Manchester United – 2018/19 team & season preview
Manchester United finished last season without any silverware. The English giants finished second in the Premier League table with 81 points with a record difference of 19 points to champions Manchester City who accumulated 100 points. It was however the best position achieved by the club since the departure of their club legend Sir Alex Ferguson.
Jose Mourinho has been very public with his demands for more signings to add to the huge spending spree since joining Old Trafford. There have been links of bringing on Leicester City and England sensation Harry Maguire and Colombia’s talent Yerry Mina to boost up his defence.
The club has spent over £600m on 22 players since Sir Alex Ferguson departed. Since the summer of 2016, the club has spent a total of £392.55m with their most expensive signing being Paul Pogba whose move from Juventus cost £93.25m.
The manager has been under fire from the team’s own fans due to him publically naming and shaming players who he feels have underachieved, whereas Ferguson would go to great lengths to protect his players.
Ins and outs
Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos, commonly known as Fred, cost the Red devils £53m to join from Shakhtar Donetsk. The 25-year old Brazilian had a successful spell in Ukraine with three League titles. He is a creative player with great passing vision, industrious in his defensive duties, and with the ability to score long range shots.
He is joined by Diogo Dalot, with the 19-year old Portuguese right sided defender moving to Mourinho’s side for £19m from F.C Porto. He brings tactical intelligence, physicality, and technical quality, although the player is currently injured and not expected to play till September.
United also signed Stoke City veteran goalkeeper Lee Grant. The 35-year-old will be third choice behind Sergio Romero and David De Gea to allow Joel Pereira go on loan.
Daley Blind moved back to his boyhood club Ajax. The 28-year old made 141 appearances scoring six times in his four year spell at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick is likely to be the player missed most. He played 706 times for the club, winning five Premier League honours, one FA Cup, three League Cups, six Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one UEFA Europa League title.
Aims for the season
For most clubs, finishing second would be seen as a success, but the huge gap to neighbours City has highlighted the gulf in class between the two teams. Champions League qualification will be the minimum requirement, if they fail to achieve that then it is hard to see Mourinho staying as manager.
Perhaps Jose’s biggest challenge will be to unite the squad. Star player Paul Pogba has admitted he has had issues with Mourinho’s management and newspaper reports state that Anthony Martial is facing a two-week fine worth £180,000 due to the 22-year-old taking extended leave for the birth of his son in Paris.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strength – Defensive Brilliance. Manchester have one of the best defensive lines in the league. Their manager was the mind behind the tactic park the bus whilst at Chelsea. In addition to the defence, there is De Gea between the posts, meaning the team rarely concedes goals
Weakness – Dull football. Former manager Ferguson’s trademark was free flowing attacking football, but this is in stark contrast to the defensive style of play favoured by Jose Mourinho. They rarely take risks and have a rigid game plan despite the team containing many expressive players.
United also lost assistant manager Rui Faria. Faria left Manchester United at the end of last season after they lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea. The 42-year-old is often portrayed as the good cop and someone the players can turn to for help. His departure has coincided with Mourinho being publicly more scathing in his criticism of his players.
Most important players
Paul Pogba – The World Cup winner will be all psyched up to prove his worth to his ever-critical manager that he is a top-class player. He is one of the best talents in the world with great movement and skill especially in creating chances. The 25-year-old can change a game in seconds and there are few better than him for pinpoint passing. If Pogba is given freedom in the centre of the pitch he is likely to be a key player for United this season.
Romelu Lukaku – In his first season at the club, Lukaku featured in 51 matches for The Red Devils, finding the net 27 times. The Belgian has been rendered untouchable by the coach as a must-start player and Manchester United will hope he keeps up the good form he showed at the World Cup. Lukaku finished runner-up with 4 goals in the Golden Boot award behind Harry Kane who managed 6.
Where will they finish?
Manchester United are third favourites to win the Premier League behind Manchester City and Liverpool. The odds of them winning the Premier League are 7/1.
They are ninth favourite to lift the Champions League at 14/1. The odds for them clinching a 13th FA Cup title are 13/2 with the League Cup odds standing at 7/1.
We cannot see Manchester United winning the league and a fourth place finish appears likely for Mourinho’s team.