With a trip to Old Trafford next on the fixture list for the Eagles, TEB had a chat with the guys at The Busby Babe to find out about their hopes for the season, the visit of Palace and much more.
Q. What are your hopes for the new season?
This is going to be a season of transition for us, no question. We’ve heard that before in the last few years, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves time to lay down the groundwork for his team. Most of us want to see entertaining, progressive football, and by the early signs we’ll get that, at least. I used to thumb my nose at the idea of “top four” (it’s not a trophy!), but Champions League qualification is hugely important now, especially for (hopefully) the next stage of player recruitment next summer. One of the cups would be nice.
Q. Looking back, how do you rank last season now that the dust has settled?
A disaster that we almost managed to salvage. Jose Mourinho should either have been backed or sacked in the summer of 2018, but our incompetent chief executive did neither, and it cost us a whole season. The first couple of months under Solskjaer were as fun as anything we’ve had since Sir Alex Ferguson, but even that couldn’t last.
Q. Are the fans fully behind Solskjaer going into his first full season at the club?
Fully. There are some who question his in-game management, and he has a lot to prove when it comes to his tactical nous, but he’s done everything right to deserve the fans’ support and patience. He genuinely loves the club, wants to play entertaining football, has promoted youth, and has quietly jettisoned the players who he doesn’t rate.
Q. How has the summer transfer window been for the club – were all needs addressed?
I can only imagine how ridiculous this may sound to Palace fans given your window, but ours was underwhelming. On one hand, we immediately addressed two areas of major weakness: centre back and right-back. We haven’t had a reliable partnership at center back since Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić, and arguably not a consistent specialist right-back since Gary Neville. In fact, we haven’t even consistently played four specialist defenders at the back in several years.
Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan Bissaka are massive signings. That said, there are gaping holes left unaddressed. We are painfully short in midfield (a 17 year-old playing for the academy may be our third best midfielder), and it’s scandalous that we didn’t sign anyone. We also don’t have anyone that is a sure thing on the right of the attack. Daniel James is rapid, but he’s a kid making a jump from the Championship. So, good signings, but only about half the needs were addressed, and we still haven’t shifted the deadwood- Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Alexis Sánchez, one of Phil Jones/Chris Smalling.
Q. We were gutted to see him leave as he is going to be a real star but what are United fans early views of Aaron Wan Bissaka?
We LOVE him. Two games in, and well on his way to being a cult hero. Already my favorite defensive signing in ages. [Ed – *sobs*]
Q. One to watch for United this season?
Have you heard of Aaron Wan Bissaka? [Ed – *sobs uncontrollably*]
Other than the names you know, I think Angel Gomes has a real chance of breaking through this season. Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata have shared the duties in the number ten role so far, but neither have impressed. Gomes could give the energy of Lingard, and the creativity of Mata. He’s tiny, but extremely gifted.
Q. If you could pick one Palace player to sign, who would it be and why?
Wilfried Zaha, of course. Not sure he’s good enough for where United want to be in the near future, but he would definitely add something to the team as it is right now.
Q. Name a player from each side that you believe will be a threat in this game?
Hate to be boring, but I imagine Zaha will be your major threat. Luke Shaw is the weakest link in our back four, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Andros Townsend got some joy getting in behind him as well. For United, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have dove-tailed really well so far, and will hopefully give your defense fits. But the one you really have to watch is Paul Pogba – everything goes through him.
Q. Perhaps you could share your opinions on Palace both as a club and what you expect from us this season?
Injuries permitting, I expect Palace will be well clear of relegation trouble, but things could get rocky if Zaha forces a move in January and the club let another window pass without reinvesting the money. Roy Hodgson will make you hard to beat as usual, but when you rely so much on one or two players to create everything you run the risk of a tough season.
Q. Your prediction?