Manchester United can discover fourth summer signing after Everton experiment – Manchester Evening News

Which youngsters are trusted

As has become customary during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Manchester United there has been a heavy emphasis on youth talent during pre-season.

Joe Hugill was handed his first chance in the senior set-up with two cameo appearances, Hannibal got some valuable game time and teenage star Anthony Elanga staked his claim as the one to watch across the new season.

There can be no denying Solskjaer’s love for youth talent, though this summer it has come with the caveat of many senior players being away on international duty.

For the final pre-season match there will be more experience to call upon and as a result limited opportunity for academy starlets hoping for their big breakthrough.

The bolstered squad this weekend should highlight which youngsters are still going to be in the first-team frame when the season begins properly next week.

Midfield experiment can highlight next transfer priority

Solskjaer has been keen to trial a new midfield set-up during pre-season but there has been little point in doing so with players who are not in his immediate first-team picture.

It should be a different story this weekend with so many seniors back in contention and it will be interesting to see if a final opportunity is taken to trial such an approach.

Changing to one defensive-minded midfielder could spring fresh life into Nemanja Matic, while it could also revolutionise Fred with added responsibility playing on his own. Donny van de Beek could showcase his true talents in a more dynamic box-to-box role while Paul Pogba would have the opportunity to experience the freedom he craves for further up the pitch.

Without a specialist defensive midfielder at the club it could well turn out to be a failed strategy, but the experiment will at least let United know just how urgent a fourth summer signing really is.

Where are United at right now

United begin their new Premier League season a week today against a side who finished the last campaign in mid table on 59 points, it’s fitting preparation that their final friendly fixture sees them take on the side they ended up one place above, but on the same amount of points.



Paul Pogba has returned to pre-season training ahead of the start of the new season.
Paul Pogba has returned to pre-season training ahead of the start of the new season.

Everton represent the closest challenge to facing Leeds without actually taking on Marcelo Bielsa’s side and the match should give a good indication of just where United are at.

Solskjaer will hope to welcome back even more fresh faces before the season opener in seven days time but for now they have the perfect dress rehearsal to gauge just how prepared they are.

Positions up for grabs

Jadon Sancho is expected to be on the bench for the first match of the season and Marcus Rashford will be out of action until October, leaving two ominous voids to fill out wide.

Further uncertainty over the fitness of Edinson Cavani could see Mason Greenwood start through the middle against Leeds, reducing the options available to Solskjaer.

Against all the odds it means we could see either Daniel James or Jesse Lingard start on the opening weekend, a position they can battle for later today.

There is even the wildcard option of Elanga being used after such a productive pre-season – the stage is certainly set for one of the trio to stake their claim.

Number One

Solskjaer opted for humour when quizzed on his goalkeeper plans for the new season, but his jovial approach can’t distract us from the fact last season’s dynamic isn’t sustainable.

Dean Henderson has been assured he will start the season as the first-choice shot-stopper, but his recent Covid absence means there could be a lifeline for David de Gea to reclaim the top spot.

The summer signing of Tom Heaton means United now have an appropriate back-up solution if either Henderson or De Gea leaves before deadline day, the only question is who that will be.

Henderson is certainly confident he has the trust of Solskjaer heading into the new campaign, it is down to De Gea to sow those seeds of doubt.

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