Have Manchester United made a huge mistake giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager’s job?

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Let’s admit it we all believed that Manchester United made the right decision in sacking Jose Mourinho in December and bringing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After coming into the team the Norwegian with a smile wider than Manchester embraced the ethos of the club and they went on a 10 game unbeaten run which included knocking PSG out of the Champions League, the good times had returned to Old Trafford, or so we thought.

Since signing a 3 year permanent contract Manchester United’s form has dipped so bad, that it is worse than Mourinho’s first three months of the season and would place the club in 19th place in the league. A 4-0 loss at Everton was supposed to be the worst pick of the bunch. But how about drawing at bottom club Huddersfield or better still losing at home to Cardiff by 2-0 who had already been relegated themselves. It was Cardiff who were the first team to be beaten by Solskjaer’s United side winning 5-1 away from home just before Christmas, how things had changed.

One has to wonder if United have not performed a classic knee jerk reaction. Should they have waited until the end of the season to make a judgement whether Solskjaer was the right man for the job?

Mourinho no matter how talented as a coach he is had to go, he was never the perfect fit for the club that much was evident. And yet he left with the memory of winning the Europa League, the Carabao Cup and placing United in their highest position of 2nd since Sir Alex Ferguson left. Indeed since Mourinho was sacked United have taken backwards steps and will not be playing in the Champions League next season which has got to hurt.

Many would put the blame at the players, and it is clear that half of the first team squad could be sold on in the summer. Quality players who are simply not performing well for the club week in week out. Once the new manager syndrome eroded and the club dropped their first points under him, the confidence was taken from them like a sweet shop owner who forgot to lock the doors adjacent to a school.

What United have done in the cold light of day is replace a world class manager with a proven track record and trophies with a manager who wins trophies with Molde in the Norwegian league. Had Ole never played for United then he would never have been considered and this seems like the most fatal mistake for Ed Woodward and his United staff.

This isn’t to say that the future looks bleak. After all with a clear out of players that could do the club good, but the problem is that they will want to attract the calibre of players that are at Champions League level, a competition they are not in. Next season sadly looks like being a long and testing one for the club and it will be fascinating to see if Solskjaer can prove his doubters wrong and bring the results in.

Fred is starting to adapt well at Man Utd, and will only get better

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Manchester United’s lack of midfield depth and quality is quite concerning compared to the top teams in the Premier League, especially when you’re a meant to be either challenging for the league title or finishing in the top four, despite the situation they have found themselves in at the moment.

However, central midfielder Fred, who they spent over £50million on to bring to Old Trafford last summer window from Shakhtar Donetsk, has started to show bright moments here and there as he has began to gain a good understanding with the likes of Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof.

Over the last couple of months, he has shown his range of passing to shift the ball out at a quick pace to making the interceptions and tackle in the middle of the pitch when required. On top of that, he has shown some good awareness of when to drop deep to build-up the play from the back to progressing possession into the final third, something that is not done often by the midfielders.

For sure, many of the Premier League experts and pundits will see the Brazilian international as one of the flops of the season, purely because he couldn’t get into the team on a regular basis and when he did, he was unable to stamp his mark on the game or dominate the midfield and the opposition.

Having made 17 league appearances, with 13 of them being from the start of the match, Fred will have understood his debut season may not have gone down as he had predicted and will be one of the players hoping that the club have a massive overhaul in the summer. If this is to happen, a solid backline and a natural winger may allow him to play with more freedom and protection around him.

To be fair to Fred, a number of midfielders that have arrived at the club over the last couple of years or so have struggled to get going within the side’s style of play. Morgan Schneiderlin is often seen as the perfect example, someone who was once seen as one of the best holding midfielders at Southampton, but had failed to replicate the demanding performances in a Manchester United kit.

