Man Utd half-season report: Best and worst player, transfer targets and overall grade

Man Utd v Brentford postponed due to COVID

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It’s fair to say it’s been a topsy-turvy season for Manchester United so far. After a positive start, damaging defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Watford saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer removed from the wheel and replaced by Ralf Rangnick. His impact has been steady if not unspectacular, but United are showing plenty of promise as they head into the Premier League’s second semester.

Although the negatives may outweigh the positives overall, there is plenty of optimism coming out of Old Trafford as United hope to welcome in a new dawn.

Express Sport will now take a look at United’s best and worst players, assess potential January transfer targets and offer up a final mid-term grade for the men for Manchester.

Best player so far

Cristiano Ronaldo has made a habit of silencing his critics throughout his illustrious career and this season has proved no different.

After question marks were raised over whether he could still cut it in the Premier League, the Portuguese superstar has lay any doubts to rest having struck seven times in 13 league outings since making a fairytale return to Old Trafford on deadline day.

Throw into the mix his six strikes across five Champions League group stage games to become the first ever player to score in an English club’s first five European Cup/Champions League matches and it’s been something of a stellar season for Ronaldo personally.

The first of his double in a 3-2 December triumph over Arsenal also brought his career tally to a simply mind-boggling 800 goals and he’s not finished yet.

Somewhat unjust claims about the forward’s inability to press have been overshadowed by a number of dramatic late strikes, which have saved United on countless occasions so far this campaign.

Expect more stunning strikes, ‘Siu’ celebrations and records to be broken in the second half of the season.

Most disappointing player so far

Ronaldo’s late heroics have often stolen the limelight this season and proved a welcome distraction for United’s shaky defence.

A number of niggling injuries have restricted defensive stalwart Raphael Varane to a mere three Premier League outings as the backline have at times looked ragged and in desperate need of leadership.

Harry Maguire’s dire red card against Watford just about sums up his season and United’s full-backs haven’t covered themselves in glory either.

Since Rangnick’s appointment, both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw have been ousted from the starting XI with Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles both looking more assured at the back while offering more of a threat going forward.

The German coach is already making his mark as he lays down his expectations and it seems the English pair have a lot to prove in order to reclaim their starting berths.

January transfer targets

Rangnick impressed during discussions with the club’s hierarchy while being interviewed prior to his appointment and reportedly made no secret of his desire to strengthen United’s midfield.

Having identified the middle of the park as an area of weakness, don’t be surprised to see some midfield reinforcements arrive in January with Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara and RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara linked.

The latter in particular appears a real possibility having worked closely with Rangnick during their time together at Leipzig and Haidara recently admitted that the German coach has been a “big role model” in his career.

Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfield option also being touted.

Overall grade: C

Despite a tumultuous campaign so far, the Red Devils are within touching distance of Premier League’s top four with games in hand following the fixture chaos caused as a result of Coronavirus complications.

Two 1-0 wins over Crystal Palace and Norwich City respectively marked a steady start to life as a Premier League manager for Rangnick, but his calls for more aggression and intensity signal there is plenty more to come in the second half of the season.

Hints of greater discipline and organisation since the German’s arrival will bring optimism to United’s fanbase but there’s still work to be done if the Red Devils are to turn this rollercoaster of a season into a memorable one for all the right reasons.

The ship has been steadied and the overall picture is nowhere near as bad as it has felt at times this season so a solid C seems fitting at the halfway point.

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