Dare we say it, but so far this has been a productive summer for Manchester United. Jadon Sancho is through the door, and Raphael Varane looks set to follow him.
The hasty business of tying up the £73million deal to bring forward Sancho in from Borussia Dortmund would have seen supporters breathe a sigh of relief, still scarred from the long, drawn-out negotiations from last season.
But now there looks to be an added impetus at Old Trafford. A shake-up at the club, which saw John Murtough named football director, has led to decisive action and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad being strengthened.
Manchester United are busy this summer as they look to improve Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad
United will look to challenge for trophies next season and have been splashing the cash around
This upcoming season has taken on the feeling of being make-or-break for Solskjaer with silverware now a must, especially considering that United are in the process of splashing the cash on big-name players once again.
Sancho will fix the club’s right-wing dilemma for years to come, and Varane looks to have all the characteristics needed to form a formidable pairing with Harry Maguire. And it doesn’t stop there for them, either.
Sportsmail understands United are actively interested in Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier, and have been keeping close tabs on a number of central midfielders – including Eduardo Camavinga.
So, with Solskjaer set to have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal at the end of the window, here is how United may line up in a 4-3-3 formation…
Solskjaer has plenty to ponder over his team, and here is how United may line-up for this year
GOALKEEPER – DEAN HENDERSON
It is a tough choice between the sticks – Dean Henderson or David de Gea? For us, it will be Henderson who takes the No 1 jersey next season.
England international Henderson looks to be the more commanding of the two stoppers, and with United looking to remain adventurous and on the front foot, his ability to control his box will be key.
Both goalkeepers have excellent shot-stopping abilities, but there is no hiding away from the fact that de Gea, who has so often bailed United out over the last decade or so, is in the midst of a stark decline.
Meanwhile, Henderson’s stock is only rising, and he has made it clear he will not settle for being second fiddle. Solskjaer is likely to oblige and make him his first-choice, raising questions over de Gea’s future.
Dean Henderson appears likely to become United’s No 1 choice in goal ahead of David de Gea
RIGHT-BACK – AARON WAN-BISSAKA
Untouchable in some aspects but still incredibly raw in others, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is growing to become a fine Man United right-back.
He is one of the best one-on-one defenders in world football when forced back towards his own penalty area, but there was been criticism, and rightly so, over the low quality of his attacking output.
Despite often marauding forwards, Wan-Bissaka’s crosses tend to skew astray, or he will instead pass infield to take a less dynamic option. It is for these reasons that United are scouting around for competition.
Trippier has been identified as their dream target in this position, but this is a deal that, if it does happen, will stretch into the final days and weeks of the window. As a result, Wan-Bissaka keeps his place in this team.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is beginning to flourish at right back but United are keen on Kieran Trippier
CENTRE-BACK – RAPHAEL VARANE
What a dream signing this would be for United. All of the indications are positive for them, and it looks as though the top-tier centre-back is on his way to Old Trafford.
Far too many costly errors or lapses in concentration cost United last season, derailing their quest for trophies, and finally it looks as though they have gone all out on a man capable of plugging that gap once and for all.
Promisingly, Varane would also play alongside Maguire, who enjoyed a superb Euro 2020 campaign. The two look as though they would quickly build perhaps the Premier League’s best central defensive duo.
There is still work to be done to lure him across from Real Madrid, but with the deal expected to happen eventually, Varane would be another piece in the jigsaw. Expect him to dominate most of the top flight’s attackers.
Raphael Varane may follow Jadon Sancho through the door as United’s second summer arrival
CENTRE-BACK – HARRY MAGUIRE
Outrageously composed defender by day, rider of an inflatable unicorn at night. Maguire, in this first games since returning from injury, was an absolute colossus – and a fan favourite – for England this summer.
He will look to carry on in the same vein when he returns to club football with United. Solskjaer entrusted him with the captain’s armband, and since arriving from Leicester, Maguire has brilliantly grown into the role.
His ability in the air is unparalleled, and he is surprisingly graceful when bringing the ball out into midfield with his feet. United sorely missed him in his absence, and now they look set to compliment him further by recruiting Varane.
After some well-earned time off this summer, Maguire will report back to Carrington with United. From there, he will hit the ground running, being the unwavering professional that he is, and will be integral to any title challenge.
United have sorely missed Harry Maguire in his absence and he will be crucial to a trophy push
LEFT-BACK – LUKE SHAW
One of the best left-backs in the world right now? That is certainly a fair estimation of Luke Shaw after his barnstorming burst into form for club and country last season.
His goal against Italy in the Euro 2020 ultimately counted for nothing after the Three Lions’ penalty heartbreak, but it also capped off what has been a remarkable rise from the ruins left behind after his horror injury.
Even the signing of Alex Telles wasn’t enough to shake Shaw away from his incredible path, and the former Porto man, who arrived fully expecting to play more often, has been rendered an understudy.
There is no doubting that Shaw will remain United’s first-choice left-back for many years to come, and supporters will be hopeful of seeing more of his audacious forays down the channel once again next season.
