After a second placed finish in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho will be desperate for his Manchester United side to close the gap on champions City this term.
Ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, we caught up with fan site Stretty News to get the low-down on progress made on and off the pitch…
What do you make of your club’s pre-season preparations, both on and off the pitch?
All you need to do is listen to Jose Mourinho and he is not happy, and understandably so, really.
Ed Woodward hasn’t delivered the targets that the United boss set out at the start of summer and that causes a big problem because the club finished 19 points behind Manchester City last season.
You would have thought that with the squad Mourinho had available to him that they would make some big additions to try and narrow that gap.
Off the pitch, the mood isn’t good and that makes it very difficult to be optimistic ahead of the new season. At the same time, you do not want your manager to be talking rubbish.
Although Mourinho is being down beat he is probably just being realistic.
These young players go out on tour with Pep Guardiola’s City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and both managers really big them up, explaining how well they’ve done on tour.
That’s all well and good, but are they actually going to work with them during the season when he has to win Premier League matches and compete in the Premier League?
In that sense, I just see Mourinho as being more realistic. I would much rather him say what he actually thinks, rather than making grand statements just to please fans.
Which of your club’s summer signing has you most excited about the new campaign?
Fred is an exciting signing and I’m really look forward to seeing what he can bring to the team. From what I’ve seen, he looks busy. A box-to-box midfielder who will compliment Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic nicely.
Lee Grant has impressed on tour. He looks decent, as a back up option, but no more than that. You would like to think that his professionalism will spread amongst the camp because he is a senior player. The likes of Marcus Rashford could really benefit from being around that.
I don’t think many people know much about Diogo Dalot as he only played eight times for FC Porto’s first team. It’s very hard to judge him based on that.
Who’s your club’s young-player-who-could-make-a-breakthrough this season?
Andreas Pereira has just come back from Valencia on loan. He didn’t have the greatest time over in Spain but he has been a stand-out player on tour.
I spoke to someone quite close to Pereira, who admitted that his development in the last year hasn’t been quite as expected. There were fears that he wouldn’t be good enough for Manchester United.
But he came on tour and he’s been playing in a deeper role due to a lack of midfielders. I watched him as a youngster and he always played across the attacking midfield positions.
Given the injuries at the club and the breaks players are on because of the World Cup, I think Pereira will start the season for United and it is a great opportunity for him in that deep midfield role.
What will be your club’s biggest factor behind achieving its targets this season?
We have to get Romelu Lukaku scoring more goals in the league but at the same time we cannot be so over-reliant on the Belgian and we need to see goals coming from elsewhere in the team.
Alexis Sanchez has been another stand-out player on tour. He looks hungry, more like the player we know from Arsenal. If he hits the ground running this season he is someone who can win games on his own – that will be a massive factor.
Some of the big names need to start standing up and being counted. They need to start becoming the players that Manchester United signed, rather than allowing writers, like, us to make excuses for them, for example ‘oh, they’re still settling in’ or ‘they haven’t got the players to accommodate them’.
This is the year the jigsaw has to come together.
What will be your club’s biggest barrier to achieving its targets this season?
This coming week. What I put that down to is how the club conduct themselves in the transfer market.
In the past, Jose Mourinho has always liked to have his deals done early, to get the most out of pre-season. The club didn’t vote for the transfer market to close earlier and, that, along with the World Cup has made the summer so difficult.
Before the end of the week the club need to bring a centre-back in and I they also need a right-sided winger. Toby Alderweireld and Willian would be perfect and they are definitely in reach.
Which club outside yours do you think has done the best business this summer?
It is going to have to be Liverpool and it’s about time. Some of the additions, such as that of a goalkeeper have been a long time coming. It shouldn’t have taken a year to upgrade on Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet but it did and it ultimately cost them in their biggest game of the season.
Klopp’s business since he has arrived at Liverpool has been efficient. He has signed good players, make no mistake about that. However, the Champions League final was completely turned on its head by the mistake of not signing a new ‘keeper last summer.
It says a lot that Alisson Becker starts ahead of Ederson for Brazil, a player, for me, who was just below David de Gea in terms of his performances last season. He is a very, very good goalkeeper.
If you had to pick a six-a-side team from your club’s current squad, who would be in it?
Finally, how do you think your team will have done come the end of the 2018/19 season?
Realistically, I do not see Manchester United winning the title. As things stand, I think they will scrape third or fourth place, overtaken by Liverpool.
I’m interested to see how Chelsea do under Maurizio Sarri, which is very different to the style of Mourinho. It is more adaptive to the way the Premier League is moving, focusing on attacking football and pressing. If they hit the ground running, they could be in trouble.
The said, if United get the right centre back in – which I think is Alderweirel – and if they can sign a right-sided winger – because last season the team was too unbalanced and, therefore, very predictable – all while avoiding too many injuries, they could shock people.