Why Manchester United could have a nightmare start to the Premier League in 2020/21

There has been a clear pattern with Manchester United since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the club in December 2018, the Red Devils are either brilliant or poor. There’s been no in between and maybe that has cost the club a trophy or an extra league position.

The Norwegian manager and United great currently has a 54% win rate with the club, which is very decent. Jose Mourinho who Solskjaer replaced had a 58% win rate. So there is certainly room for improvement. However the way United finished last season left everyone slack jawed. It was a fantastic run that saw the club not only qualify for the Champions League but leap frog Chelsea and finish 3rd.

However new season and perhaps a new United. The club at home in their first game lost against Crystal Palace 3-1. The score felt like a big loss for the club, this was a game that was supposed to be made simple, they have the players and yet all that goal scoring talent in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could not pull them back into the game. True they did have 17 attempts on goal but only 4 shots on target at home is not good enough. Palace finished with more shots on target and the first surprise result of the season had been sealed.

United fans will be hoping that it is a one off and that the club will win their next few games and be able to move on. But that isn’t how Solskjaer teams have worked up until now. A blip quickly turns into a few games. Now when we look at the clubs upcoming fixture list it isn’t going to be an easy ride for them.

This weekend United will play Brighton who, like last season have started brightly. Even when they lost against Chelsea many observers said that they were the better team. Graham Potter’s side made amends with the defeat against the Blues by beating Newcastle away from home 3-0. That was a statement win and the club will be up for producing another upset.

After that game United will face the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. Many tricky ties in there plus the beginning of the Champions League will kick off in October adding further games and travel for the club.

Could it be that United will start the campaign off poorly and lose touch to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City so early on that they will have no touching distance and chance of a league challenge?

Of course it is still early days but their fixtures do not look to have piled up well for the club. History says they will come good, but only after they have gone through the ‘Ole’ struggle once again.

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Man Utd 1-3 Crystal Palace: The Red Devils begin the new season with a defeat at home to the Eagles

Manchester United begin their 2020-21 Premier League season with a defeat at home to Crystal Palace, who were a unit defensively, composed in defending within their own half and were impressive on the counter against a very poor backline.

Given the lack of rest that the Red Devils have had from the previous campaign, as they reached the Europa League semi-finals before being eliminated by Sevilla, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men have not had the necessary rest and ideal pre-season football in order to return to normal fitness levels.

Looking into the game as a whole, the hosts were in full control when it came to dominating possession of the ball, achieving 75% possession, creating two big chances during the match and completing 230 passes in the attacking third. On the other hand, the hosts managed only 43 successful passes in the final third, and still went onto scoring three goals throughout the game.

The Eagles took the lead in the 7th minute of the game, through Andros Townsend, who had beaten Luke Shaw at the far post to meet onto Jeffrey Schlupp’s low cross, and put it past David De Gea and into the back of the net. In all honesty, there was not much action following Townsend’s goal, as United were sloppy and slow on the ball whilst Palace were quite comfortable within a low-block.

Crystal Palace were giving a huge opportunity to double their lead just half way through the second half, as Martin Atkinson pointed to the penalty spot after reviewing the footage of Victor Lindelof handling the ball in the box. Wilfried Zaha stepped up and calmly slotted the ball from the spot.

United were able to get a goal back through Donny Van de Beek, who able to convert his attempt on goal after coming on from the bench for Paul Pogba. However, it was too late to attempt a potential comeback, as Zaha was able to outdo Lindelof and place his shot into the corner away from De Gea. Following the 3-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, Manchester United are currently in 15th place whilst Roy Hodgson’s men sit comfortably in 5th place, winning their first two games of the season.

Here are the three things we learnt from United’s first league fixture of the campaign…

Victor Lindelof continually proves to be a defensive liability

For sure, he wasn’t the only individual that was struggling and was absolutely poor from start to end, but it was the defensive mistakes produced by Victor Lindelof that had resulted in Crystal Palace walking away from Old Trafford with the three points. The Swedish international has shown time and time again, that he is unable to deal with one on one situations with a forward or a winger, as the latter are able to dribble, power and stride past the centre-back without any serious issues.

