Manchester United 2019/20 Season Review: A Tale of Two Halves

Manchester United 2019/20

It could have been catastrophic. On the evening of 6th October 2019, Manchester United was just two points clear of the relegation zone. A 1-0 defeat away to Newcastle United ensured the club’s worst start to a season for 30 years.

United were awful, and it seemed, in the early weeks of the 2019/20 season, that they were in a decline of AC Milan proportions. The Champions League, the fight for trophies, it was a laughable notion. But then, amidst the chaos of a global pandemic, United produced a subtle, steady comeback.

Manchester United 2019/20 Season Review

A Tale of Two Seasons

It was a season of ups and downs, and inconsistencies throughout. Defeating teams like Manchester City and Chelsea home and away but losing to the likes of Bournemouth and Watford. It was a season of change and then stability, as well as looking to the past to build the future. Getting a decent defence back seemed to help United’s issues too.

Indeed, United can be content with the fact that they reached their objective. After being so poor through to January, United went unbeaten in their final 14 games. The fact that this coincided with the signing of Bruno Fernandes is no coincidence to anyone. The Portuguese maestro transformed the team, having an instant effect on the amount of chances the side were creating. Almost lacking in creativity before his arrival, United now had someone who could offer it in abundance. It was a defining moment. But there were others too.

Defining Moments for Manchester United in the 2019/20 Season

Manchester City 1 – 2 Manchester United

Arguably their performance of the season. In a stunning first half an hour at the Etihad, United blew away their rivals with two goals and were repeatedly ripping through City’s defence. Fans and pundits were left wondering how this kind of performance wasn’t being produced every week. It was proof, despite the recent results, United could actually play.

Manchester United 0-2 Burnley

The lowest point of the season. It came just three days after United were emphatically defeated by champions-elect Liverpool. In rare scenes at Old Trafford, the team were booed off at half-time and full-time. Former player Darren Fletcher described the atmosphere on the night as “toxic”, with fans voicing their anger towards club owners the Glazers and chief executive Ed Woodward.

After the game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded it wasn’t good enough, with the team “lacking ideas”. In the weeks following the game, Solskjaer would solve this problem with the Fernandes signing. It was mid-January, and United would not lose a game for the rest of the league campaign.

Players of the Season

Harry Maguire

Many still have doubts about Maguire. They all centre around one issue – the transfer fee paid for him. Having been signed from Leicester City for £80 million, a world record for a defender, as well as being £5 million more than Virgil van Dijk, a lot of fans see him as overpriced and over-rated. It seems odd, considering the vast improvement in the United defence. With Maguire in the team, United conceded 36 goals in the league, the third best defensive record behind Liverpool and Manchester City.

Mason Greenwood

An outstanding breakthrough season for the 18-year-old. A lethal finisher with both feet. Greenwood scored 17 goals in all competitions, with comparisons made to former United striker Robin van Persie. Greenwood is undoubtedly a real talent, and it was fitting that he scored in the 3-3 thriller against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, the 4,000th consecutive game United had an academy player in the matchday squad.

Bruno Fernandes

A massive signing. Fernandes brought creativity, imagination and confidence. He brought goals and assists from midfield, and United now have someone who can unlock a tight defence.

Going Forward With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Charge

There are still question marks over Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s management, particularly in terms of tactical nous. His lack of touchline communication with players doesn’t sit well with a lot of fans. The Norwegian can also seem a bit lost at times during games if United are under pressure and on the back foot.

But appearances can be deceiving. Solskjær has earned the right to build his own team. His handling of transfers has been impressive overall. Though Daniel James didn’t build on his early promise, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes all improved the team. And of course, Odion Ighalo played a part.

His decision to let go of Chris Smalling to Roma, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukakau and Ashley Young, all of whom joined Inter Milan, was the correct one. Ironically, United could yet still face these former players in the Europa League if both United and Inter make the final.

The Europa League will give a good indication of where United are at. Semi-Final opponents Sevilla are a decent outfit, but a team ready to fight for the big trophies should be able to see them off. A final against Inter will be the real test.

If United can succeed, they will send out a massive statement. Yes, its not the Champions League, but it will give this young side a taste for success. As history has shown, that is a big thing for any growing team. Which is what United are. And with Ole at the wheel, the excitement is back at Old Trafford and good times don’t actually seem that far away.

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