Manchester United lost the chance to enter the top four and put some real pressure on Chelsea and Leicester City on Monday night, as they could only draw 2-2 with Southampton at home. A win would have taken the Red Devils into third place, but as it stands, they remain in fifth place, level on points with Leicester and one point behind Chelsea. With Manchester City’s European ban being overturned by the CAS, it means that fifth place will not net a Champions League spot, and so United need to finish in the top four to be able to play in Europe’s premier club competition next season.
The club’s last three fixtures will see them play Crystal Palace, West Ham and then Leicester on the last day, which could well be a playoff for that final Champions League spot. Monday night’s performance against the Saints showed exactly why United need to finish in the top four, so as to be able to attract top-quality talent to Old Trafford once again. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named the same starting XI for the fifth game in a row, and while United have been blitzing all-comers in recent matches, scoring at will, this was definitely a tired display, with several players showing signs of fatigue. It points towards the issues at the club, where the first XI is extremely strong, but the quality of the backups is not yet at the level needed to compete on multiple fronts during the season. The likes of Daniel James, Odion Ighalo and Fred are good footballers, but the Red Devils arguably need better quality on their bench, both to be able to provide quality options as substitutions, as well as allow Ole to rotate his team without worrying about a drop in quality.
United have been persistently linked with Borussia Dortmund’s young English winger, Jadon Sancho, for two seasons now, and it is likely that the club will make a big-money move for him this summer (see a list of the best casinos where you can place a bet on the move happening this summer). He would definitely improve United’s attack and the quality of the first XI, while also giving Mason Greenwood the chance to develop further at his own pace. The 18-year-old has suddenly seen the spotlight turned up on him, after a series of blistering goalscoring displays, but he is still just a teenager and his development needs to be handled with care. United also arguably need a defensive midfielder and a top-quality centre-half. Nemanja Matic may be enjoying late-career revival, but he is 31 years old, and United will soon need a replacement for him in that position. At the back, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have formed a decent, if sometimes uneasy partnership, while the likes of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are considered too error-prone to start games. United definitely need to bring in a proven centre-back, who can organize the defence and be relied upon to keep the team solid at the back. Maguire has not lived up to expectations so far after his record-breaking move from Leicester, even though he has been given the armband, and there are still question marks about Lindelof.