Manchester United already looking to the season ahead.

Ruben Hill
July 17, 2019


It seems like only a week or two ago that the Premier League season drew to a close, and let’s be honest, for most United fans it couldn’t have ended soon enough. The first half of the season was overshadowed by Jose Mourinho’s long, slow demise, and while there were some moments of brightness mid-season, those final results against Cardiff City and Huddersfield summed up a year to forget. 


As one of the “big six,” finishing sixth in the table was seen by some as tantamount to bottom. Certainly, it was only one place out of the embarrassment zone. To add insult to injury, the next worst of the big six finished four points clear in fifth place. 


However, it is time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. The new season is just around the corner, and both the team and its fans have reason to approach it with more optimism than last year. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead over the coming weeks and months.


The view from the bookmakers


Fans, players and pundits all have their own opinions, but if you want to get an unbiased view of a team’s genuine prospects, the best place to look is on a bookmaker’s site. There are dozens to choose from, and if you fancy putting down a pound or two, pre-season it the perfect time, as there are typically some great early odds on offer. Check out what’s available where and read a bookmaker review or two in order to familiarise yourself with the different sites and their offerings, as every bookmaker is subtly different in terms of the payment options, types of bets, special promotions and so on. 


So what do the bookies have to say about United’s prospects in the season ahead? Well, let’s start with the bad news and see how they are eyeing up the main opposition. It’s no big shock that City are hot favourites for yet another title, and are odds on favourites, with BetVictor quoting 8/13. Unsurprisingly given their performance last season, Liverpool are not far behind, and are actually at shorter odds than they were this time last year, at 5/2 to win their first ever Premier League title (their last victory was in the pre-Premier League era way back in 1989/90). 


As far as United are concerned, BetVictor are offering early odds of 20/1 if you think they can pull off a surprise and finish top of the table. However, other bookies have them as long as 30/1. It’s further evidence that you really need to shop around, particularly when placing a bet before the season is even underway. Either way, however, the point is these are long odds. Perhaps a more realistic target is finishing “best of the rest” after City and Liverpool – 4/1 odds for a top three finish look very tempting and are certain to have plenty of fans reaching for their wallets, while United are even money to go at least two better than last year and finish in the top four. 


Pre-season action


The United squad has just set off on its pre-season “world tour” and this year it will be more important than ever to make the most of these games and get into winning habits. The first two encounters take place Down Under in Perth, first against local team Perth Glory and then taking on neighbours and fellow tourists Leeds United, who are equally far from home in their pre-season preparations. 


After that, the roadshow moves on to Singapore for a game against Inter Milan, Shanghai, to play Tottenham, and finally the squad will return to UK shores for a showdown against AC Milan at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium. Playing top-class opposition in the pre-season is always important, but that Spurs match in China will take on particular significance. Both are teams that underperformed last year, and both will be desperate to show they are ready to take on anyone in the season ahead. 


New personnel?


Before the new season gets underway, there is the small matter of the transfer window to negotiate. The back pages are, as ever full of rumours, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently told the media that the team will be patient and is not going to throw money at new acquisitions for the sake of it. 


So far, The Reds have spent around £65 million signing right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace and young winger Daniel James from Swansea. Top of the rumour list at present is that they will imminently be joined by Leicester City and England defender Harry Maguire. 


The 26 year old from Sheffield is rapidly becoming the hottest property of the transfer season, and Leicester have already turned down a £60 million offer from Leicester City. The sports pages are predicting that a move to United is inevitable, although whether they will be prepared to cough up the £90 million price tag is another matter. Still, the bookmakers seem to agree, and have just slashed the odds of a move to United to 1/3 on. 


Management stability


It’s impossible to talk about next season without at least a sidelong glance to the manager’s seat, particularly in view of what happened last year. Signing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a three year deal should have put the questions to bed, but there are still those who predict the new manager will not see out the season, far less remain till 2022. Part of that concerns the ongoing controversy over Paul Pogba, that is at risk of creating dressing room divides and undermining the manager’s authority. 


Keep a close eye on how that one pans out, as it could give a signal as to just how stable the overall management really is at Old Trafford. As a final note, though, it is worth noting that those wise old sages the bookmakers say Solskjaer is 2/5 on to leave before the end of the 2019/20 season and 7/1 to be the first manager to go when the new campaign gets underway. 

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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