Lindelof has had this rising problem since he had moved to the Premier League a few years ago, and it’s a concerning weakness that has allowed the opposition to specifically target him on the counter-attack. Given the current situation that is presented to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was to drop Lindelof to the bench anytime soon and replace him with Eric Bailly, who is more dominant and complete, but is battling his own issues in terms of injuries and full fitness.

Nemanja Matic’s absence was costly for the team on and off the ball

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fielded a three-man midfield of Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, which was lacking the much-needed balance in front of the defence and the ability to win the ball high up the pitch. Without Nemanja Matic, who had returned to training only on Monday and was not prepared to play on Saturday at Old Trafford, the side had great difficulties at protecting the inconsistent backline, being fluid on the ball and remaining calm under pressure.

The 32-year-old may no longer be at his best or have the legs to cover enough area of the pitch, however, his invaluable experience and the balance and composure he brings to the midfield is second to none. Unfortunately, for the manager and the club, they do not have a similar player to Matic, which does mean that they will have to rely heavily on him once again this season.

The lack of business for Manchester United is starting to slowly hurt them

Manchester United have only made one signing so far this window, in Donny Van de Beek, which is not good enough when you are trying to finish in the top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Not only that, but the board have failed to deliver a left-back and a much needed right-winger, two areas that needed addressing urgently and have not been done so in recent years, resulting in the side’s lack of development and progress as a whole.

The likes of Everton, Spurs and Wolves have been very proactive in the window, and it would not be a total surprise to see either of these three teams finish above the Red Devils in the Premier League. Unless Ed Woodward, the Glazers and the other key individuals within the board make some drastic signings in the final weeks of the transfer window, it will be very difficult for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United to finish in the top four again, looking at the serious competition around them.

Manchester United 2020-21 season preview

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going into his second full season as the manager of Manchester United, the pressure will be on him to deliver another top four finish whilst aiming for success in the domestic cup competitions. Given that rivals Liverpool and Manchester City are levels ahead of the rest of the teams in the Premier League, it is impossible for the Red Devils to mount a title challenge with the current squad, unless they decide to go all out in the remainder of the summer window.

The previous campaign resulted in the side finishing in third place as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-final, Carabao Cup semi-final and the Europa League semi-final. However, looking at the present and current circumstance, it is highly unlikely for Manchester United to surpass the progress they have made last season, as they have only signed one player so far this summer window whilst the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Wolves have been quite proactive and positive off the pitch.

It is now time to look at what the 2020-21 season has in store for Manchester United…

The new addition – linked players

Unlike the previous summer transfer window, the signings completed by both Manchester United and Solskjaer have not been appealing at all, which has resulted in a lot of discontent and frustration between the United fanbase. The team are in need of two to three players to upgrade the starting line-up as well another two players for the bench, in order for them to compete for the league title.

The Red Devils have so far brought the one signing in Donny Van de Beek, who has come from Eredivisie side Ajax, for a fee of around £35million to £40million. With a couple of weeks remaining until the transfer window comes to an end, Solskjaer will be hoping that the United board, especially Ed Woodward, are more than capable of delivering two more players for him.

The two players are looking likely to be Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon, who have actually been linked with a move to Old Trafford throughout the summer. Thiago Alcantara has been linked with the club too, but it does not seem like the club will buy two midfielders in one window.

Focusing further on Van de Beek, he is the ideal backup player to have for both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, as Solskjaer will need to rotate and keep the squad fit in between the league fixtures, the Champions League matches as well as the domestic cup competitions. On the other hand, the Dutch midfielder may be expected to be a regular starter, with the reports rising around the club that Solskjaer will be looking into ways of playing a midfield three of Bruno, Pogba and Van de Beek.

Key player

By now, it should be no secret that Manchester United’s key player happens to be Bruno Fernandes. Since the Portuguese international moved to Old Trafford in January, he has single-handedly transformed the side’s mentality and style of play, which has helped all parties in many ways.

