Having finished runners up last season, Manchester United will be desperate to bridge the gap between themselves and noisy neighbours Manchester City, who ended up lifting the title.
That’s easier said than done, however. The relationship between manager and both the board and players is strained, to say the least. Then, there’s the electrifying rival squads of both Manchester City and Liverpool to contend with, the latter having had an excellent transfer window.
With the transfer window finished, let’s take a look at Manchester United’s chances ahead of the new season.
Manchester United Transfers
Manchester United made three additions to their team this summer.
Fred is a box to box midfielder, signed from Shakhtar Donesk.
He has good vision and creativity on the ball to add to the attack, and is also able to impose himself defensively, averaging 2.9 challenges per game in the Champions league last season for Shaktar.
He will most likely partner Pogba in the midfield, with Matic behind them to help shield the defence. Now that Michael Carrick has retired, Fred will help to add composure and strength to United’s midfield.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 6 June 2018
Perhaps the most exciting signing of the three.
Dalot is an attacking full-back, with plenty of flair and pace. Signed from FC Porto for £19 million at only 19 years old, he has the potential to develop into a huge asset for the club.
He enjoys getting forward and will help add width to the attack. He’s most likely to play down the right-hand side, though he’s able to play on the left as well.
Dalot is definitely one to watch this season, and in years to come. With both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia getting on, he will be looking to challenge them for a starting position. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up as a regular in the first eleven by the end of the season.
The last of the three signings, Lee Grant is a goalkeeper signed from Stoke City.
Unfortunately, he is highly unlikely to find himself as a starter. Grant will almost certainly only be a backup, should David De Gea need a rest and Sergio Romero be unavailable.
The most exciting Manchester United transfer news, late in the window, regarded a potential swoop by Barcelona for Paul Pogba.
Pogba has had a strained relationship with manager Jose Mourinho since joining. It’s unlikely this would’ve changed following upsetting recent comments made by the latter, stating that Pogba should bring the mindset and form that helped deliver France the World Cup to the new season.
Barcelona have been rebuffed, for now, but Pogba’s long term future at Old Trafford looks highly questionable.
Manchester United Team 2018/19
David De Gea (GK)
World class goalkeeper.
Four time Man United Player of the Season (more than any other player). Able to stop shots with both hands and feet. Regarded by many as the best keeper in the Premier League, he will be crucial if the Reds are to mount a title challenge.
Eric Bailly (CB)
Had a shaky end to last season, and fell out of favour under Mourinho, but will be given the chance to prove himself again. Strong, quick and powerful, as well as being a fan favourite, he will likely partner Lindelof in the middle of defence.
Victor Lindelof (CB)
Strong, but inconsistent centre-back. Will be looking to capitalise on a string of impressive displays at the World Cup.
On his day, he is a reliable, strong centre back. Confidence was an issue last year. This season he will be looking to continue his form from the summer, and cement his place in the starting lineup.
Antonio Valencia (RB)
Newly promoted to club captain. Even at 33, Valencia is both assured on the ball, quick on the wings to back up the attack, and an all-around powerful player.
Even with the addition of Dalot into Manchester United’s squad, Valencia is the most likely person to start the season as right back (when he gets back to full fitness).
Ashley Young (LB)
One of the longest serving Manchester United players, he will almost certainly edge out Luke Shaw for the left back position.
He’s quick, with some flair about him, but is approaching the latter stages of his career.
Nemanja Matic (CM)
A favourite of Mourinho’s, reunited with him after working together at Chelsea.
Very good technically, and a strong forceful presence in the midfield. His no-nonsense attitude will be used to help shield the defence, allowing the other midfielders to go forward and influence the attack.
Paul Pogba (CM)
The most expensive player in the team, known for his elaborate hairstyles and corresponding style of play.
Creative, with plenty of flair and showmanship, he started to find his feet more near towards the end of the season. After a good World Cup, all eyes will be on him to find his form at club level.
The only new signing likely to start matches.
Quick, intelligent in his positioning,and able to pick out that killer final ball. He should compliment Pogba nicely, and if a working partnership can be formed, Man United will boast a very capable midfield trio.
