Manchester United

Man Utd must make Old Trafford a fortress again to challenge next season

Daniel Feliciano
Manchester United's home form has been a momentum killer this season
Manchester United's home form has been a momentum killer this season / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Football has been a different for the last 14 months, hasn't it?

Finances across the game have taken a hit because fans haven't been allowed in stadiums and that lack of support in the stands has seen some very odd results. Manchester United have been hit harder than most by the lack of fans, as their 1-1 draw against Fulham on Tuesday ensured their worst season at Old Trafford in the Premier League era.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have won just nine of their 19 Premier League games at home, failing to beat two of the relegated teams and only defeating two of the sides in the top half of the table.

Joe Bryan
Fulham earned a draw at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening / Phil Noble - Pool/Getty Images

They've managed to defeat West Ham and Leeds at Old Trafford this season, but all six of their league defeats have come at home. It's a damning indictment of just how far the club's reputation has fallen over the years that teams don't fear visiting their stadium anymore.

This season in the Premier League has seen the most home points dropped of any season before and the lack of fans is undoubtedly a big reason for that. But United failed to capitalise on supporters returning against Fulham, failing to beat the already relegated opposition in front of 10,000 of their own.

The goal they conceded to Joe Bryan was the 28th let in at Old Trafford this season, the most since the 1962/63 season, and means they have now dropped ten points from winning positions at home in the league - more than any other club this season.

United will finish this season in second place, a maximum of 15 points behind champions Manchester City. A proper home record would have gone a long way to closing that gap at the top of the table and pushed United towards a real challenge for silverware.

There was a time when teams turned up to Old Trafford beaten before they walked on the pitch, with the roar of the fans and quality of player mentally winning the game before a ball was kicked. A draw was deemed a good result for visitors and teams would change their style of play for the game to avoid a battering.

Now, teams come full of confidence knowing they can get a result because they will get chances.

Solskjaer needs to get back to making Old Trafford a fortress. He has addressed the team spirit brilliantly, with the squad more united than at any point since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, while there has been clear progression on the pitch stylistically too.

The return of fans next season could help United's home form / SOREN ANDERSSON/Getty Images

He has ridden the squad of lots of the deadwood and recruited well, with a policy in place to ensure the balance and unity isn't affected. The away form is phenomenal, with the club not losing an away game since January 2020, and performances against the top six teams improving as the season progressed.

But they must make that push next season and ensure that the title challenge this season is bettered next season, and the best way to do that is to win the home games. It's unrealistic to expect that the club will win every game at Old Trafford but nine wins is poor.

The team should be looking to win a bare minimum of 13 home games in a season, which based off this season would be a 12 point increase - the exact amount of points they currently sit behind City.

Fix their home form, but not at the expense of their away results, and a genuine title challenge is right there for the Red Devils.