Luke Shaw is one of the world’s best left backs currently and is starring with club and country
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER – SAUL
This position is a very tricky one. Solskjaer is believed to be keen on switching up his formation to a 4-3-3 for next year, meaning one of his midfielders will be entrusted with shielding the back four and breaking up play.
As usual with United, a host of big names have been linked with a move, including a shortlist of midfielders all renowned around the world. One of them, Rennes prodigy Camavinga, has attracted interest from Old Trafford.
That move, however, currently appears unlikely, and United may have to move on to other players said to be on their radar. Atletico Madrid’s Saul could be a potential arrival this summer, and a deal does appear possible.
It would be for a cut price, too, and makes perfect sense on paper. Although he has failed to hit the heights from a couple of campaigns ago, Saul remains a superb player, and would also slot neatly into that No 6 role.
Saul is one midfielder United have on their radar as they look to shift to a new 4-3-3 formation
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – BRUNO FERNANDES
Solskjaer’s desired new shape could see Bruno Fernandes moved into a slightly different position than normal at United. He has performed in this role at Sporting Lisbon before, so there would be no time needed to adapt.
Interestingly, Fernandes has flourished in the No 10 role since joining the club, and it remains to be seen whether his influence is dulled somewhat by his slightly more withdrawn responsibilities in a double pivot.
It is unlikely that Solskjaer will certainly consider this before naming his first teamsheet of the new season. Either way, Fernandes remains United’s most important player. When he performs, his team-mates often do as well.
He has been left frustrated so far, though, after failing to get his hands on a trophy – and this barren spell will surely have to come to an end over the coming months in order to fully satisfy his sky-high ambitions.
Bruno Fernandes may drop into a deeper No 8 role next season but will stay United’s talisman
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – PAUL POGBA
Again, this part of United’s side is clouded in uncertainty. This is because they are under more pressure than ever to finally allow Paul Pogba to leave.
Paris Saint-Germain are understood to be hopeful of signing him for just £43m, and a move to his home country looks as though it would appeal to Pogba. His last few years at the club have meandered along, failing to set the world alight.
This summer, it may make perfect sense for United to get rid. Pogba will be available on a free transfer next summer when his deal runs down, and it would make good business sense to rake in at least some form of fee.
However, if Pogba does ultimately stay at Old Trafford, then the signs are pointing towards him playing next to Fernandes as two No 8’s. It’s a mouth-watering prospect, and the duo have often linked up in the past to excellent effect.
Paul Pogba could exit United this summer with Paris Saint-Germain keen on a £43million move
RIGHT WINGER – JADON SANCHO
There was no hesitancy over a deal for Sancho this summer from United. In the immediate aftermath of their Europa League final defeat, the decision was made to bring in the tricky winger as soon as possible.
Negotiations with Dortmund stalled, and then fell apart, last summer over their eye-watering valuation of Sancho – but this time around the switch looked likely from the start. With a more affordable fee, United swooped and got their man.
Owing to paperwork hitches, there was a slight lull while supporters waited on tenterhooks for the official announcement, but the signing represents a leap in the right direction for a United side with new ambitions.
Sancho will slot nicely into their right-wing spot, as he will do for many years to come, and it will be fascinating to see him work his way back in the Premier League. Once he settles, his firepower will be key to securing United top spot.
United landed Sancho early and the forward will fix their right-wing issue for seasons to come
STRIKER – EDINSON CAVANI
It will be one more season for Edinson Cavani at United, and fans were left delighted after the news of his extension became official. His impact after signing as a free agent was nothing short of incredible.
Originally touted as a panic buy, Cavani took a little time to find his feet and then set about scoring goals with ruthless efficiency. He also has every type of finish imaginable tucked away in his locker.
Next season, the veteran ace is likely to remain United’s first choice. He is a man Solskjaer will love working with, one who is amenable to new ideas and capable of finding the net from everywhere inside the box.
Anthony Martial was dogged by poor form and injury issues last year, and his rough patches have become commonplace. Thankfully for United, Cavani is the perfect replacement and an inspiring dressing room presence.
Edinson Cavani opted to stay at United for one more season and he will remain their main No 9
LEFT WINGER – MARCUS RASHFORD
Solskjaer has been keen to stress that no decision has been made over Marcus Rashford going under the knife for a long-standing shoulder problem, but getting a fully fit and firing striker back will be important.
His numbers last season were typically excellent, but there is no hiding away from the fact that overall it was a mixed year for the United academy graduate. He is a truly special player, but must look after his body.
When he does return during the early part of the campaign, the left-wing position is his to keep for the foreseeable future. Rashford can also play down the middle, but he always looks his best when drifting in from outside.
United now have several capable first-team wingers, including Daniel James, Amad Diallo and Martial, but Rashford is quite rightly one of the first names down on Solskjaer’s team sheets. His influence will only grow, too.
Marcus Rashford hit his best heights for United last year on the left and he will be a key player
Here is how United could line-up for next season, with Sportsmail opting for a 4-3-3 formation