Table Review: 2nd, 81 points, 25 Wins, 6 Draws, 7 Losses, Goals For: 68, Goals Against: 28, Goal Difference: +40.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku, 16 Goals
The biggest club in England has the biggest ambition in England. Therefore, to not win the league is unforgivable. As such, it’s fair to say 2017-18 was a failure for the Red Devils, despite their second-placed finish. Fans will take consolation that they finished ahead of rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, however. Ultimately, the 19 point difference between them and their cross-town rivals represented a clear difference in class.
Jose Mourinho continued to be his controversial self, from benching his stars, to criticizing anything and everything, to playing his usual mind games. It’s a good thing Mourinho himself is not boring, because at times, his football philosophy has been berated by pundits and fans alike. The lack of attacking intent was a cause of angst for United fans, especially in matches where it was perceived to cost them points. Losses to Brighton, West Brom, Huddersfield and Newcastle stood out in a season where they performed well against other top six clubs.
Ultimately, United fell well short of expectations. The chorus was overwhelming: they needed to make significant waves in the transfer market, as well as employing a more positive football philosophy.
IN: Fred – CM – €59.1M, Diogo Dalot – RB – €22M, Lee Grant – GK – €1.7M
OUT: Daley Blind – CB/CDM/CM – €16M, Sam Johnstone – GK – €7.4M, Michael Carrick – CM – Retired
In a hugely disappointing window for Manchester United, they began well. Securing the signing of Fred from Shaktar Donetsk, fans were given good reason to be well pleased. The rapid follow-up of Diogo Dalot, a talented young right back, boded well for the rest of the window. United made a good fiscal decision, swapping out Sam Johnstone for Lee Grant, picking up over five million euros profit in the process.
That was where the good things ended. Mourinho, clearly determined to bolster his centre backs, was linked with key names such as Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Diego Godin and Jerome Boateng. Currently with just Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly as viable options, Mourinho understood the need for a marquee signing. But it was not to be. As Godin signed a new contract with Atletico Madrid and Boateng dismissed rumours, attention was clearly on poaching from inside the Premier League. Leicester and Tottenham refused to be moved for Maguire and Alderweireld respectively.
Fans would be feeling the frustration that is apparent in Mourinho at this point, and with good reason. It’s hard to see significant progress being made with just the options available.
Predicted Starting XI
Undoubtedly, any effort to predict Mourinho will end in failure. This is our best effort, given the options available. It’s also possible that plays five at the back, dropping Young to be part of the trio and adding Luke Shaw.
Jesse Lingard will surely be in the plans of the enigmatic Portuguese manager, as will Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and cult hero, Marouane Fellaini. Expect a heavy rotatin to be employed by Mourinho as he inevitably loses patience with his stars throughout the season. Paul Pogba will look to establish himself as one of the world’s premier midfielders, and Romelu Lukaku has work to do on his performance last season.
The biggest weakness is opposite the greatest strength in this squad, namely the players in front of David de Gea. There will be more frustration this season, as the squad shapes up to be one that lacks quality, when compared to rival squads.
Table Prediction: 4th, 72 points, 20 Wins, 12 Draws, 6 Losses, Goals For: 65, Goals Against: 33, Goal Difference: +32.
Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku, 22 Goals
It will be up to the Red Devils to shake the frustration of the window and press onwards in what is a long and exhausting season. There’s no doubt that the squad has quality, depth and tactical nous. However, it will be the lack of movement in the window that will again cost the squad, as Mourinho fails to adapt his style to football in 2018. Until that changes, expect the club to continue to underachieve.
Mourinho’s third season syndrome is well documented. Mourinho himself has acknowledged he is unlikely to retire at United. The pressure will be on this season, and anything less than the title, or a European crown will not suffice. Expect the blame to be shared around, but in the end, it must stop with the manager. Who knows who will be in charge at this point next season?
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