Jose Mourinho is Manchester United manager now and we have been treated (tortured) with his usual sniping press conferences already. He is back, he is grumpier and he is (probably) going to win the league with the most boring team to have ever played football.
Investment has been flowing at Manchester United, as you may have expected, and the Portuguese manager has his mate Jorge Mendes to thank for that.
Without playing a properly competitive game to date, there is already a pretty good idea floating around of what Mourinho’s first choice Manchester United eleven will look like. We can just about envisage the shape and the majority of the personnel.
He is one of the best in the business, there is no doubt about that, so we may expect to see some marked improvements on last season. It’s never plain sailing, however, will it be boom or bust for Jose?
These THREE will be pivotal in whatever happens…
Many of Manchester United’s problems over the previous couple of seasons have been down to a lack of creativity in the final third. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who was the highest rated Bundesliga player according to WhoScored last season – should bring this in abundance.
Likely to be starting from the right hand side, we can expect to see the Armenian star drift centrally on a regular basis as he looks to find the space to create for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A regular goal scorer himself too, Mkhitaryan’s role will be to compensate for the lack of a primary creator in the ten space – that’s not to say Paul Pogba won’t be creating himself.
For this very reason, Mkhitaryan’s fitness and form will be pivotal to Mourinho’s tenure. Without his incisive passes and defensive splitting runs, United risk looking blunt in attack once again.
As much as Eric Bailly has impressed in pre-season, the young defender still is not as assured as a more experience star would have been. Bailly will no doubt become a top class defender, but he is currently under the mindful eye of the vastly improved Chris Smalling.
Having impressed in an unstable United defence recently, Smalling was all at sea for much of the Euros with England and United cannot afford to see that sort of instability again.
As leader of the backline and senior defender, there is a huge amount of responsibility on the ex-Fulham man’s shoulders.
Mourinho’s side rely on a solid defence, usually in a low block, and Smalling must be at his best.
As with Smalling, Schneiderlin is going to be central to whether Mourinho can replicate the defensive solidity that has made him such an astonishingly successful manager to date.
Although Michael Carrick may be fancied to start the season, it would be a shock to all if Schneiderlin did not become first choice at some point in this campaign. The Frenchman can play as the more advanced of a two in midfield – which we may see in the tougher games – and has all the attributes to be the ideal screening player for Mourinho.
Smalling and Bailly, such are their weaknesses, will need protection. Schneiderlin is going to be the man to offer that.