Meanwhile, both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Matic have been seen as the ideal individuals that could fill the void that was left by Michael Carrick, a player that was a regular starter for the club for many years as he kept the side ticking through his intelligence as well as his composure on and off the ball. This instantly sums up the ongoing matter at the club, where they have found it really difficult to replace the players who have been loyal servants and very vocal season by season.

The questions have been raised about the future of Fred, purely because no one in the dressing room is totally safe following another unconvincing and horrendous season in all competition. On the other hand, the pre-season tour as well as the next campaign will be the defining moment for the Brazilian international and his time at Old Trafford, whether he goes on to prove the manager and his critics wrong, or he ends up having an average season and falls down the pecking order.

Manchester United have just kissed goodbye to Champions League football next season

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Manchester United could only draw 1-1 against Chelsea and that should be the final nail in their coffin of what has been a miserable season for the Red Devils.

It started off in pre season when Jose Mourinho seemingly moaned about everything from missing out on transfers, not feeling the support of the board and not having all of his players on their American tour, and it has never really let up.

Yes his sacking was needed even if by and large certain players were not pulling their weight- a new a manager had to step in and at first Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked like that man. The team went the next 3 months unbeaten and flirted with the top 4 when in December it looked impossible.

Confidence cannot be underestimated and the happiness and let’s face it love that the Norwegian brought to the club even extended outside of the Premier League when they stunned PSG in Paris to knock them out, with some luck, in the Champions League. And then it all went wrong.

Now in the quarter finals of the Champions League and top 4 of the Premier League, United gave Solskjaer the job full time, and the results started to go stale. Wolves knocked them out of the FA Cup and Barcelona made light work of them in the Champions League. Wolves also beat United in the league, something was wrong and the mood in the camp was back to five months ago.

This was brought to a head when Everton slaughtered United 4-0 and then they lost the derby to Manchester City. This Chelsea match was seen as the final roll of the dice and even though ex Chelsea player Juan Mata put his side in front, Chelsea struck back to earn a draw.

United have won just 1 game in their past five and people are searching for scapegoats. This is unfair of course, because surely you win and lose and draw as a team. However the spotlight has been shone on two players. Romelu Lukaku who rarely scores now and looks unfit and David De Gea one of the best goal keepers in Europe who has been poor in the clubs last four games. De Gea isn’t just having bad games, he is making blunder upon blunder which is completely unlike him, but his performances are mirroring United’s season.

The Draw against Chelsea will most probably mean United will not be playing Champions League football next season. With 2 games to go Tottenham are 5 points clear of United and home and dry. Chelsea are 3 points. It just seems too far a stretch to come back from now.

United will play Huddersfield next and that should be 3 points and Cardiff could make it two wins. But it seems too much to ask to see both Chelsea and Arsenal simply collapse in their final two games. Having said that Arsenal are experiencing their worst form of the season and much like United have imploded at the final jump.

One thing for United is sure- none of this latest form should be blamed on Solskjaer- the Norwegian needs a summer transfer window and a full season to be judged properly.

Though it is clear that the roses have been tossed in the bin, and the gloves are off.

Sleeping giant Man Utd have to plan for a make or break summer window

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After going out of the Champions League the other night to Barcelona whilst currently sitting outside of the Premier League top four, the questions are being raised on which way Manchester United Football Club are heading. As they look to finish another season without any trophies, it may lead the Glazers and Ed Woodward to dive into the summer window with around £200-£250million to spend.

For sure, since the last time they had won the league title, which was under Sir Alex Ferguson during the 2012-13 campaign, the club have incredibly spent just over £800million on 24 new players over the last six years. The evidence and proof is here, that the capability of splashing the cash is simply there, but the lack of planning and recruiting shows why no actual success has followed from it.

United’s Champions League exit to a dominant and ruthless Barcelona sums up that the team needs badly refreshing. The rebuilding job was expected to be completed by now, with both Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal spending a lot of money in their first season at the club, but have failed to take the team back to the top of the league and have not turned Old Trafford into a fortress once again.