In 14 Premier League appearances, the 26-year-old playmaker went on to produce eight goals and seven assists, resulting in the side to make a monumental comeback into the top four position and finish in 3rd place. Without Bruno Fernandes and his much needed contributions, it can comfortably be said that the team would have finished outside of the top four, around fifth place and seventh place.

Who should be sold?

At this moment of time, the ideal individuals that should be sold are the likes of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, three centre-backs that are not in the long-term plans of the club and the manager. Not only that, but they would be seen as players that are far down the pecking order, with the main defenders actually being Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe.

Manchester United’s strongest XI

With the current squad members, here is Manchester United’s strongest XI for the new season –

David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial.

Premier League prediction

When looking at how strong Liverpool and Manchester City currently are, as well as how Chelsea have incredibly backed Frank Lampard so far this summer window, the best that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United can aim for is a top-four finish. Although, the critics expect the Red Devils to be aiming for trophies every season, which they should be doing so, performing consistently and at a higher level in the Premier League is more crucial, as the side have not finished in the top four in back-to-back seasons since the last two campaigns under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Premier League – 4th place

Champions League prediction

United’s current squad would suit them better in the Champions League rather than in the Premier League, where they can overcome the opposition over one game or two legs instead of the 19 English teams they will have to face home and away. With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Greenwood Martial, Rashford and Pogba available for Solskjaer, it should not be a problem for both the club and manager to succeed the group stages and reach the Quarter-finals of the European competition.

Champions League – Quarter final

9 players could be shown the door at Man Utd this summer

Manchester United completed their first signing of the summer yesterday with the acquisition of Donny van de Beek in a £35 million deal from Ajax.

The Dutch international will give Ole Gunnar Solskaer more depth in midfield with the 23-year-old having been excellent during his time with the Dutch giants, both domestically and in the Champions League.

United have signed a number of players over the past couple of seasons and now the manager has the task of reducing his squad size before the end of the current transfer window, on 5 October.

Reports today suggest that as many as nine players could be shown the door at Old Trafford over the coming month. In order of what I believe is most probable to least, they are as follows:

Sergio Romero

Dean Henderson’s return from Sheffield United and Lee Grant having another year on his contract points to the departure of Sergio Romero. The 2010 World Cup finalist should be able to find a starting role elsewhere.

Marcos Rojo

The defender was barely given a chance under Solskjaer, making a total of 17 Premier League appearances over the past three seasons. He had moved on loan to Estudiantes for the second half of last season prior to the disruption. I’d expect Marcos Rojo to find a new club without playing for the Red Devils ever again.

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4-3-3: How Man Utd could line up with van de Beek

Manchester United have this evening completed the signing of Donny van de Beek in a £35 million deal from Ajax.

The highly-rated midfielder played a key role in the Dutch giants’ surprise semi-final run in the 2018-19 Champions League, which included scoring an important goal in the victory at Juventus.

This deal appears to be a massive coup for the Red Devils, who have tied the Dutch international down to a five-year deal at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer employs a 4-3-3 system most of the time, which makes it particularly interesting to see where van de Beek will fit into the team. He’s not a holding midfielder and Bruno Fernandes is arguably the first name on the team sheet.

Does this mean Paul Pogba is set to depart Manchester United this summer? It will most likely be to help the Norwegian manager rotate this side.

it was noticeable after the restart that Solskjaer lacked confidence in many of the squad players as there was very little rotation, particularly as they were playing two games a week as a result of their run to the FA Cup semi-finals.

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Can Harry Maguire keep his captaincy after arrest in Greece?

It’s been a terrible week for Manchester United and England player Harry Maguire who was arrested and then charged in Greece whilst on holiday, the question is now what will happen to him professionally?

Details are still sketchy about what actually happened when Maguire was on holiday but it seems that he was drinking and got into a scuffle or at least a shouting match with some members of the public. Soon after the police got involved and Maguire may have had a confrontation with them. After being taking to a cell reports suggest that Maguire told the police he was a very rich man and could pay them. That is of course bribery and seems to have back fired on Maguire.

