Football Features

Four players who can breathe life back into Man Utd’s Solskjaer era

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:52, 5 May 2019

Coupled with Chelsea’s thumping win over Watford, Man Utd’s languid 1-1 draw away to Huddersfield on Sunday finally ended their hopes of securing a top-four spot.

Throughout the clash in Yorkshire, ex-Red Devil Gary Neville could be heard on Sky Sports laying into the current crop of players at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s disposal, labelling them as ‘scabby’, ‘awful’ and ‘despondent’.

Despite their failures on the pitch in recent times, United’s fans have always remained loyal and behind their side, but as Neville pointed out, even they could not find the positives in a shocking, embarrassing result against an already-relegated side that had picked up just 14 points in 36 games prior to Sunday afternoon.

A big summer of investment is likely and names such as Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Kalidou Koulibaly have all been mentioned. But what about the current crop of players at Old Trafford? Which of these can Solskjaer cherry-pick to help breathe life back into his Man Utd revolution?

At Squawka, we’ve picked out four current Man Utd players who could play a big part in helping United turn their fortunes around next season.

1. Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford hasn’t looked quite right since he hobbled off during United’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool back in February and has just three goals since then, including a run of seven games without a strike.

However, there’s absolutely no doubting the talent at the 21-year-old’s disposal, with a brilliant blend of pace and technique making up the building blocks of a potentially world-class striker.

However, Rashford is yet to truly discover his ruthless streak and as such, that is what holds him back from being seriously compared with the likes of Kylian Mbappe.

Six goals for Rashford during Solskjaer’s first 10 games at United, though, shows he can indeed turn it on in front of goal. A month-long break is to come for Rashford before taking up Uefa Nations League duty with England. With Harry Kane injured for the Three Lions, Rashford could use this as an opportunity to show he can be the man to deliver on the biggest stage, while a pre-season with Solskjaer – one of United’s most lethal finishers in the Premier League era – may just be what the academy graduate needs to finally discover his true potential.

2. Scott McTominay

During United’s wretched recent run of just two wins in 11 games across all competitions, Scott McTominay has been one of the few shining lights.

The young Scot put in a brave, robust performance during United’s 1-0 home defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League, making two interceptions, winning three aerial duels and completing a match-high four dribbles, even as his far more experienced midfield counterparts, Paul Pogba and Fred, shied away from the challenge.

That performance came just eight days after McTominay scored his first-ever senior goal, during another United defeat to Wolves, while he bagged another during the draw with Huddersfield.

McTominay looks bold and fearless in possession and equally so off the ball, which is far more than can be said of many of his teammates at Old Trafford. At just 22 and with just 46 senior club appearances to his name, McTominay is undoubtedly a diamond in the rough. But he’s showing all the signs of developing into the archetypal United midfielder and as an academy graduate, has plenty of credit in the bank among Red Devils’ supporters.

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3. Victor Lindelof

Since Solskjaer’s initial appointment in December, no United player has won more aerial duels (52) or completed more clearances (62) than Victor Lindelof in the Premier League, while Luke Shaw (five) is the only outfield player to be involved in more league clean sheets than his four.

The Sweden international is a totally different version of himself than the one that looked mistake-prone, wracked with nerves and a hollow shell of a player under Jose Mourinho. In short, he has become the keystone of United’s defence.

Lindelof’s problem is he’s constantly lined up next to a different partner this season, with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly all coming in and out of the side thanks to mistakes, poor form and injury. But if they can find him a partner – possibly Koulibaly – watch Lindelof go.

The ex-Benfica man has all the pre-requisite composure on the ball, dominance in the air and poise in the tackle to become one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League and has been one of the few plugs in a United defence full of holes.

4. Luke Shaw

With his horrendous luck with injury seemingly behind him, Shaw has pressed on and nailed down the left-back spot at Old Trafford.

The likes of Ashley Young, Fred and Romelu Lukaku have struggled in their respective positions but there is little talk of United targetting a left-back, such is Shaw’s form.

Since Solskjaer took over from Mourinho, the 23-year-old has made more tackles (32) in the Premier League than any other player at the club, while and David de Gea have been involved in five clean sheets each in the English top flight during that time – the joint-highest at the club.

Furthermore, Shaw – who has forced himself back into England reckoning this season – sits only behind Paul Pogba on duels won (86) and passes completed (840) in the Premier League under Solskjaer.

Admittedly, his defending for Huddersfield’s equaliser on Sunday was absolutely horrendous and he will be less than impressed with his overall performance on a torrid day for United. However, that certainly shouldn’t get in the way of what has been a vast improvement in a red shirt for the left-back this term – something which he can take into next season.