From the defensive problems, midfield lack of quality and depth to the inconsistent and attack, the team has its holes that will need covering before they can start to challenge in each competition. The likes of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should no longer be seen as regular starters, three individuals who are seen as loyal servants but are holding the side back to quite an extent.

Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit a poor run of games since being appointed as the permanent manager, where he has suffered defeat to teams such as Arsenal, Everton and Wolves whilst unconvincingly beating both Watford and West Ham in recent weeks. In all honesty, Solskjaer inherited a team that is mixed with deadwood players and individuals with potential, rather than a complete squad that is filled with the needed proven stars and are really hungry to be successful.

With the local reports advising of a possible director of football arriving, whether it is either Edwin Van der Sar or Mike Phelan, the hierarchy need to forget about saving costs and appoint an individual that has experience and practice within this demanding role. Once this matter is sorted out, the club can organise a list of players to target before going guns blazing in the transfer market.

On the other hand, as majority of the Old Trafford faithful will fear, the group of transfer targets as well as which players should be bought and sold may not be crystal clear until the end of the season, when it is finalised if Manchester United finish in the top four or not. A concerning factor that leaves them behind the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City, the best teams within Europe who have the winning mentality to remain ahead of the rest in and out of the season.

Overall, the only way the Red Devils can bounce back from this decline and prevent themselves from experiencing what AC Milan, Inter Milan and Liverpool have experienced over the last five to seven years, is by making a statement in the summer and by meaning total business. With both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid expected to go all out in the 2019 summer transfer window, things may become real interesting if Manchester United do the same and target similar players as one another.

EPL Game of the Weekend – Everton vs Man Utd

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The late Jerry Reed once released a song entitled “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” – and no truer words could possibly be spoken about Marco Silva’s Everton of late. Just a few weeks ago, Silva’s position at the club seemed questionable, and the Toffees faced a nightmare run of home fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd – not the type of fixture list a manager under pressure would be hoping to see! Having now emerged from that run of games with three wins and one draw – and without conceding a single goal in the process – Everton fans will be delighted with the football their team has been playing against some of England’s top teams. Everton have been the club of the week several times in the last month or so, and beat Man Utd 4-0 this weekend.

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Everton 4-0 Man Utd: Top four hopes are definitely over for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a big chance to go into top four for the first time in recent months, with their next fixture being against Everton, a side that are in the top half of the table and have produced several huge results against the league’s top-six this term at home.

Marco Silva’s side started the game on all fronts, as they enjoyed majority of the possession in the first half and were causing a number of problems in United’s own half. It only took the hosts 13 minutes to take the lead, which started off from a long throw-in from Lucas Digne, which was touched on by Dominic Calvert-Lewin before Richarlison volleyed the ball into the back of the net.

Everton doubled their lead through a counter attack just before the half an hour mark, which was via a well-taken shot by Gylfi Sigurdsson which somehow caught David De Gea off guard. On the other hand, the visitors were unable to do anything in the first half, as they allowed the hosts to play the ball around with flair and freedom whilst reaching the half-time break with no shots completed on target at all.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the second half, as Everton were not even trying to pile on the pressure and still managed to score another two goals through Lucas Digne and Theo Walcott. As a whole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United will now see this season as a finished one, with no trophies to play for as well as the hopes of finishing in the top four being over.

Here are the three factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Lack of defensive composure from the team

United were all over the place from start till end, especially on the defensive side of the game, where they allowed Everton complete 15 shots, with eight of them being on target. Over the last couple of weeks, it has been more than clear that the side cannot soak up the pressure and defend for majority of the game, yet they still decide to sit very deep rather than making the opposition work on and off the ball.

Like many managers and players have said in the past, the best form of defence is to attack, meaning the more you play in the opponent’s half and the more you attack the ball in that side of the pitch, the less defensive duties you will have to worry about. If United were able to use this saying and put it into serious play, they would have a better chance of winning league matches constantly whilst being defensively sound.

