Manchester United 2020/21 Season Review: What Went Wrong and What to Take Away

Manchester United's Paul Pogba shakes hands with Bruno Fernandes before the match.

REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United’s season came to an end on Wednesday in a fashion that most supporters won’t be keen on remembering.

With the Europa League loss to Villarreal, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has gone yet another season without a trophy and a second-placed Premier League finish to none other than Manchester City will not sit well either. Even their domestic travails, wherein their squad depth ought to have materialized into some wins, proved fruitless.

As such, it is easy to view this campaign as a poor one from the Red Devils and pile blame on the Norwegian gaffer, as a section of the supporters already are. Solskjær himself did not mince words in that regard, opining after the penalty-shootout defeat that, “No, it is not a successful season, of course. And that is the fine margins in football, sometimes one kick can define a season as a good one, or a successful one, and one kick says it’s not.”

However, there are still plenty of positives from this season and it is of some merit to delve into them.

Firstly, the second-placed Premier League finish is still an incredible achievement on its own and it is the second season in a row that United have managed to secure Champions League football. This is an incredible feat and one that hints at consistency for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

Moreover, the fact that United actually tasted the first place for a bit speaks volumes, especially since there were still clear gaping holes in their squad with regard to positional speciality. This certainly paves the way for next season wherein the Mancunian side can be serious title contenders if the correct amount of investment is made.

The most telling indicator of their domestic bliss is the unprecedented away run that the club had, unbeaten throughout the season and a force to reckon with on the road. The home fixtures also held several memorable fixtures that were laden with goals, particularly the 6-2 battering of Leeds United at Old Trafford and the historic 9-0 goal barrage against Southampton.

Heavy goals were also netted in their European trysts which memorably began in the Champions League and included excellent initial attempts against RB Leipzig which ended 5-0 at home but an embarrassing defeat in Germany as well as wins against Istanbul Basaksehir and even a half-decent attempt at keeping PSG at bay, specifically with a slim 1-2 away win.

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann shakes hands with Man Utd's Paul Pogba after the match.

REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

The EFL Cup went until the semi-finals, but Solskjær’s luck trumped him here yet again, with Manchester City holding them to a 0-2 defeat during the derby. The FA Cup likewise proved inconclusive with the side only heading until the quarter-finals, defeating the likes of Liverpool only be trounced by the eventual winners Leicester City.

This was also undoubtedly Bruno Fernandes’ season with his excellent numbers of 28 goals and 17 assists finally heralding the dawn of a new figure to rely upon at Old Trafford. Further still, the Edinson Cavani gamble paid off well for the club, with the veteran striker netting 17 goals in all competitions, many of them arriving at crucial points.

Marcus Rashford once more had an excellent season although not one where he was reliable throughout, as his 21 goals and 9 assists may not illustrate. Anthony Martial was the clear trotter in this regard, with only 7 goals to show for a dismal, injury-laden campaign. On the other side, Harry Maguire’s excellent record of Premier League appearances came to an end due to a late injury that also effectively derailed the end of their campaign.

All in all, the Red Devils showed a lot of spirit this time around and were able to come around much better as a whole unit. The reliance on individual performers for effective results still remains an issue at the club, as does the lack of squad depth in key positions. However, it is vital for the side to take the results in a positive stride and build back better for the next season.