the other hand, with their transfer ban having now been dropped, this long-term strategy may be swapped out for more ready-made solutions, with the acquisition of Hakim Ziyech already paying credence to this.

The logical route forward, obviously, would be to send him out on loan: not only would a future at United still be on the cards but he would stand a greater chance of regular minutes, should that still not be a concern. His small stature and lack of physicality may have been an issue up to this point, whereas, a loan move offers a chance not only for his game to develop but his body too.

Should he eventually choose to sign and stay in the fold, his emergence may coincide with a changing of the guard, as phasing out other older players like Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic may free up spots in that midfield rotation. 

Regardless, he must be patient and make more of those minor appearances – there seems to be no question about his ability but the fact is, he hasn’t really proved himself when it’s counted just yet. The real question is, will Angel remain a Devil, or will his United career be over before it has truly even started?

READ MORE: Rio Ferdinand on nearly joining Barcelona

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Who Is Man United Transfer Target Denis Zakaria?

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It is no secret that Manchester United are after a new midfielder in the next transfer window.

The club have settled on finding three new players in the upcoming market, with a figure in the middle of the park being shortlisted as a priority (via MEN).

READ MORE: Paul Pogba To Real Madrid Transfer Update

It was reported back in March by Sky Germany (via Daily Mail), that United were the favourites to sign Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Denis Zakaria. Many fans welcomed the news, as he is one of the Bundesliga’s most highly-regarded talents.

Not caught up on the player? We’ve provided some info on his profile below.

Who is Dennis Zakaria?

Denis Zakaria joined Mönchengladbach back in 2017, arriving as a promising midfielder from Young Boys.

The German club has always provided an ideal setup for such prospects to develop in, with notable names like Marco Reus, Granit Xhaka and Thorgan Hazard all kickstarting their careers with the Bundesliga outfit.

READ MORE: James Rodriguez to Manchester United?

Since arriving, the midfielder has always been a key starter for his side, helping Gladbach rise back up the table after two disappointing years. Last season, he featured thirty-one times in the Bundesliga, guiding his side to their best league standing (5th) since 2016.

His emergence at the top level has also seen Zakaria establish himself as a starter for his national side. The midfielder was given his Switzerland debut back in 2016, before nailing down a starting spot. With twenty-four caps to his name, he is trusted to partner Xhaka in Vladimir Petković’s midfield two.

Style of Play

Having been compared to both Patrick Vieira and Paul Pogba, it’s fair to say that Zakaria is quite the all-rounded midfielder, possessing both attacking and defensive traits.

His all-rounded style of play is epitomised through his impressive stats, where he is averaging 2.1 tackles per game in the Bundesliga, but also 2 dribbles. The latter is a particular highlight of the Swiss international’s game, as he likes to get hold of the ball and drive forward, operating as his side’s engine in the middle of the park.

For context, he averages the same number of dribbles per game as Marcus Rashford. In the tackling department too, his defensive output is higher than both Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, whilst also being dribbled past less than the latter.

Zakaria’s strengths in defending has actually seen Marco Rose deploy the 23-year-old as a centre-back at times this season, further epitomising the player’s strong resilience. Overall, he is a prominent figure with dominating tools in his arsenal, with such traits developing at a rapid pace.

A good fit at United?

As per reports, Jack Grealish and James Maddison are United’s top midfield targets, but both these players would be brought in with the aim of providing some creative support to Bruno Fernandes and the team’s attacking frontmen.

Many fans have been calling for the club to recruit a new holding player, with Zakaria fitting this profile to a tee. The 23-year-old is experienced in screening the space in-front of a backline, holding defensive responsibilities for both his Bundesliga side and national team.

He operates in a pivot with Arsenal’s Xhaka for Switzerland, meaning he has to maintain defensive discipline at all times. For Gladbach, he has averaged 1.6 interceptions per game in the league this season, more than any other United midfielder. He is a quick figure and reads the game well, two important attributes for the modern, mobile anchor.

On paper, Zakaria would slot into Ole Gunnar Solskaer’s midfield trio rather comfortably, as the Norwaigen likes to operate with two central players sitting. This means either midfielder is also granted a license to break forward when necessary – a role the Swiss simply flourishes in.

READ MORE: Would a Loan Move Benefit James Garner?

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Man United Need To Sell Alexis Sanchez

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Two years ago today, Alexis Sanchez showed what could have been for him at Manchester United.

The Chilean was instrumental in the club’s second-half turnaround over noisy neighbours Manchester City, assisting Paul Pogba with a fantastic ball over the top for his side’s equaliser. Sanchez ran riot on the right, showcasing his direct ability in driving the team forward with his movement on and off the ball.