No urgency or desire to dominate and retrieve possession

With the recent statistics stating the hosts ran 8kms more than the visitors, it really sums up the game as a whole of which side were more desperate and hungry for the three points and which one were not. On top of that, Tottenham Hotspur’s defeat against Man City yesterday and Arsenal losing to Crystal Palace today, will inflict more frustration and pain into United’s missed and wasted chance of going into the top four.

For sure, the Red Devils have had the chances here and there to return into the top four over the last couple of weeks, but it cannot be possible to complete without dominating possession properly and creating constant chances. The side looked like they became a high pressing team in Ole’s first few games in charge; however, they have now referred to a defensive or a park the bus method that was once deployed under Jose Mourinho, who was crucified by literally everyone for this specific style of play.

Manchester United need to act quickly and prepare for the summer window

With how the season has panned out so far and the fact that the club have gone through another campaign trophy-less, Manchester United need to get their act together and prepare themselves for a make or break summer transfer window. If they fail to buy and sell the correct players, they may not go on to compete in any competitions effectively for the next two to three years whilst also possibly losing their main stars.

Overall, the club have wasted a lot of money and have not planned well in each of the summer windows they have gone through since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. However, if they manage to spend aggressively and miss out on the areas that badly need strengthening, they will start to fall down the pecking in the Premier League. Something they are currently facing, and could fall even further below both Arsenal and Chelsea, two football clubs who have been facing their own problems in recent months.

Is the honeymoon period over for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United?

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In his first three months in charge at Old Trafford Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went undefeated and wooed everyone with an attacking brand of football not seen at Manchester United since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

All of a sudden there were goals at the club, attacking play, smashing teams and happy players. Solskjaer had built in 90 days what previous managers could not do in 6 years, a fantastic footballing unit. Much of this was down to Solskjaer being an ex United player under Ferguson and admitting that the clubs DNA and philosophy ran through his blood.

His biggest achievements have been United charging into the top 5 and given Tottenham and Arsenal food for thought for Champions League qualification. In December the club had no chance, but now they have every chance. Then there is the Champions League where against all odds and losing 2-0 to PSG in the first leg of the knock out round of 16, United came back in Paris and won 3-1. Now they will play Barcelona in a mouth watering quarter final.

But have the wheels come off of the project? United have lost 3 out of their last 4 games and questions will be asked. It’s unfortunate for the Norwegian who had just signed a 3 year full time contract with the club.

The first loss was being knocked out by Wolves in the FA Cup. Wolves have been brilliant this season and really punched above their weight but this result was still seen as a disappointment for the club who wanted to go further.

Then came the loss against Arsenal, this time 2-0 and a reality check that United still have a long way to go. Although to be fair to the Gunners they have become incredibly tough to beat at the Emirates and have lost only one game their. Still it was at that ground that United had visited a few weeks previously and knocked them out of the FA Cup.

A routine win against Watford followed when United returned home to more familiar territory. But the stench of defeat reared its ugly head again this week when United lost again to Wolves in the league, and by the same score line of 2-1.

The result has left some question marks over United and if they will have enough to finish in the top 4. The suggestion is that they will just miss out. And as harsh as the media can be there will be some growing pressure on Solskjaer- was he really the right man to lead the club full time?

For now we have to believe he is and it will be fascinating to see who he brings into the club in the summer. His philosophy and man management seem spot on and he needs time without pressure to get the right results over the long term, but will he be given it, that’s another question.

Wolves 2-1 Man Utd: Top four hopes are starting to run away from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a big chance to go into top three spots for the first time since the start of the season, with their next fixture being against Wolves, a side that are in the top half of the table and have produced several huge results against the league’s top-six this term.

