Manchester United has some of the fastest attacking players in the Premier League this season. The departure of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the rumoured departure of Alexis Sanchez is going to create more chances for youth to shine at the club, which is something that is clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is about.
Anthony Martial has been given his old number nine shirt back, a number he wore when he had
A player who is now getting the same finishing training that Cristiano Ronaldo received at the club, with Solskjaer clearly looking to get Rashford firing in the goals. After his brace against Chelsea last week; one from the penalty spot, he’s certainly heading in the right direction to increase his goals this season, scoring 13 in all competitions last season.
Attacking midfield depth; five players able to play here, four of them likely to be rotated here during the season.
This is an area which some would include in the midfield, however, with the 4-2-3-1 formation which Solskjaer predominantly uses, this is considered part of the attack, which is why it has been included in this part of the series of squad depth articles. In this area, which in the 4-2-3-1 formation, focuses on the number ten position, or the second striker role.
There are five players that could play in this position; Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, and Alexis Sanchez, providing he remains at the club, which may not be the case with the links to Inter. Of course, Solskjaer could draft in more youth if this position becomes problematic. Lingard seems the clear starter, based on the Chelsea match.
If Pogba was played in this position, the midfield would struggle, unless the trusted players performed to the best of their abilities and found a way to deal with their roles, leaving Pogba to play a more creative role. However, with Gomes, Mata and to a point, Sanchez, Pogba may not need to play in this position.
Winger depth; seven players able to play in these position but two of those may not be suited.
Since Daniel James arrived from Swansea City for £15 million in the summer, there was a clear problem on the wing for United. The right-wing position was literally none existent with the likes of Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Martial and even Lukaku playing there. Since James arrived, there are more options with United able to utilise the pace of players.
There are seven players able to play on the wing; Martial, Rashford, James, Mata, Sanchez, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood. Five of the seven offer pace, ability, determination and hunger. Mata offers the ability to read the game, although a central position, when he plays, would be better for the squad.
James made his Premier League debut a week ago, coming on in the second half against Chelsea, scoring less than ten minutes later. His pace was problematic for Chelsea and he used his own mistake in the box to carve his name into the history books at the club. Greenwood, Chong, Martial and Rashford also have the pace, although one of the latter two will play a different role. The depth is alright here.
Striker depth; four players are able to play in this area but two of them are destined to lead the line
This is the area which despite Lukaku leaving the club this summer, could well be problematic for Solskjaer. He never replaced the Belgian and unless he has a plan to sign a free agent, will probably stick to what he has in the squad. Martial has led the line against Chelsea and Rashford is also capable of playing here.
Looking at the depth, there are other options which include Greenwood, Sanchez (if he stays), and Lingard (to a point). It may look a bit weak if you look past Martial and Rashford but for one position in the team, there are four options, with more if you look to the academy. D’Mani Bughail-Mellor has scored a few goals for the U23s already this season.
I am not suggesting that he’s ready to play for the first team, however, was Rashford ready before he scored the brace against Midtjylland back in February 2016, then following suit against Arsenal in the Premier League days later? Solskjaer has a few different options and if he tries other players out in this position, he might find that he has more.
I would suggest that this is going to be between both Rashford and Martial for the large part of the season. If Rashford leads the line, Martial could be rested with James playing on the left-wing. If Martial starts, Rashford could play on the left, or James could play there, giving Rashford a rest. It is obviously not the best but could work.
If Sanchez stays this season, I am not saying he will be a starter, but he will be an option, but if rumours are true, he has asked to leave the club and could be on his way out. Could Solskjaer sign a free agent to bolster his side? There are options, although not great ones. I think he would prefer to utilise the talented youth players in the mix.
With Rashford working on his finishing and Martial looking to overcome a turbulent time at United, it could be the winner that everyone is hoping for. There are good players in both of these two and it is about time that they showed themselves and stood up to be counted. If Solskjaer manages to turn the tide with this squad, he can do anything.
The formation above shows the depth in all four of the attacking positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation. If different formations are played, the depth will still be there but it will obviously increase/decrease in various positions. Solskjaer will have a plan of what he is aiming to achieve this season. He also has an idea of the players he will need to target either in January or next summer.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said that ‘attack wins you matches but defence wins you titles’. The defence is the strongest part of United’s squad with the attack being the second strongest area in the squad. The midfield has weaknesses which need to be strengthened but that could be done without money, giving youth players opportunities over time.
Obviously, supporters of the club expected major changes this summer, which was never going to happen. Every summer you see supporters demanding that players are sold etc but in most cases, it does not happen as it is not an easy thing to do. Then, toxicity comes into the fan base and people moan incessantly, which is boring.