Manchester United: 2018/19 Premier League Season Preview
Relationships between Jose Mourinho and the United fan base have been turbulent this pre-season and many are suggesting the Red Devils will have a poor campaign if this fractious relationship with the club continues. Despite this, their campaign gets off to a relatively easy beginning and Mourinho will be eager to restore faith with his supporters.
Despite their city rivals unprecedented campaign last season, United finished runners up in the Premier League and also in the FA Cup in which they lost out to Chelsea. They ended up 19 points behind their city neighbours and this is, perhaps not surprisingly, an immeasurable frustration in the red half of Manchester. Mourinho’s side were also frustrated in the Champions League as they were knocked out in a shock defeat to Sevilla in the round of 16 which was a considerable disappointment for the three time European winners.
Manager and tactics
Jose Mourinho typically approaches a game with a 4-3-3 formation with a target man sitting right up top in the middle of the three. Romelu Lukaku is this central man and certainly the forward line is built around the Belgium. With 16 goals in the league last season, the forward will be looking to improve his return this season and challenge for the golden boot, although last season this would have meant doubling his goal-return. With Lukaku leading the line, he should without doubt be breaking 20 goals this season. Either side of Lukaku, Mourinho has quite a few options which he usually utilises. The effect of Alexis Sanchez could be empathic this campaign and there are many tipping the Chilean to have an influential season. Sanchez will likely be chosen on one flank which leaves plenty of options on the other. Jesse Lingard who last season had possibly his best in a United shirt is an option. Another would certainly be Marcus Rashford, the youngster has struggled to gain satisfactory game time at Old Trafford yet when he has appeared he has provided jaw-dropping performances and it would certainly be good to see the English international heavily involved this season. The aforementioned individuals are likely to play ahead of Anthony Martial who has somewhat fallen out of favour at United. It’s probable that he will remain a United player so he will be given the option to fight for his place but with Mourinho’s scare tactics and somewhat ignorance Martial will have to come back strong and fight hard for his place.
This season for Mourinho it could be his midfield department which provide the prowess and ability to allow his side to compete. The £50m signing of Fred from Shakhtar could prove to be a key signing as the Brazilian is likely to feature heavily this season. If this is the case it could provide Mourinho with some selection dilemmas as in the ranks he also has Matic, Pogba, Herrera and Mata who all in their own right deserve a role within this United team. With playing a 4-3-3, Mourinho usually looks towards his wingers to provide some much needed pace down the wings. Luke Shaw, who has had a turbulent time at United looks to be in favour this campaign and it could be a real break-through season for him. On the other side for the majority of the season will be Antonio Valencia, although at 33, the Ecuadorian still has pace to burn and will provide the right hand side with some knowledgeable defending and a positive outlook on the attack. As usual with Mourinho a skilled and experienced keeper features heavily and it will be David De Gea once more providing the much needed professionalism and skill between the sticks.
Although reports have suggested that Paul Pogba has met with Barcelona’s technical director Eric Abidal in the US to discuss a potential move, if the Frenchman was to stay in Manchester he could certainly be vital to United’s campaign. The 25-year-old was victim to Mourinho’s occasional out blasts around his teams performance last year yet after an impressive World Cup display with Les Blues, this season could be imperative and his fractious relationship with Jose could be put to one side. Sky Sources did report that Barcelona offered £45m as well as Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina which United promptly rejected. Alongside the £90m midfielder/, it is another midfielder/striker who could be essential to United this campaign. Alexis Sanchez somewhat struggled last season and was extremely inconsistent in his performance. The Chilean certainly possesses undeniable skill and ability and after an efficient pre-season Sanchez will certainly be a key player for Jose and United and will likely impress.
Antonio Valencia will be captaining the Red Devils this campaign yet he has come up for some criticism from his manager this pre-season as Mourinho was not happy with the condition upon the Ecuadorian’s return to the squad after the summer break. The 33-year-old, who is now United’s longest serving player after the retirement of Michael Carrick this summer, spent most of last campaign leading out the side despite Carrick being the official ‘club captain’. With 235 caps for United, the right-back has an established presence at Old Trafford and will be a respected club captain in the upcoming season.
Despite Jose Mourinho voicing an extreme displeasure at the clubs underwhelming activity in the transfer window, the board pledged to back the manager and have told the coach that there are finances to strengthen his squad before they kick off the upcoming season at Old Trafford to Leicester City. At the time of writing, United have bought in three players yet the Portuguese manager has constantly stated that his side are not equipped to perform amongst the best in the league. A lot of the manager’s dissatisfaction could be due to the absence of a vast amount of his senior players on the pre-season US tour, which the side began without 13 first teamers. Although this was in part due to the World Cup the club have not done too much impressive business at the time of writing to bolster their team.
Alongside the arrival of Lee Grant from Stoke, United have also bought on board a young Portuguese defender as well as a Brazilian Midfielder. The aforementioned, Diogo Dalot, signed a five-year deal from Porto for a fee believed to be around £19m. The 19-year-old joined the club with injury but after successful surgery it would be no shock to see Dalot heavily involved this season. The third arrival in Manchester cost United in excess of £50m and the involvement of Fred, who joined from Shakhtar Donetsk, is likely to be substantial.
United and Mourinho have not been afraid to voice their need for a new centre back and have increasingly been linked with moves for Europe’s elite defenders. Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina, Toby Alderweireld and Jerome Boateng make a list of defenders who have appeared on United’s apparent wish list. Mourinho has been patient with new signings and would be desperate to snatch one of the four mentioned on deadline day to provide support in his back line. If the club were to reach an agreement with Leicester City for Harry Maguire, it would require a record-breaking transfer for a defender as it is expected Leicester are looking for a fee in excess of £80m.
Although there will be an optimistic outlook on the 18/19 season that the red half of Manchester can be as successful as the blue, this vision is more of a dream then a likely reality. With Liverpool strengthening dramatically this transfer window, it is expected they will challenge for not just runners up but the title and United may just fall by the wayside. Mourinho has been extremely negative this pre-season and this negativity could likely continue onto the season. However, with this being said, United do have a strong side and on their day they are capable of beating anybody. A top 4 finish alongside a final eight appearance in Europe would be surely mark a successful campaign.