This is a mess no doubt and just looks bad anyway you look at it. An Englishman abroad… but at the same time if Maguire was taunted in the first place this is not good. Can’t a famous known figure enjoy themselves without being verbally abused? Some would say that Maguire visited a tourist hot spot and should have known better though, that the life he leads means he will be a target. Well Maguire has found out the hard way.

There was a feeling that Maguire would be found not guilty but that hasn’t happened and the report has come back pressing charges on the footballer. This means in theory he could face jail time, although by Greek law that probably won’t happen and instead he will be fined- money he tried to part with a few days ago.

But Maguire’s professionalism will surely need to be questioned after this incident. Some of the accusations against the player are not befitting of someone who also leads his team. For England manager Gareth Southgate named Maguire as his starting captain for England’s next international games a day before the guilty verdict and it will be interesting to see if Southgate keeps that decision.

It has been reported that United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer is having talks with Maguire about his captaincy and he could be stripped of it even if Solskjaer supports his player he may need to act on the guilty verdict.

If anything this has been a learning curve for Maguire and his next holiday will surely be more private. Overall Maguire has had a decent season with the club and he should be able to recover from this controversy- he will at least have a chapter for his future book wrapped up.

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Is David De Gea’s time now up at Manchester United as the club’s number one goalkeeper?

He has been Manchester United’s number one goalkeeper for a number of years and is seen as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, but David De Gea is no longer at his best and is regarded as a player who still has that one big error in him. For sure, he has saved the team on a regular basis during the side’s horrible decline, though, he is simply not doing enough at this moment of time.

Over the last two seasons, the Spaniard has conceded seven huge mistakes that has led directly to a goal in the league, which is the same amount as Bernd Leno, and one less than both Jordan Pickford and Martin Dubravka have conceded, who are nowhere near the level or quality of the 29-year-old.

De Gea’s unfortunate downfall had began at around the 2018 World Cup, where his individual mistakes and lack of leadership in his own penalty box had cost him severely and most importantly for his country, as they were kicked out of competition in the Round of 16 by Russia. Including all the penalties he faced, he only managed to save one of the 11 shots he faced on target. Not only that, Kepa Arrizabalaga is now preferred over him by the national coach Luis Enrique, as the former’s passing ability is superior and more suitable to Spain’s style of play when compared to the latter.

Focusing back to De Gea and his situation at Old Trafford, there are a lot of mixed feelings and opinions on the 29-year-old between the Manchester United supporters, as some will believe he is the most overprotected player at the club whilst others will feel he still one of the best shot-stoppers in Europe but is being constantly let down by the inconsistent defenders in front of him.

The former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper was once upon a time, seen as an influential individual that can help the team by saving the Red Devils 10 to 12 points a season. However, when you look back at the nine seasons David De Gea has had at Old Trafford, you could argue that he has had three to four top notch campaigns in goal, while the rest of the time, he has been poor and unconvincing.

Now, he is facing a lot of high pressure and he is not the type of football player to overcome big expectations, as both Dean Henderson and Sergio Romero are waiting patiently to try and become United’s number one goalkeeper. Solskjaer has been calm regarding to the goalkeeping situation and is expected to give the Spaniard his final chance, who will have to up his game to make it count.

Dean Henderson had spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Sheffield United, where he proved to be an important and consistent player for the Blades, who went on to finishing in 9th place under Chris Wilder. The Old Trafford faithful and their opinions on the 23-year-old is straight down the middle, as half of them feel he is in need of more Premier League experience before he become a regular starter at Manchester United, whilst the other half believe that he is ready to takeover from De Gea.

Overall, the goalkeeping dilemma is a win-win situation for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as they will either experience one of the following; a short term revival from David De Gea or Dean Henderson stepping up to the big occasion and becoming the club’s number one goalkeeper for the next five to ten years. In the end, the club will not be required to spend any time in the transfer market for a goalkeeper, and can focus on the other areas, such as the defence or midfield.

