Gary Neville: Manchester United need quick additions ahead of the new Premier League season
Gary Neville has given his verdict on Manchester United ahead of the new Premier League season, discussing their need for quick additions, what they require in the transfer market, the battle between David de Gea and Dean Henderson to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goalkeeper and Bruno Fernandes…
The new Premier League season is just around the corner. Manchester United’s campaign gets underway when they face Crystal Palace, live on Sky Sports on Saturday, September 19 (kick off 5.30pm).
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But will there be any new additions to Solskjaer’s squad before their opening fixture?
Donny van de Beek has agreed personal terms with United and will complete a medical in the coming days ahead of a proposed £40m move to Old Trafford from Ajax.
But Neville, speaking to Sky Sports News, thinks his former club need a few more additions if they are to have any chance of challenging for the title this season…
‘Man Utd need four or five new signings’
The Manchester United squad, as it stands today, cannot challenge for the Premier League title this season.
The squad needed four or five improvements and it still needs four or five improvements. I’ve been saying that for a year and I’ve even nominated the positions I feel they need to improve.
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It’s frustrating at the moment, as a United fan, that the club haven’t done their business earlier, but there have been times where the club have panicked in the transfer market in the last 10 years, where they’ve been reactive, where they’ve overpaid and where they’ve got it wrong.
So, you have to be sensible. If the deals aren’t there to do, you don’t do them, but there’s definitely that tension building, particularly on social media. Why has Jadon Sancho not signed? Why have we not got Thiago Alcantara? Why haven’t we got whoever it might be that’s gone to another club?
The club have obviously got a policy, a strategy and that’s a big thing. It’s a lot better than it was a few years ago when they were flip flopping between the philosophies of different managers. I feel there is something there now that’s in the roots of the club and they’ve got to make sure they don’t get it wrong. One transfer window where you get it wrong, it will unlock the work that’s been done in the last 12 to 18 months.
However, they do have to sign players. They do have to get players in so that they can break into the top two.
That has to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goal this season and to do that he needs support. The board will know that, but they’ve got to get the deals done. They are up against smart operators, they are up against all the agents in the market and it’s not easy, but that’s what they are there to do.
They’ve got to try and be good at that game, get in front of people and get the deals done quickly without exposing the club to the wrong signing or paying too much for a player.
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Get the right players in – not just Sancho
The fans I speak to aren’t saying we desperately want Sancho.
They are saying we want the right calibre of signing brought into the club. It could be anybody that fits that bill. Yes, Sancho may fit that bill, but I’m not sat here as a United fan thinking I desperately want him.
It could be any number of players that become available that would improve United. If Harry Kane became available, and Tottenham fans will be saying why are you trying to get him out of Spurs again, but if he became available, he’d obviously improve United’s squad. So it doesn’t have to be a certain player.
The emergence of Mason Greenwood takes a bit of pressure off the situation but still, Manchester United need to add to the front three of Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. They need to challenge those three players and support those three players. They need to have depth behind those three players, and they will drive the standards.
We saw that with Greenwood, Martial and Rashford towards the end of the season. They were driving each other to score more goals, assist each other, they were playing better together so other players coming in of that kind of quality are going to improve them.
‘Ole needs time to mould squad’
They have to sign a world class centre-back. For me, another midfield player. I also think a right winger, a centre-forward and you have to look at left-back because of Luke Shaw’s injuries and the fact he has obviously been in and out of the team in the last two or three years.
So, I think there are definitely four or five players required and to not get three, I think it would be a problem because of what the other clubs are doing. If Liverpool get Thiago, if Manchester City do what they are looking like they are going to do and with Chelsea doing what they’ve done, they are your competitors and they all look like they are improving and moving forward.
So, United have to do business but I do believe more in the strategy of what’s happening, they just have to get the deals over the line. That’s not always easy but they have to try and do it quickly to give Ole the time to build to get this team moulded for the start of the season.
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De Gea vs Henderson? ‘It’s a worry’
It’s an intriguing one and I’m a little bit worried about it.
It looks brilliant on the face of it. You’ve got a goalkeeper in David de Gea, who has been world-class, absolutely no doubt about it. He’s been Manchester United’s player of the season in four out of the past six seasons, but just over the past 12 to 18 months he’s definitely dipped below the levels he has achieved previously.
You’ve then got Dean Henderson who has had a wonderful season and wants the England number one spot. He wants to be at major tournaments, he wants to play for Manchester United and he isn’t going to wait around.
I always like a situation where you’ve got an established number one, who is fantastic, and you’ve got a very good number two, who knows his position.
De Gea makes a mistake in week two, you know what the media are going to say, is this the moment that Henderson comes in? Ole is going to have that question hanging over him all the time, potentially, during the season. It’s something that is going to provide a challenge for him to be able to manage.
The easiest thing in the world would be that they both play lots of games. Henderson plays in the cups and De Gea plays in the league. They’ve got an agreement of how it’s going to work this season and then there’s a transition in a year’s time. That might be something that could happen, but it doesn’t feel like that’s going to happen because De Gea will want to be number one, he’ll want to be the undisputed number one and Henderson will want his spot.
It’s the one position where you can’t have uncertainty. You have to be definite with it because it really unnerves the rest of the team, the defence and the stadium. I believe it creates anxiety when the goalkeeper isn’t settled.
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De Gea starts as No 1
De Gea definitely starts as number one because there was a point where Ole could’ve dropped him towards the end of the season. However, he stuck with him at that point and we are only around four weeks later.
I still think Henderson’s got a lot to prove. Playing in goal for Sheffield United is a lot different than standing out there in that vacuous, empty, massive space which is the goal mouth at Old Trafford, when the team are up at the other end of the pitch most of the time attacking and then all of sudden you’ve got your first interaction with the game after 15 minutes and your concentration is tested like never before.
I think it’s a very different expectation. It’s not a given that he’s going to go into the team at Manchester United and be everything that everyone thinks he’s going to be. He hasn’t got the experience yet to handle Old Trafford or to show us that he can handle Old Trafford. We hope he can show the potential he’s got but that’s the hardest position on a football field by a long way.
It’s the biggest pressure on a football field and I think the Manchester United goalkeeping position, I would argue, is one of the most pressurised positions in English football.
No second season syndrome for Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes was shattered by then end of the season.
In the last few games he looked absolutely spent, but the expectation, what he’d done since he’d come in, he played in every single game, even the game at Norwich in the FA Cup, which was just bizarre at the time. I think Ole had a thing with him where he thought he’d just keep him going. He was on a roll, he’s fit, he can run, he’s so energetic and when he’s in the team we win.
But there definitely was that dip towards the end where he looked like he needed that rest. Hopefully he’s had that rest now and he’s ready to go again.
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His attitude doesn’t tell me, and when you watch him, his performances don’t tell me that there’s going to be a dip because he just looks like he’s got that belief in himself and the courage to take the ball and even if he has a difficult start to the season he’ll not lose that belief to get on the ball and go and find space, try and play the pass that is difficult and try and play the ball forward.
That’s the big thing for me, he always looks for a pass forward to try and unlock a team. He’s enabled the front three to become a lot better.
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