Nickname: The Red Devils
Home Ground: Old Trafford
- 20 English Premier League Titles
- 12 FA Cup Trophies
- 3 UEFA Champions League Titles
- 1 UEFA Europa League Title
- 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Trophy
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Manchester United wrapped up another underwhelming season since the retirement of legendary coach Alex Ferguson. It was Alex Ferguson who managed to win the last English Premier League title for Manchester United in his last season before retiring in 2012/13.
Under Jose Mourinho, Manchester United managed to finish 2nd in the English Premier League last season but were never really in the running for the title. Manchester City ran away with the title in a record fashion, as they earned 100 points and an amazing 19 points more than Manchester United.
Entering his contract year at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho will be under considerable pressure to deliver a Premier League title to the Board and fan base that has grown accustomed to winning over the years. I have prepared an overview of main Manchester United storylines and a short preview for the upcoming English Premier League season.
Previous Season Summary
Manchester United entered the 2017/18 season with only one thing in their mind, English Premier League title. Jose Mourinho’s side was fresh off winning a UEFA Europa League trophy and had high hopes for the upcoming season.
The Red Devils have spent more than GBP 150 million in adding new players to bolster the squad that was supposed to compete on several fronts. Players like Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez and Victor Lindelof were brought in to make a difference.
Manchester United did have a strong start of the season as they have gone undefeated in the first 8 games of the season, with 6 wins and 2 draws. This landed the atop the English Premier League table and they had a chance to mount a serious title challenge.
Unfortunately, they lost 2 out of their next 3 games and soon slipped to the 2nd place. The pivotal game of the season was the Manchester Derby at home versus Manchester City, which was the perfect opportunity to get their season back on track. Manchester United lost 1-2 at home and from that moment on, Manchester City pushed further away and secured the title.
Manchester United did play well for the rest of the season, including wins versus Big 6 clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, one of the only 2 losses that the Citizens have suffered all season.
The season was underwhelming for the giants from Manchester and the lack of trophies is an area of concern. Still, the club did finish 2nd in the English Premier League, their highest finish since Alex Ferguson retired as a manager. This leaves room for some optimism for the future.
Key Additions and Departures
Since the end of the 2017/18 English Premier League season, Jose Mourinho has been outspoken about the need to strengthen the squad and bring additional players to Old Trafford. This has been met with mixed reactions from both the Board and the fans.
Manchester United under Jose Mourinho have spent more than GBP 300 million in just two years on players and have yet to show the quality of play or the results that such a club deserves. Still, Mourinho has received the backing of the Board and was promised a chance to improve the squad in the transfer market this season. So far, Manchester United have been quiet but they have made some moves in the effort to strengthen the team.
Was the signing of Brazilian midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk for a GBP 53 million fee. Fred is expected to provide necessary support in the middle of the field and play a box-to-box role next to Nemanja Matic.
Manchester United have struggled at right back / wingback position for quite some time and they have decided to remedy that by signing a 19-year-old Portuguese phenom Diogo Dalot from Porto for a GBP 20 million fee. The youngster is expected to challenge for a spot in the first team right away.
The only other addition for Manchester United was the transfer of 35-year-old goalkeeper Lee Grant from Stoke City on a GBP 1.5 million deal. Grant will provide the necessary depth at the goalkeeper position, which had some troubles the past season.
In terms of the departures, Manchester United haven’t suffered a lot. A long-time mainstay in the first team, midfielder Michael Carrick has decided to call it quits and retire. Carrick was already at an advanced age, so he rarely featured in the team anyway.
The other two departures were the transfers of 28-year-old left back Daley Blind to Ajax for a GBP 14 million fee and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to West Bromwich Albion for a GB 7 million fee. Other departures are expected since the Red Devils are not done adding players to their roster. Anthony Martial is unhappy at Old Trafford and could be changing clubs soon if Manchester United receive a good offer.
