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How Manchester United could look with Dean Henderson and Jack Grealish in a bid to catch Liverpool and Manchester City

Watching Manchester City and then Liverpool dominate the Premier League title race for the past two years will have been torture for Manchester United fans.

Coupled with the seemingly imminent arrival of Leeds United from the Championship, failure this season would have provoked most fans’ ire.

However, fans are beginning to see the method behind manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactical alterations and tinkering. Since taking over, there have certainly been plenty of detractors.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is promising big things from the 2020 summer window
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But the Norwegian has an exemplary record against sides in the top six and also in the transfer market. The recent 2-0 victory over rivals Manchester City was the ninth victory from 16 games in the top six.

And it can be argued Solskjaer is yet to make a bad signing since replacing Jose Mourinho on a permanent basis almost 12 months ago.

Summer recruits Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka performed admirably once again during the clash with City, with record signing Harry Maguire now captaining the club.

And Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation since arriving in January, with fellow winter arrival Odion Ighalo proving doubters wrong by bagging three goals from just seven games.

Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation in Man United’s midfield
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And Solskjaer is planning another summer splurge to put the Red Devils within touching distance of the title once again.

“We feel we are improving all the time,” he said. “We know we lack one or two, or three players – and some experience – to be considered a title contender.

“But we are not going to start talking about that now. We are just going to start talking about going up the table, getting more points, to that top four.

“For me it shows we are on the right track and we’re improving and we are Man United. We are looking towards catching the teams in front of us.”

£85m man Harry Maguire is captain of United after joining last summer
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Solskjaer has endured plenty of criticism about the way he has managed the club thus far, with talkSPORT’s very own Simon Jordan never afraid to express his opinions.

But the Norwegian has a ruthless streak about him which epitomised his ice-cold playing style; remorseless and clinical.

Who could forget the chopping down of Newcastle United midfielder Rob Lee in 1998, or the sarcastic clapping of West Ham defender Stuart Pearce after he scored an own goal in 2001?

Getting what he wants is something Solskjaer has become accustomed to on and off the pitch and fans should not be surprised if there are an influx of signings this summer.

Solskjaer’s sarcastic clap of Stuart Pearce from 2001 is an example of the ruthlessness which lies underneath the smiling demeanour
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The question is, where does Solskjaer buy and how many players does he need for a title tilt?

If we go on the premise he will aim for two or three world-class players, an outlay of nearly a quarter of a billion pounds would not be beyond the realms of possibility, especially if the departure of Paul Pogba can be facilitated.

The France midfielder has been linked with moves to both Real Madrid and Juventus for the best part of two years now and the club will almost certainly allow a move if it means bloating their transfer budget.

Solskjaer has shown unwavering loyalty to British players thus far in his transfer policy thus far, with the latest rumours suggesting this will remain to be the case. But, in order to catch Liverpool and Manchester City, the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ must display the same ruthlessness he showed during his playing days in the cutthroat world of the summer transfer market.

Paul Pogba has been sidelined with an ankle injury for most of the season
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Perhaps the first problem facing Solskjaer is the unwanted distraction of Euro 2020 this summer, though whether it happens is still unclear.

Not only could a serious injury force him to delve into the market for a replacement, but prices can become inflated on the back of strong performances.

That being said, United would be wise to opt for targets who have already been linked as there may well have been a dialogue between player and agent.

The chances of getting dragged into a bidding war or paying over the odds diminish as the player is likely to have already considered a move to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer must also decide if he wants to strengthen up top this season or copy Liverpool’s strategy and reinforce the rearguard. Within 18 months of parting with around £142m on Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, Jurgen Klopp had brought the Champions League trophy back to Anfield.

Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker helped transform Liverpool
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If Solskjaer decides the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka are suitable for just this moment in time, he may decide this summer to improve his attacking options.

Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood have proven to be reliable deputies for Marcus Rashford this season, who has proven he is capable of leading the line for the Red Devils.

According to Goal, United want to sign at least one of Jack Grealish, James Maddison or Jadon Sancho. All three players fit Solskjaer’s transfer remits in being young, hungry and English and all would add different dimensions to United’s attack.

But Grealish and Sancho represent the most likely options this summer and have the most to prove. For Sancho, the chance to show former club Manchester City what they are missing and for Grealish, the chance to show England boss Gareth Southgate he is worthy of selection.

By deploying Scott McTominay in a deeper role as the anchor of a midfield three, United could wreak havoc on the Premier League for years with both Grealish and Fernandes working in tandem.

With Martial and Sancho posted on either wing, the pace and panache United could possess is almost frightening, with Solskjaer continually opting for counter attacking teams away from home and then possession based sides at Old Trafford.

By signing Sancho and Grealish it allows him the versatility to play both in his starting XI and alter between an attacking 4-3-3 and a perfectly poised 4-5-1 ready and able to counter attack like a Venus fly trap.

Of course, neither player is likely to come cheap given their nationalities and positions on the pitch, but such an outlay sends a message to the rest of Europe about where United are financially and tactically.

This is a team which could dominate the Premier League and in Europe for a generation

There is of course the other route which Solskjaer could go down and it is befitting of his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson. “Attack wins you games, but defence wins you titles,” as the Scot famously remarked.

If Solskjaer is content to promote entrust Mason Greenwood with the role of back-up striker behind Rashford, then his funds would best be spent elsewhere  – namely at the back and in midfield.

West Ham United enforcer Declan Rice is often unfairly criticised for what is perceived as a cumbersome approach to midfield play, but the England international is vital to how both the Three Lions and West Ham function.

Rice is fourth in the division for tackles (87), joint-second for interceptions (61) and boasts an 86 per cent passing success rate with two assists from holding midfield.

Declan Rice is wasted fighting a relegation battle with West Ham
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His steely disposition alongside either Fred or McTominay would provide perfect cover for United if they wanted to be aggressive and attack in a 4-2-3-1, and he is perhaps one of the best options out there for a team willing to play through transitions.

Another area which is surely beginning to concern Solskjaer is between the sticks, with David De Gea’s form noticeably declining in the past two seasons. Fortunately, the club have a seemingly ready-made replacement in Dean Henderson, who is thriving in his second spell on loan at Sheffield United.

Considering he would save the club huge sums in transfer fees and the 22-year-old fits Solskjaer’s bill for blooding young, hungry English players, this should be an absolute no-brainer.

And The Sun report they view the young goalkeeper as their future no.1, even preparing a huge £100,000-a-week contract to keep him at Old Trafford and away from Chelsea.

“He’s learning and growing as a human being and as a player, Solskjaer has said about Henderson. ”He’ll come back one day and he’ll have a good career at Man United.“

Another potential player on the shortlist is struggling Juventus defender Merih Demiral, who has been watched by United and a host of Premier League rivals.

Merih Demiral is out of action until next season with a knee injury
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The 22-year-old moved to Turin last summer and had been frozen out under Maurizio Sarri, behind Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt, in pecking order.

A stunning five-game spell saw him breakout in December but an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Roma ended his season early.

Tuttosport claimed United sent scouts to watch the centre-half in action for Turkey last year and it is claimed a bid of around £34m would be enough to tempt Juve into selling.

While it be would foolish to suggest getting some or even one of the players on this fantasy shortlist would propel United into title contention, no one is doubting Solskjaer when he promises to splash the cash.

United could opt for a safety-first approach in the transfer market


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