Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane were Manchester United’s big-money summer signings but are they enough to scare their neighbours and the rest in the title race?
It rarely takes long in the Premier League for a reality check, precisely a week in the case of Manchester United.
Following last weekend’s 5-1 clobbering of Leeds, Red Devils’ fans were booking leave next May to make sure they didn’t miss the open-top bus parade.
Fast forward a week and backed up with a 1-1 draw at Southampton and those same United fans have cancelled the time off and are now throwing around names galore for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to sign in what remains of the window.
Varane and Sancho Supreme Statements of Intent
Top of Solskjaer’s summer to-do list was get another central defender in the house. Skipper Harry Maguire has his off days, Victor Lindelof has more and the likes of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are strictly after-thoughts, even when fully fit.
Getting a defender as classy and authoritative as 28-year-old Varane for under £50m was a seriously decent piece of business.
Sancho’s place in the jigsaw is less clearcut. His versatility makes him a possibility on the right, left or through the middle, though someone like Mason Greenwood could see his development stifled accordingly. That said, Sancho is the future as much as the present, and Solskjaer must be drooling at what his bench will look like when everyone is fit as much as his starting eleven.
Solskjaer Looks Central for the Missing Piece
Most United observers, and doubtless Solskjaer himself, reckoned he was three new faces away from mounting a title challenge, presuming that the likes of Paul Pogba stuck around. With Sancho and Varane on board, the area which seems to be most energising the Norwegian is central midfield.
There is a growing belief from the management room that Scott McTominay, formerly a jack of all trades but master of none, has found his place.
Used variously as a centre back and sitting midfielder, the Scot is maturing nicely, playing further forward, showing a neat range of passes, is a menace at set-plays and is scoring goals.
Alongside him Solskjaer would have loved to have had Declan Rice though the West Ham man appears to have been priced out of an auction. Wolves’ ace Ruben Neves is cheaper and more likely to be available while 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga of Rennes is on United’s radar and he and his club would struggle to turn down an approach from a Premier League giant.
Solskjaer would probably have to get someone like Juan Mata or Jesse Lingard off the wage bill while it would be a big ask anyway for an untested teenager to prove the difference between a successful title chase and a failed one.
Sixes and Sevens Over a New Number 9
The other area where Solskjaer may want options is up top where 34-year-old Edinson Cavani, an inspiration last term, can only go on for so long. Greenwood, Anthony Martial and possibly Marcus Rashford are alternatives but none are at their happiest leading the line.
We’ve seen all the usual names touted – Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowksi – though there’s no evidence that any of those are coming United’s way.
World-class strikers cost serious money and having spent well over £100m on Sancho and Varane it’s likely Solskjaer will head into September with the attacking troops he has. And only time will tell whether they can fire the Red Devils to a first league crown in nine years.