Manchester United finished the Premier League on a high, but their Europa League flop demonstrated just how much further there is to go.
- Flick resigned to losing Thiago amid Liverpool and Man Utd interest - Reports
- Could Thiago really join Man Utd instead of Liverpool?
- Alexis: I wanted to return to Arsenal after my first Man Utd training session
They have spent most of the transfer window thus far unsuccessfully chasing Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, and Ed Woodward has delivered Donny van de Beek instead.
Above and below them, Chelsea and Manchester City have significantly strengthened, so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot afford to be cut adrift by the United beancounters, as happened to Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho before him.
- Donny van de Beek (Ajax, £39 million)
Manchester United beat Spurs and - apparently - Real Madrid to sign the 23-year-old Dutch international midfielder. It's not yet clear how he will fit in alongside Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, but is a necessary upgrade on Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred.
Premier League giants 'evaluate' Sevilla centre-back – Euro Papers
- Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Oldham Athletic, free)
- Tahith Chong (Werder Bremen, loan)
- Joel Pereira (Huddersfield, loan)
- Alexis Sanchez (Inter Milan, free)
- Angel Gomes (Lille, free)
There will be more exits to come, one imagines, but for now they have got rid of Alexis Sanchez, who cut a forlorn figure as soon as he joined the club. Tahith Chong's loan to Werder Bremen will give him the chance to learn to be more effective in the final third, while they will be disappointed to lose Angel Gomes.
Possible further moves
United are continuing to hold out hopes of signing Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, but it depends if they can raise enough funds and structure the asking price of £110 million to the German club's liking.
Man Utd's Van De Beek on shirt number tribute to former teammate
United have also been linked to Thiago, but it is most likely a ruse to smoke out interest from Liverpool in the Bayern midfielder.
Solskjaer wants a left-back, with Sergio Reguilon an option if they can negotiate a potential buyback clause and loan interest from Sevilla.
A central defender is on the list too, but Dayot Upamecano has a release clause that only becomes active next summer. A lack of organisation looks set to cost United again, though perhaps there are other options.
The club will be happy to see some more departures, with Andreas Pereira, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Jesse Lingard and others to be cut loose.
Any other changes?
Solskjaer has long wanted a new head of his physio department, and a director of football could finally arrive, but injury and transfer deficiencies have been a hallmark since Alex Ferguson's departure.
Manchester United's Mason Greenwood shows his disappointment after the draw with West Ham.
Image credit: Getty Images
There may be more opportunities for Mason Greenwood. Solskjaer wants to add a striker but with Odion Ighalo set to stay until January now his loan has been arranged, it seems like a signing up top will be kicked into the medium-length grass in favour of the defence.
Brandon Williams is one player who might get some more game time this season if no reinforcements arrive, with a chance to demonstrate whether he was enjoyably exuberant or actually talented.
United's squad has a mixture of real talent, deadwood, and meat in the room. It's up to Woodward to add some quality before the transfer window shuts.
If Solskjaer is given better quality to work with, then his attacking instincts might see United challenge for a Premier League top three spot yet again, and maybe get through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
Another possibility is that nobody arrives after Van de Beek, and Solskjaer is tasked with getting the best out of his patchwork group of players, who will need coaching in defence, midfield and attack.
David de Gea will likely make way for Dean Henderson over the course of the season, unless his Nations League man-of-the-match performance is a demonstration of rediscovered form.
Pogba remaining at the club is the key to it all. If he plays to the best of his ability, then United can beat anyone. If he goes back into his shell then United will merely, at best, tread water. Making a prediction with so many variables is almost impossible, but unless something ridiculous happens, we can be sure that the club remain a long, long way from a title challenge.