EPL Previews: Can Jose Mourinho build something stable at Manchester United?
After Leicester City’s 5000-1 odds to win the Premiership, capping off what is, in all likelihood, the most fantastic championship in major sports history, the perennial powerhouses have gone hard towards defeating the slew of underdogs currently rising up the table. With the addition of three world class managers, Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola, this season could shape up to be even crazier than the last. While international competition has been outstanding, as usual, we can’t help but miss that massive hole in our heart and pine for the return of the soccer league CoachUp loves the most.
In order to prepare the loyal and initiate the newcomers, CoachUp will have you all ready for the August 13th showdown between current title-holders Leicester City and newly-promoted Hull City. We’re counting down by previewing the league’s top ten clubs from 2015-2016, detailing the players to watch, and their European (or lack thereof) adventures. So, without further ado, here’s number five and the scorching-hot Red Devils.
\”Oh, glory, glory, Man United!\” It should come as no surprise to say that not only is Manchester United one of the world’s most profitable clubs, but they’re also, easily, one of the sport’s most successful teams ever. Aside from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, who have 32 and 26 titles respectively but play in less overall competitive leagues, United’s 20 championships stand as the best mark in the world. Backed by what seems like an endless wallet each summer, United are able to spend on the biggest stars and the hottest prospects — hence why former Chelsea manager Jose Mourhino arrived, finally, on the scene at Old Trafford.
Despite a shaky start to the campaign in 2015-2016, United rebounded behind Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, and Chris Smalling to win the FA Cup and finished with another Europa League berth. If there’s anything we’ve learned about Manchester United through the years, it’s to never count them, or their money, out until it’s truly over. With the record-breaking transfer of Paul Pogba just a handshake away and the additions of the former Bundesliga Player of the Year, Henrikh Mkitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in tow, United could be back in a huge way in 2016-2017.
Despite an overall disappointing campaign that saw United dip as low eighth place, they’ve replaced many of their major weaknesses with huge upgrades. Although that comes at the cost of Louis van Gaal’s job, this revamped United team will be stronger tactically, in defense, through the midfield, and as goal scorers. Given the magnitude of their other signings, one that has gone under the radar is Eric Bailly, the 22 year-old striker from Valencia. Pairing him alongside Smalling should help tidy up a defense that only allowed 35 goals in 2015-2016, a mark tied for the league-best with Tottenham.
Elsewhere, they’ve still got the likes of Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellani that can turn back the clock for classic performances on occasion as well. Which is to basically say that any rival supporters who have enjoyed United’s down years should be ready for the reality of the league’s most legendary team being back and fearsome for the foreseeable future. There’s always potential for a classic Mourinho-meltdown, but that rarely happens in season one of his tenure with a new club — for those keeping score at home, they’ll have to wait until 2018-2019 for the so-called year three curse to hit the well-spoken manager.
PREFERRED STARTING XI
This, so long as Mourinho continues on van Gaal’s insistence to play Rooney through the midfield, is pretty cut and dry. With David de Gea in net, the Red Devils will likely roll with this Starting XI so long as everybody is happy, healthy, and performing. As they have not yet secured Pogba yet, although it appears more and more as a foregone conclusion each passing day, he will not be included in the Starting XI for Sunday’s Community Shield showdown against Leicester City. Here’s what Mourinho should go with to open up the new Premier League campaign this weekend:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the man that finally moved to England. After dabbling in some high-spirited will-he, won’t-he between Manchester United, Paris Saint Germain, and the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy this summer, the giant striker made his permanent move to Old Trafford. Last season, Ibrahimovic scored an outrageous 32 goals, 17 more than second place’s Alexandre Lacazette, and led PSG to the Champions League quarter-finals. In England, Tottenham Hotspurs’ Harry Kane led the Premier League in goals, but only knocked in 25 of his own. Needless to say, if Ibrahimovic can take that output to Manchester this season, then the sky is the limit for the Red Devils in 2016-2017.
Anthony Martial, one of the most hyped teenagers in the world. After a stirring summer with the French at the European Championships that almost culminated in becoming the cover athlete for FIFA17, Martial will be asked to carry a heavier load this campaign. Although United gave his trademarked number 9 to Ibrahimovic, Martial will need to bring his attacking prowess and opportunistic striking ability to balance out this top-heavy side. His expected goals per game are certainly set to decline from his debut with United, but if he can provide consistency and link-up play with Rooney, then he’ll take the next step in his already prolific career.
HIGHLIGHT FROM YESTERYEAR
After getting smacked by Arsenal 3-0 in September, the Red Devils brought a renewed perspective to their showdown in February. This time, Manchester United struck twice in three minutes through Marcus Rashford to put Arsenal on the ropes. Arsenal almost completed the comeback through a former Red Devil himself, Danny Welbeck, but a third goal from United in the 65th minute sealed it.
Up until then, many wondered if Rashford, another teen sensation, was the real deal or just riding a hot streak — this victory pushed him well past the point of return in terms of expectations. While he’ll be behind Ibrahimovic this campaign, nobody will forget the beatdown they put on, at the time, title-contending Arsenal.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
8/7, vs. Leicester City, FA Community Shield
8/14 @ Bournemouth
8/19 vs. Southampton
8/27 @ Hull City
9/10 vs. Manchester City
9/18 @ Watford
9/24 vs. Leicester City
All in all, not much to complain about early on for Manchester United. They should handle Bournemouth, Southampton, Hull City, and Watford with relative ease — but, obviously, those match-ups with Manchester City and Leicester City in September loom large. Should Manchester United defeat Leicester on neutral ground this weekend, they’ll hold the edge over the defending champions when they head to King Power Stadium a month later — particularly so if Riyad Mahrez, linked to teams like Arsenal or Real Madrid, is sold by then.
As for City, the Manchester Derby is one of the most-anticipated showdowns of the entire year — two games to decide city-wide supremacy for an entire year. Last year, United only drew City in their October match-up, but won the stirring rematch 1-0 in March thanks to Rashford’s goal early on. For these reasons, we’re rating their opening fixtures a high 8/10.
Manchester United are poised for a massive 2016-2017 season, Europa League included. With their newfound depth emerging in spades — Rashford, Fellani, Schneiderlin, Mata, Blind, etc — following their world class summer signings, United a deep, scary club looking to regain glory with a merciless manager at the helm. While United struggled after Sir Alex Ferguson retired, it looks like the club is finally through their transition stages and ready to take on the world’s greatest powers once again.