Henderson, Fred, Lindelof: Who do Manchester United need to upgrade on this summer? Verdict

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watches his side in action agaisnt Leicester City at Old Trafford

On paper, Manchester United have had a good season. 

Second in the Premier League and into the Europa League final, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would well win his first trophy in charge of the club all while securing only their second top-two finish since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. 

Still, that isn't the level a club such as United should be aspiring to. 

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In fact, a cynic might suggest United are only in the Europa League because of their failure to qualify for the next round of the Champions League after losing to a side currently 15th in the Turkish Super Liga. 

Indeed, while they have beaten Manchester City this season, the title race hasn't looked close in months and surely neither Chelsea or Liverpool will endure such struggles next time around, so their current status as the 'best of the rest' isn't exactly secure. 

The next part of this project has to be making a sustained run at challenging for the game's major trophies. The most successful club in England, another season of building towards surely won't be palatable for support currently protesting against the club's Glazer family ownership. 

With that in mind, GIVEMESPORT writers Jonathan Gorrie, Joshua Cole, Sam Brookes and Christy Malyan have delivered their verdicts on what is really quite a ruthless question. 

Who should Solskjaer upgrade on to turn United into title-winners? 

*All stats correct prior to this weekend's football*

Jonathan Gorrie 

Dean Henderson and, by the same token, David De Gea. 

While Solskjaer was right to hand the England hopeful a chance in goal amid De Gea's alarming yet seemingly continuous dip in form, Henderson just doesn't look up to it. 

Criticised by Paul Scholes for his positioning in the recent loss to Liverpool, the Old Trafford legend also questioned the 24-year-old for his role in letting AC Milan score at Old Trafford in March from a chance Scholes believes he should have saved. 

According to FBREF data, Henderson's post-shot expected goals rating (a metric that judges how likely a 'keeper is to save a shot based on the quality of the chance to an attacker) ranks only 14th league, with De Gea's down in 30th. 

Clearly, axing a young player who came up through the academy so quickly would be ruthless but we saw how transformative an upgrade between the posts can be for Manchester City and Liverpool through the signings of Ederson and Alisson Becker respectively. 

Sadly for Henderson, the same thing looks to be needed at Old Trafford. 

Joshua Cole 

“If Manchester United are to emerge as legitimate contenders for the title next season, it is imperative that they improve their options in the heart of defence.

“Whilst Harry Maguire has enjoyed a fruitful campaign to date, the same cannot be said for Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly who have struggled for consistency in recent months.

“Whereas Lindelof has only managed to average a WhoScored match rating of 6.69, Bailly’s issues with injuries has resulted in him missing 20 games this season.

“By drafting in an individual who has a proven track-record of delivering the goods at the highest level, there is no reason why United cannot close the sizeable gap between them and City.”

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Sam Brookes 

"Fred is not the answer and he never will be.

"Since signing the Brazilian back in 2018, United have persisted with him and given him plenty of opportunities to shine. But he has not taken them at all, and it is surprising that Solskjaer is still standing by him.

"Time and again, he gives the ball away in dangerous areas, putting his team under unnecessary pressure. It’s simply not good enough.

"When you compare him to the best holding midfielders in the league, he’s not at that level. The likes of Fabinho, N’Golo Kante and Rodri are head and shoulders above him at the moment, and there is no sign of that changing any time soon.

"United have shown this season that they are not a million miles away from City at times. After all, they did beat Pep Guardiola’s side 2-0 at the Etihad earlier this year.

"However, Solskjaer needs to be ruthless in the transfer market, and get rid of some of the deadwood at the club if he wants to bridge the gap to the top of the table. He can start by moving on from Fred."

Christy Malyan 

"You'll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team without quality oozing down its centre. Every great team needs a great spine and while United's is solid in places - Bruno Fernandes is a top-class no.10 and United will struggle to sign a centre-back significantly better than Harry Maguire - the rest of it leaves much to be desired.

"I include Edinson Cavani in that. While he's got plenty of experience and shown this season that he can still score goals with nine in the Premier League, they simply can't rely on a 34-year-old week-in, week-out. Meanwhile, Fred and Scott McTominay are decent squad players but neither bring absolute authority to that area of the pitch. A deep midfield lynchpin is a must to improve this United team.

"Likewise, the chopping and changing between David De Gea and Dean Henderson this season highlights United's lack of clarity between the sticks. That inconsistency only creates issues throughout the rest of the team and shows neither are probably quite at the level the Red Devils need.

"On top of that, United's last two outings in Maguire's absence have shown they need another quality centre-half to partner him and marshal the defence when unavailable. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly both looked completely lost against Liverpool.

"The problem Solskjaer faces is whether he can essentially make four key signings in one summer. It's not just a question of ruthlessness but practicality. In that sense I fear United won't be right at the top of English football for some time still."

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