Manchester United: Three key departments that need to be addressed this summer window

After recently being eliminated from the Europa League Semi-finals due to a defeat against La Liga side, Sevilla, Manchester United’s 2019-20 season comes to an end, where they finished 3rd in the Premier League. And in terms of the other competitions, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have reached the Semi-finals of the Europa League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, but have failed to show the required quality and crucial mentality to go onto reaching the final and end the season with some silverware.

When looking at the quality of the squad, it can quite comfortably be said that the Red Devils are in need of four to five players before they can think about challenging with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title. Of course, the money may not be there for the club to aggressively spend because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, where all football clubs have suffered with financial losses, but it should not be seen as an excuse to have a limited budget.

However, with the amount of money that Manchester United earn through TV rights and for achieving Champions League football along with the millions and millions of pounds that the owners have in their pockets, there should be no issues or problems in spending at least £150million this summer. If they go on to do so, the team will be able to at least aim to finish in the top four in back-to-back seasons, something that has actually not been completed since the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

With no further ado, here are the three important areas that United need to address this summer..

Left-back

Since Luke Shaw has been on the sidelines with an ankle injury since the 1-1 stalemate at home to Southampton, the manager has had to settle with the likes of Brandon Williams and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who have not been able to show their potential or capability in the remaining games of the Premier League and Europa League. Some would argue that had Shaw been available for such fixtures, United would have possibly made it to the finals of the FA Cup as well as the Europa League.

Shaw has had his injury issues from time to time, but his absence has limited the side’s attack and productivity from the left-flank, as Marcus Rashford’s performances instantly dropped without his fellow countrymen in the team. On that note, it would make sense if Solskjaer was to send out Brandon Williams on loan whilst bringing in an experience left-back, who could provide competition or prove to be a reliable backup to Luke Shaw.

Left-back suggestions; Alex Telles, Alex Grimaldo, Lucas Digne.

Centre-midfield

Despite Nemanja Matic experiencing a small revival in the second half of the Premier League 19/20 season, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United are still in need of an aggressive and consistent central midfielder. With Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba taking two of three spots in midfield, the side are in need of a number six or eight who can offer the much needed balance in the middle of the park, which had shown to be a rising issue in the final weeks of the league campaign.

Given that United will be taking part in the Premier League, Champions League and the domestic cup competitions, it is more than vital for the team to have enough quality and depth within the midfield department, something they have not had in a really long time. However, with only Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay available to take the third place in a three-man midfield, it is not enough to finish in the top four, let alone challenge for the Premier League or Champions League.

Centre-midfield suggestions; Boubakary Soumare, Marcelo Brozovic, Thomas Partey.

Right-wing

The final and most important area in the front three is all that remains now, the spot out on the right wing, which has been taken well in recent months by Mason Greenwood. However, the 18-year-old’s main position is as a number nine and it is too much to ask from him to be a creator and a direct winger, especially when United’s attack is predictable and one dimensional at the moment. Not only that, but with Luke Shaw on the sidelines, the side’s current fullbacks are Brandon Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who do not offer enough creativity and technicality in the attacking phase.

So, bringing in a right-winger is absolutely crucial for United, as both Marcus Rashford and Greenwood are regarded as two wide forwards rather than actual and natural wingers, which leads to the side’s key chances being created through the middle by Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. If the Red Devils were to bring in an individual such as Jadon Sancho or Ousmane Dembele, Solskajer would be in possession of a front three that are capable of literally creating and scoring at any time.

Right-wing suggestions; Jadon Sancho, Ousmane Dembele, Ismaila Sarr.

Who will be Man Utd’s number 1 next season?

David de Gea has just completed his ninth consecutive season as Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper.

The Spaniard has won the club’s Player of the Year award on four separate occasions, the Premier League Golden Glove award for most clean sheets for the 2017-18 season, and been named in the PFA Team of the Year five times.