As it stands, Manchester United are not done adding new players to their roster. Rumors are spreading that they are interested in adding at least another center back and forward to their roster. The key targets are Barcelona’s center back Yerry Mina, Napoli’s forward Dries Mertens and Inter’s forward Ivan Perisic.
Manchester United still have some weaknesses in their roster but at the same time a number of world-class talents that should be able to perform much better than they have been so far. If Jose Mourinho is able to put them together in a cohesive unit and extract better effort from them, there is little that the Red Devils couldn’t do.
Style of Play
Jose Mourinho is one of the most famous managers in the soccer world. The self-proclaimed “Chosen One” has managed to win trophies wherever he has coached, including two unbelievable underdog Champions League titles with Porto and Inter.
During his career at Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and now Manchester United, all Mourinho’s sides were characterized by high level of discipline, defensive prowess, and tactical knowledge. Often criticized for sacrificing the style of play in order to achieve results, Mourinho has become a bit of a passé in the soccer purist circles.
It doesn’t purely depend on a single formation like some other manager. He instead likes to employ a variety of formations depending on what opponents he is facing. Still, Manchester United have mostly lined up in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation during the last 2 years but Mourinho has been known to experience with 3-back defensive lines as well.
The essence of Mourinho’s system is in a physical approach to the game that involves a high pressing scheme. At Old Trafford, he has been able to implement that system due to the imposing nature of his superstar central midfielders Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Their physical presence on the pitch is unmatched.
Matic and Pogba are surrounded by quick winger and backs that can quickly transform into a counter-attacking machine once the possession is regained in the midfield. Mourinho is using the similar approach to physicality in the attack as well.
He has always preferred to a have physical striker that can take on defenders, fight for position and score goals even when under heavy duress and contact from the defenders. This was the case with Didier Drogba at Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema at Real Madrid and now Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United.
Manchester United’s style of play has lacked fluidity in the recent years and were often criticized for not being able to solve the defenses of far inferior clubs. They have scored 68 in 38 games last season, which was 38 goals less than their rivals Manchester. Clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham, and Liverpool have all fielded better offenses as well.
Mourinho has defended the playing style on multiple occasions in the media, stating that he knows what his team is capable of and what will deliver results. His record against the Big 6 teams has been favorable, demonstrating the ability to match up well with the elite teams in the league. Yet, he needs to solve the problems when facing lesser squads and motivate the players to perform better.
2018/19 Season Expectations and Predictions
The expectations at Old Trafford are always high and the upcoming season will not be any different. The Board and the fans expect Manchester United to win the English Premier League title and return the club to the top of English soccer.
At the same time, Jose Mourinho is entering his final year of the contract at Manchester United and there will be tremendous pressure on him to finally deliver a title, a feat he was able to accomplish at all of his previous clubs.
Mourinho’s outspoken nature and no-filter approach to criticism have caused some ire in the squad and among the fans but no one can question the “Chosen One’s” competitiveness and pure drive to win. His intense management style will either make or break this Red Devils squad.
The early-season schedule has been extremely kind to Manchester United as they start their campaign at home versus Leicester City. In the first 8 games of the season, the Red Devils will face only one Big 6 club Tottenham. This could be crucial for Manchester United to get off to a good start and challenge for the title.
As the season progresses, the schedule will get tougher but Manchester United have been blessed with the fact that they will not face any of the elite teams in back to back games. The Red Devils roster should be able to provide enough depth to cover most of the injury scares and heavy schedule issues.
If Jose Mourinho is able to strengthen his defense with another addition and find the way for his team to become more efficient when attacking, the Red Devils might put up a season worthy of the English Premier League title.
As it stands, there is still something missing at Manchester United to make them the top favorite for the title. I believe that Manchester City have a stronger roster and a more cohesive system that plays to their strengths and that makes them the heavy favorite for the title.
I know that sportsbooks have mostly pronounced Liverpool as the 2nd favorite to win the English Premier League in the upcoming season but I think that Manchester United have a roster with more difference makers and that will prevail in the end. So, I pick Manchester United to finish 2nd in the English Premier League.