Man Utd: Revisiting our prediction for Solskjaer's XI at the end of three-year project

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Manchester United are setting forth into a new era under Ralf Rangnick.

The Red Devils confirmed on Monday that the former RB Leipzig manager would assume interim control of the club, before inheriting an advisory position at Old Trafford for a further two years.

The news comes just over a week after United made the tough decision to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the back of a terrible start to the season that culminated in a 4-1 defeat to Watford.

Solskjaer's Man Utd reign

Given the progress that Solskjaer had overseen at the 'Theatre of Dreams' on the back of Jose Mourinho's sacking, it was sad to see his project come apart at the seams in recent months.

However, now that the Solskjaer era has come to a close for better or for worse, we wanted to look back on the prediction that we made for United's dynasty under the Norwegian back in 2019.

On the back of a Telegraph report that claimed that United would back Solskjaer with eight signings over a three-year project, we imagined how the club's squad might look when 2021 rolled around.

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Reacting to our United prediction

Well, low and behold, not only is it now the year in question, but Solskjaer's project has indeed ended, so let's revisit our XI - originally inspired by talkSPORT - to see how it's aged down below:

GK - David de Gea

Key line: "Say whatever you like about De Gea's mistakes over the last 12 months, but the Spaniard remains one of the world's best goalkeepers and is an untouchable at Old Trafford."

'Untouchable' might have been a tad strong with Dean Henderson threatening his number one jersey at times, but De Gea has probably been United's best player this season. Bang on.

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RB - Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Key line: "It's been a so-so start for the Englishman this season, but he's shown more than enough quality to suggest he'll be a regular starter when 2021 rolls around."

Whether you like it or not, United fans, we were spot on here, too.

CB - Ruben Dias

Key line: "The Portuguese, one of the finest up and coming centre-backs in Europe, could follow in the footsteps of Victor Lindelof in a move that would suit United's future-thinking project to a tee."

Ah, the first misstep, but United could have done a lot worse than listening to our advise because Dias was named the Premier League Player of the Season in his first year at Manchester City.

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CB - Harry Maguire

Key line: "There can be little doubting that Maguire is one of the Premier League's very best on his day and the 26-year-old will come into his own when he settles in at the 'Theatre of Dreams.'"

It might not be all sunshine and rainbows for the United skipper at the moment, but there's no denying that - like we said in 2019 - he's a top centre-back when he's on form.

LB - Ben Chilwell

Key line: "They might have to fight Manchester City for this particular signature, but it's a transfer that makes so much sense for United and one they've been linked with as recently as this week."

Or Chelsea... ok, so, this is miles off the mark yet again because Luke Shaw has enjoyed a renaissance since then, but this is another signing, like Dias, that United could have done with making.

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RM - Jadon Sancho

Key line: "Of all the potential changes in this team, Sancho would be the biggest coup and if United can tempt the English to Old Trafford, they could have themselves a bona fide superstar for years to come."

Hurrah! We got a signing correct! Ok, fair enough, it was pretty obvious that United were going to sign the England starlet seeing as negotiations dragged on for approximately forever and a day.

CM - Scott McTominay

Key line: "Already one of the bright lights at United, McTominay could go on to establish himself over the next two years and endure as the combative heart of a rejuvenated Red Devils side."

Well, I guess this was correct actually, but suggesting that he was going to become the beating heart of United's team in 2021 was not quite so accurate...

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CM - Paul Pogba

Key line: "It's well within the realms of possibility that Pogba will have waved goodbye to Old Trafford by this point but - if he decides to stay - picking him in the starting XI is something of a no-brainer."

Well, at least we correctly predicted that Pogba would still be at United. That being said, we're not sure that starting him will be the no-brainer for Ralf Rangnink that we thought it might have been.

CM - James Maddison

Key line: "It seems inevitable that Maddison will sign for a top six club in the coming years and he could become the energetic, creative influence that Solskjaer is crying out for."

Or not. Admittedly, this wasn't out greatest suggestion in the world with Maddison having gone off the boil in the last 12 months and contrary to our prediction, he still hasn't joined a 'big six' side.

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LM - Daniel James

Key line: "The young Welshman has the bit between his teeth and if James isn't in the line-up when 2021 arrives, then it won't be for a lack of trying. United's star performer this season, no doubt."

We had high hopes for you, Dan! To be fair, James is a lovely lad and bound to succeed at Leeds United, but we got a little bit ahead of ourselves with his lightning start to the 2019/20 season.

ST - Moussa Dembele

Key line: "It looks highly likely that Mario Mandzukic will pass through the United revolving door at some point but Dembele - who has been heavily linked this week - seems more plausible as a long-term option."

Wowsers. I bet you're glad that neither Mandzukic nor Dembele are currently leading your line, United fans, seeing as you actually have Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani instead. 

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Extra signing - Declan Rice

Key line: "The Red Devils are becoming linked with English talent on the rise and with an extra season of West Ham experienced under his belt, Rice moving north feels like a natural progression."

I bet you wish we got this one right. That being said, you'd put your money on Rice moving to Chelsea or Manchester City before a United move at this rate, that's for sure.

Extra signing - Mario Mandzukic

Key line: "We're not sure the Croatian will be at Old Trafford as far in the future as 2021, but he could hurriedly fill the void left by Romelu Lukaku for a brief spell."

Weren't sure, you say? You're dead right more like because although we could all imagine a world in which this quick-fix signing actually happened, United fans are probably glad that it never did.

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Extra signing - Erling Haaland

Key line: "Surely Solskjaer will use his connections to secure this signing. One of the most exciting talents in Europe, it just makes too much sense not to happen unless Real Madrid swoop in first."

Oh my goodness me. The humble days before every football club with more than £100 million in their coffers was banging on Mino Raiola's door to tie down Haaland for the next five or so years.

Who knows, maybe Rangnick could use his own connections instead of Solskjaer, but given the wildly varying trajectories of United and Haaland right now, I wouldn't hold your breath.

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Ridiculous... in more ways than one

Wow, ok, so there's plenty to unpack there from our two-year-old prediction, but the simple fact of the matter is that our line-up now looks ridiculous in both senses of the world.

For starters, it's ridiculous in that now the idea of United having Rice, Haaland, Chilwell and Dias on their books seems absolutely mind-blowing when you consider how they've gone on to progress.

Dias and Haaland both earned Ballon d'Or nominations this year, while Chilwell started in Chelsea's Champions League triumph and Rice is one of the world's most sought-after defensive midfielders.

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But the line-up is also ridiculous in the sense that we thought United would be starting week in, week out with James, Dembele and Maddison, which would certainly not be ideal in 2021.

Don't get me wrong, they're still incredibly talented players who could do a job for United, but let's just say that it wouldn't be the desired outcome of the Solskjaer project now that we know better.

But that's enough of United, does anybody fancy the lottery numbers?

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