Looking at it as a whole, United created a few big chances in the first half and dominated the possession of the ball for majority of the game, but still went on to only score once throughout the whole match. Meanwhile, Wolves defended confidently in their own half and were able to use the man advantage to their extent, when Ashley Young was sent off in the 57th minute of the contest.

The Red Devils took the lead through Scott McTominay, who scored his first Premier League goal for United as his well-taken shot somehow went past Rui Patricio and into the back of the net. However, the hosts equalised and cancelled out the visitor’s lead in 12 minutes, with a tidy finish from Diogo Jota following a lack of communication from the likes of Ashley Young, David De Gea and Fred.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the second half, as Young’s red card led Solskjaer with no choice but to bring off Fred, to allow defender Phil Jones to enter the pitch in order to gain stability. Not long after that, Wolves were on their way to a comeback, as a counterattack led through the flanks ended with an unsurprising mistake from De Gea whilst Chris Smalling drifted the ball slowly into the net.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Big chances missed in the first half

United had the perfect start to the game at the Mollineux Stadium, right up until the equaliser from Diogo Jota, where they were enjoying the ball on both sides of the pitch and were progressing into the opposition’s half through the middle and the flanks. A few minutes into the game, Romelu Lukaku had the perfect chance to score from an inch-perfect cross by Diogo Dalot, which was unfortunately headed straight at the keeper.

On the other hand, Jesse Lingard also had a good cross from the left flank and opted to head the ball towards goal, which took the pace and height off the ball before it reached towards the defender and the goalkeeper. With these two big chances, United would have had a comfortable and straightforward 2-0 or 3-0 lead before Jota had scored, allowing the side to not drop momentum going into the half-time break.

The big game players in David De Gea and Paul Pogba seemed distracted

When it comes to intense fixtures like these and ones that can play a major role in finishing in the top four, one would expect the main key players in the team to lead by example and to help restore confidence and faith into the team. Though, this was not done at all by David De Gea and Paul Pogba, two individuals who were not at their best and have been below par in recent weeks whilst the rest have been lacking badly too.

For sure, both players are seen as the club’s two main assets on and off the pitch, and they may be linked with the likes of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, but they have not done enough to show why they deserved a massive contract extension. The duo may feel uninterested with the club’s lack of ambitions, but they cannot be lacking professionally at this stage of the season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a massive task from now till the end of the season

Just under a week ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was over the moon as he received the news that he has become Manchester United’s permanent manager for the next three years. However, he will feel the hardest part of the job will be now, as he just about beat Watford on the weekend and has now suffered a defeat to Wolves, which leaves them in fifth-place as Arsenal and Spurs have a game in hand to play very shortly.

Having a quick look at the fixtures remaining, the Red Devils have to still face the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City in the league whilst going head-to-head against Barcelona in the Champions League. With how the circumstances have changed and how quick and fast the matches are coming, it seems very unlikely that Manchester United will go on to finish in the top four of the Premier League.

Paul Pogba is wrapped up in such an enigma even he doesn’t know what club he wants to play for

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Rewind four months ago, it is the beginning of December and Paul Pogba, a moody Paul Pogba arrives for training at Manchester United. He doesn’t want to be at the club, not because he doesn’t like the club or like playing in the Premier League but because. well, let’s say he’s not on best friends terms with the manager Jose Mourinho. There have been coded tweets about it, face gestures and Sky Sports once caught some tension in United’s training session between Pogba and Mourinho. There is a constant grey cloud over the club and Pogba wants out.

Pogba has friends in Europe, many friends who are influential and such is his CV which includes playing for Juventus and winning a World Cup with France last summer that his options are wide open. A few months ago there are hints that he will leave United for Barcelona, Lionel Messi seems interested and Barcelona is a million miles away in terms of happiness for Pogba than United with Mourinho in charge. The flirtation seems genuine. But like a professional that he is Pogba will sit it out, maybe something will change.