However, his performances have dropped off incredibly over the past two seasons that many fans were calling for his head before the end of this recently finished campaign.

The 29-year-old has made numerous errors leading to opposition goals during the past two seasons and will face stiff competition next month to earn his right as Manchester United’s number one for their season opener.

That is because Dean Henderson has confirmed he will not be extending his stay at Sheffield United beyond this season.

The Englishman has been on loan at Bramall Lane for the past two seasons, helping the Blades gain a surprise promotion to the Premier League in 2018-19 and then playing a key role in their surprise top half finish.

Henderson confirmed his departure from Sheffield United on Twitter earlier today:

https://twitter.com/deanhenderson/status/1296115779742642178

It is up to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to decide whether to stick with David de Gea or give Dean Henderson a chance when the new top flight campaign starts on 12 September.

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Juve may struggle to offload Douglas Costa

Towards the end of July, Juventus’ Brazilian winger Douglas Costa went viral. It wasn’t however for any of the reasons one would associate with Costa: no lightening quick ‘elastico’ that beguiled an opponent, no mazy dribble that simultaneously beat several opposition defenders, nor was it for the occasional wonder goal that he’s capable of.

No, the 29-year-old’s choreographed TikTok videos with his girlfriend, Nathalia Felix, are what spread around the digital globe. Whilst the videos are indeed slightly entertaining, and even one in which Costa appears to ‘swallow’ his partner, highly creative, it’s a damning indictment of the direction Costa’s career is heading in.

Whilst not necessarily deemed a flop at Juve, the Brazilian has been blighted by injuries: 10 different injuries in his three seasons has seen Costa miss an accumulated 47 games. The perception of the winger in Italy is that he simply hasn’t been on the pitch with enough consistency to be judged a success or failure.

Bought alongside Federico Bernardeschi in the summer of 2017 to give then-coach Max Allegri further weapons in attack following the catastrophic defeat to Real Madrid in the final of the previous seasons’ Champions League. Costa had been earmarked as someone who could supply Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala with the service they craved, a player who could dribble past opponents in remarkably tight spaces at dizzying speed. A player of Costa’s skillset was a feature their squad lacked.

A somewhat productive first season ended in four goals and 12 assists from only 18 starts in Serie A as Juve won another domestic double under Allegri. The turning point in his time with the club came against Sassuolo early in the next season, when Costa – who had only been on the pitch for 25 minutes – was sent off for spitting at Federico Di Francesco after a coming together between the pair. Costa was handed a four-game suspension by the league, and it’s arguable his career at Juve has never really recovered.

As Maurizio Sarri replaced Allegri last summer, Costa was viewed as an integral part of Sarri’s 4-3-3 system, and started in the opening three games. Yet Costa’s kryptonite – muscular injuries – struck again. He pulled up only eight minutes into the third game against Fiorentina in Florence, and didn’t start another league game until the return fixture – in February.

The current iteration of Costa has been reduced to little more than an impact sub; someone who can terrorise fatigued defenders late in games with a moment of magic. A prime example of this was his solo effort against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League last November, when he danced through several weary Russian limbs before slotting the ball under goalkeeper Guilherme to snatch an unwarranted victory for Juve.

With Juve needing to embark on a major squad overhaul following their meek exit in the Champions League to Lyon, Costa’s name has been perpetually mentioned as one of the high-earners the club want to shift on. Juve’s management acknowledge that whilst there is a serious talent in Costa, his susceptibility to injury means they can’t count on him for large portions of a season.

In recent days he’s been linked to Manchester United as a potential substitute in case the Jadon Sancho move collapses, however the English side are rightly sceptical given his fitness issues. As he approaches his 30th birthday, Costa will be a risky investment for any potential suitor.

Furthermore, his €6m-a-season deal with Juve has another two years left to run, and the club will be desperate to offload the winger, who may let him go for less than their reported asking fee of €30m if they struggle to also shift fellow big-earners such as Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey and Higuain.

A move away would benefit all parties, but whether there is a club with any genuine interest in him remains to be seen.

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