Manchester United are three transfers short of being genuine title contenders

Man Utd are in the title race this season in unique circumstances but they still have work to do to become challengers season after season. ...

Man Utd are in the title race this season in unique circumstances but they still have work to do to become challengers season after season.

After the goalless draw in a dour Manchester derby on Saturday, there's been plenty of discussion about the title credentials of the two protagonists this season.

Let's be honest, Manchester's two football clubs sent the rest of the country to sleep at the weekend, playing out a stultifying 90 minutes at Old Trafford that lacked excitement and intensity, whatever the managers said.

But ruling them both out of this season's title race on the evidence of a single game, where both seemed happy with their point after 20 minutes, is a bit of a rash judgement. City will certainly expect to be in the shake-up come May and, given the unpredictable nature of this season, United might fancy hanging around in the picture a little longer too.

A United title challenge this season was wholly unexpected and the fact they're being included in the discussion is purely a result of the bizarre circumstances that 2020/21 is bringing. Win their game in hand away at Burnley and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side would only be two points off top spot, despite going through what seems like several crises already this season.

It already seems clear that no team is going to run away with the title this season. All of the big six failed to win this weekend and while we can count Arsenal out of any discussion, the rest of that elite club will be thinking they could win an open race. Leicester City are right in the mix as well, as are Southampton.

But while circumstance is opening the door for United this season, that's not a sustainable strategy going forward. In terms of a squad they look more equipped to challenge in a regular season than they did 18 months ago, but they're still probably three players short of having a first XI that could take the fight to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Whichever way Solskjaer turns with his goalkeeping conundrum, David de Gea or Dean Henderson should be good enough to compete at the top level.

In defence, United have been better this season but they probably still need a quick central defender to play alongside Harry Maguire, someone who can enable them to play a higher line and offer more insurance in one-v-one defending.

Maguire hasn't fully convinced at United, but he is clearly a good centre back and could yet flourish over time. At full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been out of form lately, but is still young and has improved since joining from Crystal Palace, while Alex Telles offers a more attacking threat than Luke Shaw.

Bruno Fernandes is an integral piece of United's midfield, but while Fred and Scott McTominay have offered a secure base in the centre, an upgrade is probably required there to become title challengers. United would be a better side with a world-class defensive midfielder in their XI.

Finally, that brings us to the attack and a problem area United have failed to solve for a while now. Edinson Cavani has settled well at centre forward and Anthony Martial scored goals in that role last season, while Mason Greenwood could also move to a central role in the next 18 months.

The biggest issue for United in their front three is a right-winger, just as it was in the summer when the Jadon Sancho talk was at its height. Bring in another elite level attacker and they will have a fearsome forward line.

United may yet challenge for the title this season. They could yet win it, although that seems unlikely, but to be considered serious challengers there is more work to be done in the transfer market.

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