Robson's verdict on Ole's class of 2021/22
United's season is already up and running, but what's the verdict on the squad Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has in place to tackle the rest of 2021/22?
Well, who better to ask than United's longest-serving captain, and a bona-fide England legend?
Inside United, the official magazine, caught up with the one and only Bryan Robson to get some heavyweight expertise, ahead of the close of the transfer window next Tuesday...
“We’ve got two top goalkeepers in David De Gea and Dean Henderson. There’s great experience with David, and Dean is an up-and-coming player who really wants to kick on. So that’s great competition. And then also Tom Heaton and Lee Grant have a lot of experience. So we’re looking very strong as far as the goalkeeping position is concerned.”
“Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire were as good as anybody in the European Championship in the summer. Luke was excellent last season and I think he’s got a good understanding with Harry, so that looks strong.
“Raphael Varane looks as if he’s going to be good competition at centre-back, we’ve got Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones – Phil’s hardly played any football over the last couple of years but we all see, when he does play, he’s a very good player. If Phil stays fit, then that’s great experience and a very good player. So centre-half-wise we are looking strong, we’ve got a lot of competition there.
“Aaron Wan-Bissaka is so quick and he’s got good timing of tackles. And in behind these, to keep them on their toes, we have Brandon Williams [who has now been loaned to Norwich City], then, on the other side, we’ve got Alex Telles, and there’s Diogo Dalot as well. When you look at the competition there, we’ve more-or-less got two or three players in each position. You need that in the modern game. A big squad is always really important, so you can freshen things up.
“But it’s not just about having a big squad, it’s about having the quality within the squad. And I think that with the two new signings, Varane and Sancho, that definitely improves the quality of the team and the quality of the squad.”
“I think we have a good mix. Ole often likes to play with two defensive midfielders and he’s got good options in there with Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred. Then we have the attacking options. In certain games, if you feel you’re going to be really dominant, do you really need two defensive midfielders or can you put Paul Pogba in there? That’s going to be another attacking option to getting forward and scoring goals. With Paul, I think Ole’s got the option of where to play him. He proved last season that he can play to the left side of the attack as well.”
“Ole has got Anthony Martial or Paul to the left, then you’ve got Dan James and you’ve got Jadon Sancho on the right – or Mason Greenwood if you want to play him there. And then Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes, Juan Mata, they’re going to give you great attacking options for that free role just in behind the forwards.
“Edinson Cavani, through the middle as striker, and Martial can definitely play there as well. But you’ve also got the option now, with Mason being a year older and getting that little bit stronger, can Mason make a real mark for himself? Because he is a tremendous finisher. So there are great options.
“While Marcus Rashford is out recovering from his shoulder surgery, it’s the time for the other boys to step up to the mark and get us the goals that we need. Then when Marcus comes back in, it makes for even more competition among the attacking flair players.
“The flexibility is good. When you’re a manager, you do want a few players in your squad who can play in different positions, because it does give you really good options and you can freshen things up. So it is good that we’ve got quite a few players who, you look at them and you think, that’s probably their favourite position to play there, but they can also play in that position and do you a great job.
“It's a good blend of experience and youth. The experienced players, you hope that the young players learn from them and so it helps to bring them on and encourage them. And the thing is as well, we haven’t even mentioned the younger lads who have only had one or two appearances towards the end of last year[(eg Shola Shoretire, Amad, Hannibal etc]. So it is a massive squad, when you do look at it.”