Alexis Sanchez (LW)
Signed from Arsenal last season, but hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far.
Has plenty of pace and trickery, as well as the ability to create and finish. The Red Devils will be hopeful he can rediscover his previous form from his Arsenal days, and help them mount a title charge this season.
Jesse Lingard (RW)
Small, speedy and a good finisher, Lingard came up with some important goals last season.
He loves to run at defenders and create chances for his fellow attackers, and chipped in with eight goals of his own in 2017/18.
Romelu Lukaku (CF)
Strong, powerful and fast, Lukaku is one of the few traditional number 9’s in the Premier League.
Has the ability to play as a target man, holding up play then creating chances for his team. He scored 16 goals in 34 appearances in the Premier League last season, after joining from Everton.
Manchester United Players to Watch
There’s plenty of mystery and expectation surrounding this Manchester United squad. In my opinion, however, these are the four most interesting Manchester United players to watch this season.
It’s safe to say that since Sanchez arrived, he hasn’t exactly hit full form. It seems like a long time ago that he was doing stuff like this for Arsenal:
At times he cuts a disgruntled figure on the pitch, and has recently been quite vocal in pleading with the hierarchy to splash the cash on more signings. Without a doubt though, he is one of Manchester United’s best players, and on his day can change the game instantly with a smart pass or shot.
With a full preseason with United this time around, having had the latter half of 2017/18 to mesh with his new teammates, he’ll definitely be expecting to hit top form this season.
Pogba is easily one of the most polarising figures at the club. You either love him or hate him.
The common opinion is that he’s struggling to adapt to Mourinho’s system of play, which limits his ability to express himself. The quality of his performances last season certainly varied wildly, but there were a few games which displayed his quality for all to see. Particularly memorable was the Manchester derby, in which his two goals sparked a comeback that delayed City winning the title.
In any case, after a fine World Cup, he will be looking to capitalise on his international success and silence the critics at club level.
Diogo is definitely one to watch. Despite only being 19, he will almost certainly challenge for a place in the starting lineup as soon as he recovers from a knee injury, which will likely keep him out until September.
He’s a natural full back, unlike Valencia or Young who have been remade into full backs from midfield positions. Carry out a quick search on YouTube, and you’ll see exactly why United were so keen to sign him.
His pace and skill will add some much needed flair to the width in their attack, and – as mentioned above – it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a starter before the season is over.
Reduced mainly to coming off the bench after the arrivals of Sanchez and Lukaku, there will be no one keener to prove themselves than Rashford.
He’s got some big boots to fill, having been given the number 10 shirt previously worn by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney. There’s certainly room for improvement in Rashford’s game, but he’s still only 20, and he definitely has the potential and the hunger to make his mark this season.
Manchester United Fixtures
The first 5 fixtures for Manchester United look like this:
- Leicester City (2-1)
The opening game for Manchester United was at home to Leicester City. A combination of Man Utd being at home, plus Leicester bedding in several new signings and adapting to life without Mahrez, led to a fairly comfortable win for the Red Devils.
Overall the first 5 matches will keep them on their toes, but with a win already against Leicester, and the home advantage against Tottenham, they could well get off to a good start.
Their away record last season wasn’t so impressive, so they’ll be hoping to improve that this year.
The Manchester Derbies are set for 11/11/18 (Away for United) and 3/16/19 (Home).
The closing game of the season is at home against Cardiff City, so they’ll be likely to pick up those three points should they need them to clinch the title or a top four spot.
Manchester United Prediction
While this current Man United team does boast talent, there is still plenty of work to be done before they will be likely to seriously challenge the likes of Tottenham, City and Liverpool.
With the current air of uncertainty and negativity surrounding the club due to the manager’s strained relationship with the board and members of the squad, the lack of unity and team spirit may come back to haunt them. Jose Mourinho, however, is a master at managing a league campaign (whether you agree with his tactics or not).
While they can certainly challenge for the title, it’s hard to see them beating other more attack-minded teams, who tend to go out to win the game rather than just to avoid a loss.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether Mourinho will see out the full season as manager, or if Manchester United decide to go in another direction in search of more attacking football.
Only time will tell.