Such a performance is, however, one of just a handful of positives that the Chilean has returned to United since his move back in January 2018. Given his disastrous form, the club should not waste any time in giving out third chances to the player.

How has he fared at Inter Milan?

When Sanchez was loaned out to Inter Milan at the start of the season, there was some optimism that he could rekindle some form in Italy. Joining up with the highly-motivated Antonio Conte, he was arriving in an ambitious environment, with the Serie A side having secret hopes of pushing for the league title.

Things for the Chilean though, haven’t gone to plan. He suffered a peroneus tendon injury in October, ruling him out until at least the New Year.

Even when returning to full-fitness, Sanchez has struggled to break into the first-team picture. Conte operates with two wing-backs and no inside forwards, leaving space for two strikers up-top. Given the effective partnership of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez though, this leaves little room for Alexis.

He started in both the club’s Europa League games this year, but the two fixtures were low down in their overall ambitions for the season. Sanchez’s appearances in the league have been nothing short of cameos off the bench, meaning it’s been another campaign to forget for the 31-year-old.

Little room at home

It’s recently been reported that Conte has no interest in signing the Chilean on a permanent basis, meaning the forward will re-join United this summer.

Sanchez will be returning to a completely different set-up though, with Solskjaer using his first full season in charge to re-build and establish a much younger, brighter look to the Red Devils’ side. He has opted to build his attacking shape around energetic talents like Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Mason Greenwood.

On paper, Sanchez’s profile does not exactly coincide with the manager’s vision. Solskjaer is identifying targets this summer to inject more competition into his squad, but the Chilean simply looks like a potential disruption.

United are committed to their manager’s cause and this year, have seen the benefits in staying loyal to a system that has been worked on for the past twelve months now. We have seen Sanchez try and be shoehorned into the team in the past, having struggled to nail down a position on either flank, or even through the middle.

As per the MEN, the club are more open to selling the 31-year-old, and this looks to be the most sensible decision for a team that is trying to eradicate any lingering negativity around Old Trafford.

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Would a Loan Move Benefit James Garner?

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The current crop of Manchester United youth that are breaking through into the first-team picture are some of the most promising talents that the club have seen in years.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils are turning to their academy prospects to help beef out the squad and create a core of young, hungry players to build around.

One player that continuously receives praise is James Garner, with the midfielder looking destined to have a bright future at Old Trafford.

No space at present?

Despite impressing during the club’s pre-season tour last summer, Garner has only featured in eight minutes of United’s 19/20 Premier League campaign. He has been awarded three starts in the Europa League, but it’s clear that Solskjaer is opting to pragmatically ease the midfielder into the first-team squad.

His cameos have come as a deep-laying playmaker, sitting back with the duties of recycling the ball, predominately against ‘lesser’ quality opponents. The 19-year-old looks assured on the ball, but this role on the field is not easy for any upcoming talent to suddenly break into.

Nemanja Matic has recently come back into form, whilst Fred and Scott McTominay are two of the most trusted members of the manager’s squad. United’s options in the middle of the park are not too short of options, with there being enough depth to warrant not prematurely throwing Garner into the starting XI.

With Bruno Fernandes nailing down a starting spot and the likes of Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata also lingering around the picture, there doesn’t seem to be a clear opening for Garner to capitalise on, just yet.

Brandon Williams has managed to nail down a permanent spot in next season’s plans, but he finds himself in a position with very little competition. It won’t be as straightforward for Garner, due to such options around the middle of the park, so a loan move could benefit his career.

Ready for a loan experience

For those who frequently keep up to date with the Manchester United U23’s, you won’t need to be reminded of the Englishman’s progression this season. Simply put, Garner looks a level above his competitors on the field.

With eight goals in ten games, the 19-year-old has started to showcase his abilities as a box to box midfielder, bursting forward and being the driving force behind his side’s attacking plan. Alongside these traits, he continues to distribute from deep, spraying the ball down the flanks to the likes of Aliou Traoré and Tahith Chong.

If United aren’t able to offer substantial minutes in their own first-team, opting to loan the teenager out seems the most practical decision, as opposed to another year in the Professional Development League.

Whether this be abroad or domestically, Garner has the potential to flourish in another organised set-up. Exposing him to a higher level would be the next step in his journey, as it’s one that he looks destined to grab with both hands.

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Paying Credit To Wan Bissaka’s Attacking Ability

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Whilst social media has its benefits, it also has its flaws too.

Most specifically, when it comes to debating football topics, there are many accounts that like to publish outlandish opinions, purely to spike a reaction from their rivals.

