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Soccer-No more excuses - big-spending United must push City all the way

Soccer-No more excuses - big-spending United must push City all the way

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Pre Season Friendly - Manchester United v Everton - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - August 7, 2021 Manchester United's Harry Maguire celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

After making two transformative signings in Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, Manchester United have no excuse for not giving champions Manchester City a proper run for their money in the Premier League title race.

United finally landed England winger Sancho for 73 million pounds (US$101 million) in July before making another eye-catching move by signing serial winning defender Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.

Varane should bring much-needed pace and control to a defence that has relied too much on Harry Maguire in the last two seasons while Sancho can light up a powerful attack and share the team's creative responsibility with Bruno Fernandes.

United made another big investment this summer in handing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a three-year contract and the much-loved former striker must now turn the 20-times English champions back into the force they were before Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Champions City, once dismissed by Ferguson as "noisy neighbours", are undoubtedly the biggest force in Manchester now and are clear favourites to retain their crown after adding Jack Grealish to their squad for a league record 100 million pounds.

Yet Solskjaer has been given more time and money than any of Ferguson's successors and if he cannot sustain a serious title charge, he will face renewed questions about his suitability to coach England's biggest and most successful club.

"Last season was more than acceptable in terms of on the journey but this year they’ve got to get nearer," said former United captain and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, who called Varane "the last piece in the jigsaw".

"They’ve got to get close to challenging for the title and that’s going to be really tough."

United, however, will not just face competition from City.


Chelsea will pose a serious threat in their first full season under Thomas Tuchel, who transformed a team short on ideas under Frank Lampard into Champions League winners in only four months in charge.

The German proved a wily tactician and turned a team with a soft centre into an ultra-competitive side who conceded only two goals in their first 14 games in all competitions.

He has also solved a problem of striking firepower by signing Belgium's Romelu Lukaku, who scored 64 goals in all competitions in two season with Inter Milan, for 97.5 million pounds.

Liverpool should also be a force to be reckoned with again after last season's limp title defence.

They have their defensive leader Virgil van Dijk back as well as Joe Gomez and the Merseysiders will hope for better luck with injuries in this campaign.

Juergen Klopp has further boosted his team's back line with French centre back Ibrahima Konate in a bid to improve on the 42 goals they shipped last season, their worst defensive record in four years.

Leicester City, meanwhile, will make a third bid to gatecrash the top four after agonisingly missing out on a Champions League berth in the last two seasons while north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham will also be desperate to return to Europe's elite competition.

(US$1 = 0.7229 pounds)

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: Reuters


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