The Roar
The Roar


Premier League preview: Manchester United

Anthony Martial in happier times. (AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF)
Roar Pro
11th August, 2016

Jose Mourinho arrived after protracted negotiations and promptly set about ambitiously building a squad capable of once again challenging for the title.

The defence has been a weak spot, but so were goals last season, with United one of the-lower scoring sides in the league.

With an array of attacking options, and a promising win in the Community Shield, that doesn’t look to be the case this time around.

Transfer activity
Mourinho identified that the club needed “four players” this transfer window, and promptly got them all, one for each line of the outfield side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived on a free transfer from PSG, while Henrick Mkhitaryan arrived from Dortmund after a 25-plus goal season. This should solve the club’s goalscoring woes.

Further back, Eric Bailly is a shrewd signing to partner Chris Smalling long term, although he looks a bit suspect to rash challenges; feet raised. Luke Shaw will feel like a new signing, although questions remain over how long it will take him to find his feet.

However, by far the biggest story of all the summer transfers was United’s £89-million deal for Paul Pogba, who rejoins the club he left in 2012.

Pogba adds a bit of everything, and allows the club to compete with the best midfields. Pogba, described by many as the new Patrick Vieira, should form a solid partnership with Morgan Schneiderlin.

Juan Mata, having been brought on and resubstituted in the Community Shield, looks to be angling for an exit should a buyer be found. Bastian Swiensteiger, a World Cup winner with Germany not two years ago, is not training with the first team and is trying to press through an exit. Adnan Januzaj has not hit it off with Mourinho, and looks to be out of a place in the squad.


The big questions
Has Jose lost it?

After success at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, it all went pear-shaped for the ‘Special One’ last season at Chelsea. Disunity in the dressing room, a wafer-thin squad, poor signings and low morale all contributed to the 2014-15 Champions’ dramatic decline until Mourinho’s sacking in December.

If Jose wants to keep his job at Old Trafford, he’ll need to make sure last season was a one-off.

Will Pogba be a success?
United have staked their transfer reputation on a man who, despite four brilliant seasons for Juventus, lost a little shine after he failed to take the European Championships by the scruff of his neck.

It was the first time he’d carried the weight of expectation, and despite it being France’s home Euros, Pogba didn’t ever break the tournament open. He’ll be carrying the weight of a club bigger than any country this season, and needs to prove himself with some outstanding early performances.

What’s the future for Martial and Rashford?
It is well known that French import Anthony Martial wants to play as the number 9 for United, but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic there, that prospect looks unlikely this season. There have been many cases of strikers stalling their development by moving to the wing. Martial will not wish to become the same.

As for Rashford, his cameo appearances during the Euros suggested he has immense talent. Mourinho’s poor record of bringing through younger players means the 18-year-old may find first team oppurtunity limited at Old Trafford.

Best XI…
(4-2-3-1) De Gea (GK), Darmian (RB), Smalling (CB), Bailly (CB), Shaw (LB), Schneiderlin (CDM), Pogba (CDM), Mkhitaryan (RM), Martial (LM), Rooney (CF), Ibrahimovic (ST)

Predicted finish