Saturday, August 13, 2022

Manchester United Season Preview: Fans Expectant After A Record-Breaking Transfer Window

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Sourav Bhakat
An ardent sports lover who loves to sleep, eat and watch Manchester City play. In that order.

After narrowly losing out to cross-town rivals in a tight finish for the fourth spot and hence losing out on Champions League football for this season, Manchester United will be expected to challenge for the top 3 spots this season under Jose Mourinho. United were accused of being one-dimensional under Louis Van Gaal and visibly struggled in front of goal.

It was their solid defence and compact formation which saved them the blushes as they ploughed their way through the games to end in a respectable position. But a 5th place finish is nowhere near what the Red Devils strive for and for that exact reason the board took a brave decision and appointed Jose Mourinho as the person to transform the team and put them back on the pedestal they had gotten used to under Six Alex.

TRANSFER SUMMARY

The former Chelsea manager was proactive since the very beginning and bolstered his defence initially with Eric Bailly’s signing for £30m before springing a surprise with the addition of Zlatan Ibrahimović on a free transfer. He further added Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund for a fee in the region of £26m before concluding the transfer saga of the window by securing Paul Pogba’s signature. While there haven’t been any major exits as of now, it is expected big name players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juan Mata will go through the door before the window shuts down.

INS

Paul Pogba – Juventus, £89m

Zlatan Ibrahimović – free

Eric Bailly – Villarreal, £30m

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Borussia Dortmund, £26.3m

OUTS

Victor Valdes – Middlesbrough, free

Nick Powell – Wigan, free

Tyler Reid – Swansea, undisclosed

Oliver Rathbone – Rochdale, free

Joe Rothwell – Oxford, free

George Dorrington – Huddersfield, free

Ashley Fletcher – West Ham, free

Guillermo Varela – Eintracht Frankfurt, loan

(Source)

France's midfielder Paul Pogba heads the ball during the Euro 2016 final football match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016. / AFP / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
France’s midfielder Paul Pogba heads the ball during the Euro 2016 final football match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on July 10, 2016. / AFP / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Mourinho has really shown intent in the window as the amount of money and the tenacity in pursuing the targeted players gave out a positive and uplifting message across to the fans. After Sir Alex stepped down, Manchester United had to face rejection on multiple occasions and with the appointment of Mourinho a lot of those issues have been quite visibly ironed out. There were concerns regarding the ability of the club to attract the crème de la crème from around the world. Especially with the steady decline in the past years and the absence of the Champions League to go with it. But all these suggestions have been emphatically dismissed as Man United have signed heavyweights of the magnitude which reaffirms the standing and the global recognition the club commands.

A boy poses for pictures after purchasing a Manchester United shirt with the name and squad number of recent signing French midfielder Paul Pogba outside Old Traford.
A boy poses for pictures after purchasing a Manchester United shirt with the name and squad number of recent signing French midfielder Paul Pogba outside Old Traford.

FORMATION AND LIKELY FIRST TEAM

Mourinho has been pretty constant with his formations in the Premier League and it is widely expected he will continue with his patent 4-2-3-1 formation. De Gea finds himself more settled this time around after the transfer fiasco involving Real Madrid last season. Darmian is expected to cement his spot on the right-hand side but will be pushed all the way by Valencia. Smalling and Bailly are considered to be the defensive pairing in the long run, but pre-season suggests Daley Blind will have a part to play as well. Luke Shaw is fit and raring to go after the horrific double-leg break and will line with on the left-hand side.

Mourinho will be tempted to install France teammates Schneiderlin and Pogba in the double-pivot and it is likely to be the case as he gives Pogba more freedom to wreak havoc up the pitch. Carrick’s minutes in the league might be reduced with the new arrival. Martial will hope to impress himself after a quiet Euro and pre-season and will look to make the left-flank his own. Rooney’s short stint at midfield was immediately cut short by Mourinho as he expressed dismay at seeing a striker of his calibre being used 50metres away from goal and fans will hope Mourinho is able to re-ignite their captain’s form of yesteryear.

There is intense competition on the right flank with summer signing Mkhitaryan looking to fight for his place with the likes of Rashford and Lingard. And as things stand now with Juan Mata also. Jose will look to interchange these players in the front positions till he finds his best eleven. Ibrahimović expectedly leads the attack and will look to carry his prolific record into the English Premier League.

EXPECTATIONS

The Old Trafford fans had become critical and sceptical of their team’s fortunes after an uncertain and arguably regressive three years but all that has been forgotten with the blockbuster summer they have had. Now all eyes are on how Mourinho utilises this team because on paper they look like Champion material. He will get the cushion of focusing on the Premier League solely this season and while they will be wary of over-confidence, it won’t be a surprise if title-talk reaches the Sir Alex Ferguson stand by the turn of the year.

SPECIAL ATTRACTION

With a similar situation across the city at the Etihad Stadium, people expect the derby to be the best in years. It has all the ingredients to surpass all elements of drama and footballing finesse and it is a match the whole world will tune in to watch. Let the season begin!

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