From such prominent tweets though, certain ‘myths’ tend to be formed. One of which, is the fact that Aaron Wan-Bissaka cannot attack.

Defensive superiority

Before delving into the exaggerated statement, let’s not get it twisted – Wan-Bissaka’s strengths no doubt lie in his defensive attributes.

The Englishman showcased his superior 1v1 ability whilst at Crystal Palace, with this being an integral factor as to why Manchester United invested £50m into the right-back. This season, Wan-Bissaka has showcased his talent on the big stage, with only one player completing more tackles than him in the Premier League this season.

We are yet to see a winger continuously get the better of the full-back, as his combination of pace and timing makes him an almost impossible figure to get past. His positional awareness for such a young defender is also impressive, as he already looks so experienced in holding the line, but also knowing when to push up.

Alongside Harry Maguire down United’s right defensive channel, Wan-Bissaka’s presence has helped solidify a foundation at the back for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to build on. The 22-year-old is unfazed by any opposition, and looks set to occupy that right-back spot for years to come.

Lone figure on the flank

As mentioned, Wan-Bissaka’s positional awareness is so mature for somebody with just over two seasons experience in the top division, with this factor becoming more impressive when we identify that he holds that right-flank down by himself.

In United’s current squad, the case can be made that the club possess just one right-winger, Daniel James. The Welshman started off as a direct threat as a RW, but has since adapted into more of an inside forward, maintaining a high position for the counter up-top.

Wan Bissaka has very little defensive support, meaning he has to pick and choose his moments when to burst forward. Whilst a lot of praise gets placed on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s assist record (and rightly so), it must be identified that he operates in a very aggressive Liverpool side, with Jurgen Klopp instructing his full-backs to press high up the field.

When Arnold picks up the ball, he already finds himself in advanced positions, purely because his side set-up with a more attacking mindset. It may surprise fans to hear that Wan-Bissaka actually averages more dribbles per game than his fellow Englishman in the league, but this is because he has the duty of picking the ball up in deeper areas, before driving forward.

Liverpool’s full-back has the liberty of receiving possession in more of a right-wing spot, before whipping the ball in. Arnold has crossed the ball 69 more times than any other player in the league (313 in total), and 238 more times than Wan-Bissaka this season. The Red’s right-back operates more like a wing-back, with Mohammed Salah tucking inside to draw away their opponent’s defender.

Development on track

Such isolation obviously limit Wan-Bissaka’s attacking influence on games, but he has still manage to develop his output in such a regard. He looks much more comfortable with the ball at his feet, finding confidence in looking to beat his man round the outside, before crossing the ball into the box.

The Englishman also maintains possession for the Red Devils, with only three members of the squad completing more passes than him in the Premier League this season. Without a natural right-winger in-front of him, Wan-Bissaka has to shift the ball into the middle, where United’s inside forwards like to drift inside too.

His statistic of 1,234 passes completed in the league put him above the likes of Fabinho, Mark Noble and Jack Grealish, midfielders that are known for recycling the ball well. This isn’t an attacking stat that will light up the back headlines by any means, but its another factor that highlights his importance to United’s team.

Out on the right-flank, Wan-Bissaka’s presence is certainly felt, with his manager trusting the 22-year-old with such a responsibility. If he carries on developing on working on his offensive plan, he will no doubt grow to become one of the best right-backs in Europe.

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Are Man United Preparing For Life Without Paul Pogba?

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Another day, another Paul Pogba transfer rumour.

Manchester United fans have no doubt become drained when it comes to stories around the Frenchman’s future, as we are continuously bombarded with speculation around his exit.

L’Equipe have today reported that the 27-year-old is ‘determined’ to leave the club, coinciding with strong reports linking Pogba with a summer move to Real Madrid.

Such news is expected, but the stories do seem to hold a bit of solid traction this season. Given such speculation, are United now preparing for life without Pogba?

As per the Evening Standard, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided that he wanted to sign a new central midfielder back in September. Jack Grealish and James Maddison (via MEN) have emerged as the club’s top midfield targets, but following the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, the latter does seem a little unlikely.

Maddison is more of a number.10, maintaining an attacking position inside the pockets in the final third, an almost identical role to United’s new star-player. This would suggest that Grealish will be prioritised over the Leicester playmaker, but can he really fit into the same starting XI as Pogba?

Both midfielders share very similarities on the field, starting with their positioning. When fit, Pogba is the Red Devil’s starting LCM, compromising quite a rigid looking midfield three. Grealish also takes up this role for Aston Villa, but with a bit more security covering him-behind.

