2017-2018 Season Preview: Manchester United

Is this Manchester United’s first shot at glory since the golden years?

 

Manchester United's Paul Pogba

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have taken on a “Chelsea” style look this coming season.  Lining up with Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and the recently signed Nemanja Matic, Mourinho looks set to challenge for the title with a nod of thanks to his former side.

Manager: Jose Mourinho

First Team: de Gea; Shaw, Bailly, Lindelof, Valencia; Matic, Herrera; Martial, Pogba, Mata; Lukaku

Strengths

A stellar first team squad.  De Gea is a world class goalkeeper (just ask Real Madrid, who still haven’t been able to get their man).  Bailly excelled last year, and Lindelof has looked good in preseason after four good years with Benfica.  Herrera has overcome some initial nerves to become a fixture in the side (as well as future captain, being Michael Carrick’s number 2).  If Mourinho can get the best out of Matic again, expect United to overtake Spurs as the most defensively solid side in the League.  Add in Pogba higher up the pitch with Lukaku’s 20+ goals a season (an upgrade on the great Ibra, who might also get a role later in the season), and United look top quality at both ends of the pitch.

Weaknesses

Do we have to pick some?  Yes?  Okay, perhaps two.  Firstly – Mourinho.  He is a master man manager, but when it goes wrong, it goes badly wrong – and there’s no recovering.  Such was proved at Chelsea (twice) and in the rumours surrounding his exit from most of his other clubs.  But expect a trophy before he goes.

Secondly, the full backs.  No disrespect to Antonio Valencia, who has done an exceptional job at right fullback, but he isn’t a natural and is occasionally exposed against better wingers.  And Shaw?  Mourinho himself criticised his attitude and training.  Will we see an improved showing from him this season?  Possibly, but if not – who is there as back up?

Opportunities

Forget the top four – let’s see Manchester United challenge for the title!  United have good, proven goalscorers at the highest level, with some exciting young talent to back it up.  As long as Mourinho can get his new signings to gel quickly, expect United to end up close to the top of the pile.  Europe?  Maybe a season or two too soon, but if world class Zlatan returns to the club, expect United to have enough strength in depth to pick up some trophies this year.

Threats

The style of play – but maybe not for the reasons you think.  Will the United fans, even if they pick up a trophy this year, be content with Mourinho’s “Park the Bus” mentally that they have chastised for so many years at Chelsea?  With the signing of Matic to solidify midfield and Lukaku to latch onto long balls over the top, we can’t see United going any other way.  At any rate – now that so many teams are playing on the counter, has everyone finally figured it out?

United look a great team on paper, and could possibly run away with the title, but it will mostly boil to Mourinho.  Can he keep his players happy and performing at a high level?  Even more importantly, can he do it over the long term and create a dynasty?  We’re doubtful about the latter, but expect it to be a fun ride with a few trophies along the way!

Meanwhile, let’s look at United’s first trophy under Mourinho – last year’s EFL Cup win over Southampton.

Interested to see who else might challenge for the title?  How about last year’s champions, Chelsea?  Check out their season preview.

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