Lifelong Blue Russell Cowper assesses those lot down the road.
Mourinho is a great manager as his record suggests, it would be churlish to suggest otherwise. Over the years managing in the Premier League his teams have always been functional, efficient, pragmatic and mentally strong. He loves players with power, strength and speed who are tactically aware and buy wholeheartedly into his pragmatic approach. He does not suffer fools nor dissent. He has similar traits to the great Arsenal coach Don Howe who once said “you start with a point why lose it”. Jose can be ruthless as any top coach should be, but I have always been of the opinion his approach can have negative connotations as the repercussions of his well reported spat with Chelsea physio Eva Carniero showed. It is certainly his way or the highway.
As United begin their 43rd consecutive season in England’s top flight what can we expect from its most trophy laden club?
Champions League qualification was a welcome bonus for them on top of a season which yielded two trophies alongside a season in which on the whole they struggled to make an impact on the upper echelons of the Premier League.
The transfer business looks sound, Lukaku will score goals, he is big, powerful and in many ways mirrors old Mourinho favourite Didier Drogba. Matic meanwhile is a top class holding midfielder who often goes unnoticed surrounded by a team full of flair and pace. Lindelof, who to be honest I have seen little of, has been getting rave reviews and a knowledgeable friend of mine based in Portugal rates him very highly.
The outgoings look sensible. Rooney is not the player he was and while capable of moments of genius , a team with title ambitions cannot afford to carry him any longer. The once much lauded great new hope Janujaz has left: he appeared to lose all confidence under the stultifying reign of Van Gaal but may come again as he has the talent.
I expect United to be very hard to beat; they will be pragmatic rather than expansive which will increase the burden on Rashford and Martial to offer pace on the counter and provide opportunities for Lukaku. They will be a very different beast to the United of Ferguson with his flying wingers and all-out attack.
It is a huge season for Pogba who he showed glimpses of real world class ability last season and the signing of Matic should free him from any defensive responsibility allowing him to play further forwards where he can really hurt teams. Matic should also free up the underrated Herrera who I think is a fantastic footballer and as a result he could really blossom into a very high class PL player.
Defensively United look strong. De Gea is world class and Bailly has been an excellent signing who has really progressed. Valencia remains one the finest full backs in the league and maybe the enigma that is Luke Shaw might start to realise his enormous potential. Centre half however is an area where United have struggled recently with injuries not helping of course. If Bailly and Lindelof can form an understanding with Jones and Smalling as back-up they look in good shape. I have to say Rojo has never impressed me and Blind suffers from being so versatile.
If United play 4-3-3 with Matic holding, Pogba and Herrera will make it a very strong midfield. Felliani for all his doubters is a decent back up and a real weapon from the bench.
In attack I expect to see Rashford and Martial out wide providing Lukaku with opportunities. Lingard, Mata and Mikihtarayan offer options as does Rashford playing as a 9.
Overall United’s squad has a somewhat lopsided appearance. The first XI looks a match for anybody but the back-ups are not so strong. Young and Carrick are past their best; Darmian is reliable but unconvincing; and Lingard flatters to deceive. What does surprise me – and I’m sure I will be proved wrong – is that United’s conveyor belt of youth players appears to have dried up of late. Obviously United fans will be more aware of upcoming talent than me.
So where and what will United have in store for us this season. With my neck on the block and being wide open to huge ridicule my predictions are:
4th in the PL
Group stage CL
Win either FA or League cup.
Ideally I would like to see United relegated of course, but I have tried to give an honest assessment as I see it.
Have fun Reds. Stay safe and enjoy the ride.