Just before Christmas it did, and whilst this may sound cruel, Pogba and United’s players got an early Christmas gift when Mourinho was sacked. It may not have been what they wanted- we won’t know until they decide to write their inevitable autobiographies- but it was most certainly what the players needed.

When it was announced that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer former legend with the club would take over, there was relief around the dressing room. The Norwegian may not be the right man for the club, but he was the perfect man for the club right now, right bang in this situation. Since December he has proven that he is the right man for the club and for the next 3 years as he signed a deserved full time contract. He has worn a smile that could have warmed Christian Bale after a press interview and it is no coincidence that Pogba has looked back to his French international best.

Even when Pogba has played bad, he’s played well for Solskjaer. Even when Pogba saw red or threw a strop, Solskjaer has defended him. The manager has more knowledge of human psychology in one finger nail than Mourinho has in a lifetime and it has worked wonders. Plus of course United do have very good players, they just needed motivation and needed to be told that the best form of attack is to attack.

And yet Pogba remains coy on his future. There are reports linking him to Zidane’s Real Madrid, we say Zidane now because it is clear since his return to Madrid the club have turned a corner and will mean to do serious business in the summer. Pogba could fit an attacking midfield role at the Bernabeu perfectly for the club. You get the feeling if a firm offer came in Pogba would say thanks very much and leave. Of course maybe the pinnacle of his football would be at United who are now set on a course to relive some of the glory days of the past.

But maybe Pogba doesn’t entirely know what Pogba wants. What he shouldn’t do like many have before him is join the worlds best team thinking that trophies will naturally come.

When you think like that the joker card of football will ultimately play its hand.

 

The international break came at a good time for Manchester United

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If you ask a football fan of one of the things they hate the most during an ongoing season, it’s an international break, which tends to last for 10 to 14 days. In that time, a number of negative factors tend to pop up, such as injury problems and being distanced away from the club squad for some time, but without these matches, there wouldn’t be a European Championship or a World Cup.

Now, focusing on Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it can be straightforward to mention that the break away from club football has come at a good time. With the side suffering back to back defeats away at Arsenal and Wolves for the first since the departure of Jose Mourinho, the team are in need of a required rest whilst the interim coach plans well for the final two months of the season.

Although the side are currently just outside of Premier League top-four and have recently been knocked out from the FA Cup, the work that Solskjaer has done to revive the club’s style of play whilst enjoying a good run in the Champions League deserves a lot of credit. Not only that, he has reinstalled confidence into the Old Trafford faithful with the belief that the club are close to bouncing back.

Looking at the recent news, the likes of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof have either been withdrawn from international duty or have not joined due to personal reasons. With how it is being seen, if the individuals have actually returned to focus more on league football, it will mean that Solskjaer has taken a huge page out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book.

Meanwhile, players such as Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard are not involved at all with the international fixtures, allowing them to regain instantly to full fitness whilst also training in hotter conditions abroad to reach a higher level. If they can use this spare time effectively and professionally, they could be the perfect players to lead the charge to return into the top four.

Both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had their fair share of injuries in recent months, so this factor should not be used as an excuse if the side go on to missing out on a Champions League spot for next season. On top of that, United’s results in the home fixtures have not been dominant enough, where they have suffered draws in the hands of Arsenal, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

Analysing the league table as a whole, Arsenal and Chelsea seem to have the ideal list of fixtures compared to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but will have to be aware of rotating the team around if they are to seriously compete for the Europa League. On the other hand, the Red Devils still have to face Chelsea and Manchester City at home in April, which could potentially play a huge part or role in whether the team will go on to finishing inside or outside of the top four.

Overall, winning the Champions League is very unlikely, but the main aim for Manchester United is to make sure they are featuring in the competition once again next season. This will allow them to prepare for a successful summer transfer window and have a clear understanding of who to buy and sell. If they fail to do so, the 2019-20 campaign would be the third year where they failed to qualify for the biggest competition in Europe, since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year at the club in 2014.