The two players like to operate down the left channel, starting attacks from deep. Both midfielders are recognised in their abilities in carrying the ball forward, breaking the lines and initiating their team’s attacking plan.

Should Grealish be signed this summer, he will be arriving with one year’s experience in being deployed in such a position, a role he is flourished in, during this season’s Premier League. His development has been noticed by fans and pundits down the years, maturing with his discipline and taking the responsibly of his side onto his shoulders.

At just 24-years-of-age, the Englishman looks to possesses all the right tools to flourish into an even more dominating figure in the middle of the park. He has managed to shine out in a side that looks destined to go down, with his team struggling to maintain possession in the majority of their games.

Would United spend big on such a player to keep him on the bench? If Pogba were to stay, it would make more financial sense to invest in a new holding midfielder, not a player that operates in such a similar way to the Frenchman.

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Fred’s Development Worthy Of Celebration

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In season one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s three-year plan at Manchester United, not many expectations were laid out by fans last summer. Instead, this campaign was all about laying down solid foundations and stabilising the ship, that had been uneasily rocking since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

On paper, the Norwegian has implanted a much more organised and focused direction for the club, establishing a group of players that look much more settled in their surroundings.

One player who epitomises this more than most, is Fred.

Tough beginnings

The Brazilian joined United last summer, arriving with an exciting reputation in being one of Europe’s most promising, mobile, deep laying playmakers. Shown through his cameos in the Champions League, Fred looked to be a very technically gifted midfielder, comfortable with the ball at his feet and able to break the lines to get his side onto the front-foot.

His arrival was met by great optimism from the Old Trafford faithful, who were keen to see a bit of energy and creativity, injected into their midfield. His debut season, however, was far from settling. Under Jose Mourinho, the Brazilian was thrown in and out of the first-team picture, struggling to adapt and transition to the Premier League, where oppositions are relentless with their pressing.

Whether he was deployed as the sitting figure or on the right of a midfield trio, Fred often looked frantic on the ball, failing to showcase his creativity in releasing United’s attacking frontrunners. His situation was not helped by Mourinho’s continuous changing of the midfield either, often swapping in Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the manager struggling to find his perfect balance.

It was clear that the Portuguese coach didn’t trust Fred to be the anchor, but he was also failing to make an impact in a midfield three. As mentioned above, he was often deployed in the right-hand channel, a position that grants freedom to a midfielder, but also one that holds attacking responsibilities. The Brazilian offered little threat in such a position, resulting in him featuring in just seventeen league games last season.

Finding his role

Under Solkajer’s regime though, life has been much more settling for Fred. The Brazilian has asserted his name into the starting eleven, with the side now tending to operate with two holding midfielders. Such a system has helped improve their defensive record massively this season, with no other Premier League side keeping more clean sheets than the Red Devils, across all competitions.

Predominately partnering Nemanja Matic, United like to maintain quite a rigid shape in-front of their back-four, with the offensive duties being placed on the inside forwards that maintain a high position up-top. Rather than trying to recycle possession, Fred’s distributional abilities lie in releasing such attackers down the flanks or in-behind. When on the ball, United’s midfield are expected to shift it into the final third.

The Brazilian has had time to adapt to the required pace in the division, rarely giving the ball away. In fact, only Harry Maguire has completed more passes than Fred in the United squad, in the Premier League this season.

Where the midfielder has predominately flourished though, is with his impact off the ball. His constant pressing has gone down well with United fans, winning the ball back through either tackling or intercepting opponent’s attacks. Only Aaron Wan-Bissaka has made more tackles for United in the PL this season than Fred, with the Brazilian becoming quite the tenacious figure in the middle.

With Matic sitting also, and Bruno Fernandes occupying space in the final third, Fred is able to roam across the middle, imposing his presence on the opposition. In possession, he has developed comfortably in being able to feed attackers, releasing their runs on the counter.

Moving forward

Remarkably, Fred has featured in United’s last twenty-five league games – a stat that highlights just how effective he has been for Solskjaer’s side this season.

He has grown to become one of the first names on the team-sheet, but he may need to develop his game even further for next season. Speculation linking Jack Grealish to United only continues to grow, with Solskjaer wanting to bolster his midfield options.

Should the Englishman arrive, this could push Fred to be the team’s sitting midfielder, anchoring Bruno Fernandes and potentially Grealish. It’s a setup that could be used against teams where United are expected to dominate possession, thus downplaying the need for two CDM’s.

It’s no doubt a position that he is much more equipped for now, as opposed to his debut season, and it’s something Solskjaer and his coaching staff could well be preparing for. It would require more positional discipline from himself, but he is showing all the right signs that he is capable of moulding into such a role.