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How can Man United become title contenders?

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Man Utd players Paul Pogba (L), Harry Maguire (2L), Marcus Rashford (2R) and Scott McTominay line up during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 11, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Offside via Getty Images

Man United are in the top four picture in the Premier League but they want more, a lot more, as talk of mounting a title bid in the future has begun.

Woah. Hold your horses. Man United title contenders?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Newly-installed Man United captain Harry Maguire has told our partners at Sky Sports that he wants them to challenge for the title and not be content with a top four finish. That’s admirable, Harry, but is it realistic?

“I think you can see from the start of the season we look a lot more like a team, we can probably see where we want to go, where we want to head. I knew when I first came to Manchester United that Ole said to me loads and loads it’s a building process but we’ll be where we want to be. I can see where we’re heading and the style he wants to implement on the team,” Maguire said. “Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of aspects we need to improve to get to the top of where we want to be. We don’t want to be challenging for this Champions League spot, we want to be challenging for titles. We know there’s still a lot of improvement to get there, but we’re on the right track and I’m sure eventually we will get there.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried to keep expectations relatively low since he arrived at Man United in December 2018 but with big money spent on Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and most recently Bruno Fernandes, there’s a sense the Red Devils are getting there.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a long way to go until they catch up with Liverpool and Man City to mount a serious title bid, but the signs have been promising. They are currently unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions, recording nine shutouts during this run and have beaten Chelsea and Man City (twice).

Below we take a look at where Man United still need to strengthen to become title contenders.

Where Man United need to strengthen to become title challengers

----- De Gea -----

--- Wan-Bissaka --- Maguire --- ? --- Shaw ---

---- ? ---- Fred ---

---- ? ---- Fernandes ---- Rashford ----

----- Martial -----

Most of the back four is fine and this be a little harsh to suggest a replacement for Victor Lindelof is needed and a little too kind to keep Luke Shaw in there. Simply put, if United keep Lindelof and Shaw in their back four, they will probably be solid enough. Is that good enough? If you want to challenge for titles you have to have a back four capable of not making a mistake for months on end.

Defensive midfield is United’s biggest problem area. It is quite generous for me to keep Fred in there after a few months of decent displays following his 12 months of mediocrity. That said, Nemanja Matic is edging towards the end of his career, Paul Pogba’s future is uncertain and Scott McTominay is a great 12th man but is he anymore than that? Bringing in a N’Golo Kante type player is what United need to do to knit their midfield and defense together.

On the attacking side of things, not a lot needs to happen. Of course, bringing in Harry Kane up top would be a game-changer but are Tottenham really going to sell him to Man United and will Solskjaer really blow his entire transfer budget on a forward when he already has a handful who can grab close to 20 goals a season each? Probs not. Martial, Rashford will interchange as left wingers and central strikers, while Fernandes is their star playmaker in the No.10 role. The only spot that really needs filling is out on the right. Daniel James has been inconsistent, Jesse Lingard has lost his form and Mason Greenwood prefers to play up top. Bringing in a tricky winger who can cut in from the right would be ideal.

So, Man United are at the very least three players away from having a squad which could mount a serious title bid. A center back, holding midfielder and right winger would be a fine start to closing the gap on the clubs above them. There is a plan and that is promising but they still have a heck of a long way to go.

Man United haven’t won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson returned in 2013 and the only time they’ve come relatively close since was the 2017-18 campaign when the finished a distant second to runaway leaders Man City.

Follow @JPW_NBCSports