Manchester United come into the 2020/21 premier league season off the back of an encouraging finish to last season’s campaign that saw them finish second overall, 12 points behind champions Manchester City. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad fell at the final hurdle in the Europa League, losing to Villarreal after an incredible penalty shootout in their final game of the season, but with youth and talent in the squad, there is much reason to be optimistic.
Talisman Bruno Fernandes, who scored 18 premier league goals last season, along with star signings Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, will be key to the cause and United are currently 4th favourites to win in the premier league winner odds at 8/1, with only Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea at shorter odds.
Let’s Get Into It…
Over the 29-season history of the premier league, Manchester United are the most successful team having won a staggering 13 titles, all of which came under the great Sir Alex Ferguson’s management. Manchester City and Chelsea lag far behind in second place with five titles each but United haven’t won the league since the 2012/13 season.
That title, coming off possibly the greatest heartbreak in the club’s history having the 2011/12 title snatched from their grasp by great rivals Manchester City through Sergio Aguero’s incredible 94th minute winner against QPR, was arguably one of Ferguson’s best ever.
Led by Robin Van Persie’s 26 league goals, including a 92nd minute winner in the 3-2 victory over City at the Etihad, the Reds finished 11 points clear of City atop the table. This wasn’t the best team Ferguson ever put together, but the context of the title win, following City’s triumph the year before, certainly make it one of the sweetest victories for Manchester United fans.
One of the great teams in premier league history was United’s 2007/08 title winning side that included Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand to name but a few of the world class players in the squad. Ronaldo’s 31 goals in the season lit the premier league on fire, and with Rooney (12) and Tevez (14) adding a combined 26 further goals, combined with one of the best defences in history that conceded only 22 times, this team was destined for greatness.
They overcame extremely tough opposition in Chelsea and Arsenal to prove their greatness and went on to win the champions league too. The majority of the group returned to win back-to-back premier league titles with another fantastic year in 2008/09, again pipping excellent Chelsea and Liverpool sides to the title largely through outstanding defensive performances after missing Cristiano Ronaldo for the beginning of the season.
The Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic centre back pairing is one of the greatest pairings in premier league history, and, along with top performances from other members of the back four including Patrice Evra, John O’Shea, Gary Neville, and ‘keeper Edwin van der Sar, they conceded only 24 times across 38 games.
Arguably United’s best premier league season came in 1993/94, as they achieved their highest ever points total with 92 and defended the title. They scored more goals than the previous season, won more games, and star striker Eric Cantona was simply irresistible, scoring 18 league goals.
Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane also had fantastic seasons, and this was the start of the United dynasty with Gary Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt all making the squad for the first time. If there’s any season that could top 93/94, it’s 1999/00 as Ferguson’s treble winners’ defended their premier league crown in dominant fashion, finishing a stunning 18 points clear of Arsenal in second place.
They racked up 91 points, the first time any team in league history had exceeded 90 points in a season, and scored 97 goals, also the most ever. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke combined for 39 league goals, establishing themselves as the best strike partnership in England, whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer added a further 12 goals largely off the bench.
The midfield had it all, with Beckham and Giggs being creative geniuses, and Scholes, Keane and Butt controlling proceedings. This was a truly great team that dominated like few other sides in premier league history, and the fact that current United boss Solskjaer was a part of this side bodes well for the current crop of United stars who can benefit from his toughness, and team-first mentality.
The common thread throughout these triumphant Manchester United teams was depth, hard work and teamwork, with players acting selflessly and often playing out of position or accepting a lesser role than they may have at another club, all in the name of winning. These are traits that will be so vital in usurping Manchester City’s current side to win the 2021/22 premier league crown, and Solskjaer is certainly well equipped to impart this on to his team.
Was Ferguson the Magic Touch?
United have been the dominant side in premier league history, but a title drought stretching back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge in 2012/13 is growing ever frustrating for the club. Last season was a big step forward for this current squad though, and Solskjaer’s men could well make a title push this year, especially with a defines that is looking staunch with the addition of Varane to play alongside Harry Maguire.