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How Will Manchester United do in the Champions League?

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Manchester United Champions League

The tale of Manchester United’s season is very much one of two halves. With the club struggling in mid-January, Portuguese magician Bruno Fernandes joined the Red Devils and instantly galvanised the squad.

Fernandes' mere presence at Old Trafford boosted fortunes and turned the club from a sorry Europa League contender to an exciting team that managed to pip Leicester City to a Champions League place. United performed admirably to close the season out and secure a place in the desired European tournament, but questions still remain over their squad depth, the defence, and even their star-studded goalkeeper.

It will be the first time United are back in the Champions League via a place inside the top four since Jose Mourinho's second season at the club, and just the second time they've done so, post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

Let's take a look at how United will fare in the Champions League next season.

United Squad depth is needed and Sancho could be the difference

The midfield at Old Trafford looks secure for the time being with Fernandes alongside Nemanja Matic Paul Pogba, plus Fred and Scott McTominay as backups.

To top it off, Manchester United’s front three is severely underrated. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and teenage sensation Mason Greenwood scored a combined 62 goals in 2019/20, which is more than Liverpool’s title-winning trio. Obviously, it is unfair to compare the two, given United’s status in the Europa League and Liverpool’s Premier League triumph, but it is still intriguing nonetheless.

United have a multitude of fast attackers to choose from, and utilise the talents of Pogba and Fernandes to supply them with scoring opportunities. Plus, the potential addition of Jadon Sancho could spark up a new flame at Old Trafford and really put them amongst the very best in Europe.

The England international has become a star following his performances this season, scoring 20 goals and registering 20 assists for the German giants to establish himself as one of the very best in world football. By placing Sancho alongside Martial, Rashford and Greenwood, United would be well-placed for a successful, stable future with a potent youthful attack and a Champions League run wouldn't be the most ridiculous of statements.

David De Gea’s spot, however, is the most intriguing. United have a ready-made replacement for the Spaniard in Dean Henderson, who has starred at Sheffield United. It remains to be seen if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trusts Henderson enough at the time being, so don’t expect De Gea to be ousted soon. Although, if his performances remain underwhelming early into next season, the pressure will indeed be on.

All in all, United's squad depth is alarming. Their fringe players who were fielded against LASK in the Europa League and Norwich City and Chelsea in the FA Cup never looked at ease. The likes of Daniel James and Jesse Lingard won't be enough for them to advance much further than the group stages in the Champions League, if Solskjaer wants to switch things around and if the draw isn't kind.

A defender is needed for European success

Moving down the pitch, United are certainly not solid at the back and could do with the signing of a world-class defender to partner with Harry Maguire. The Red Devils have been linked with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, and could swoop for the dominant centre-back this summer. Koulibaly’s rare combination of speed and athleticism makes him a nightmare for opposing forwards, and he would be perfect alongside Harry Maguire in the physical Premier League.

If not the Senegal international, United are rumoured to also be monitoring the situation of Sheffield United’s John Egan. Egan is by no means a household name in world football, but the Irish central defender has been brilliant during the Blades’ impressive campaign, which saw them finish in the top half after flirting with European football.

The defedner wouldn’t come cheap due to the fact that he is a proven top flight defender, but he also would not break the bank for a club of United’s stature. Acquiring the services of men such as Egan is the next step for United in creating squad depth which can fight on both fronts of domestic and European football.

As the draw is a few months away, it's tough to completely predict United's Champions League run. However, with favourable opposition, the club have proven with their charge towards the Champions League in 2020 that they are certainly on the rise.

For the club in it's current climate, a quarter-finals stage will no doubt be a step in the right direction, but for United as an entity, it is still far from acceptable.

By Andrew Gamble