It wasn’t the end to the transfer window that most Manchester United fans wanted, but that’s all in the past now as their season kicks off with a Premier League opener against Leicester City tonight.
The Red Devils finished 2nd in the Premier League last season, though that slightly covers up the cracks as they ended up a whopping 19 points behind runaway champions Manchester City.
MORE: 5 reasons for Man Utd to be positive despite transfer issues, featuring Alexis Sanchez and forgotten midfield man
For some context, when Arsenal finished 5th the season before, they were closer in points (18) to champions Chelsea that year than United were to City last term. The year before that, 19 points separated 1st from 7th place in the final Premier League table. Clearly, improvement is needed.
So how do United look ahead of 2018/19. Read on for our season preview…
Jose Mourinho has certainly not looked a happy man this summer, and you can see why for a number of reasons.
The Portuguese has publicly made it clear he wasn’t happy with the squad he had out in pre-season, which was full of youngsters. And if there’s one thing we all know Jose is not interested in, it’s youngsters.
He’s also had to deal with Anthony Martial leaving the pre-season tour to be present for the birth of his baby, with the Manchester Evening News reporting he wasn’t happy at the Frenchman’s late return, leading him to consider letting him go.
We all know how things tend to go for Mourinho in his third season at clubs in recent spells, and it’s not pretty. This pre-season is worryingly reminiscent of his behaviour at Chelsea before it all went pear-shaped in 2015/16, so expect a poor start to cause alarm bells ringing at Old Trafford.
He’s not called the Special One for nothing, so perhaps he can work a way out of this, but at the moment you wouldn’t bet against Mourinho being one of the first managerial departures of the season, with the Sun already recently reporting that Zinedine Zidane was being looked as a replacement in case that happens.
Part of Mourinho’s concern, of course, will be due to the club’s quiet transfer market performance.
Coming in has only been Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk in terms of players who could actually realistically command a regular starting spot.
Diogo Dalot looks a promising young talent but will surely remain behind Antonio Valencia in the pecking order at right-back, while Lee Grant will surely only be third choice goalkeeper behind David de Gea and Sergio Romero.
United could have done with a new centre-back and perhaps a winger, but none have come in, making their task of competing with the quality at the likes of City and Liverpool all the harder this season.
There are a few contenders for most valuable player at MUFC, but we’d perhaps say Alexis Sanchez edges it if he can get back to his best form.
The Chile international was undoubtedly slow to get going after his move from Arsenal in January, but the season before that he’d been one of the most devastating attacking players on the planet.
— Peric Bozidar Design (@Fristajler) August 9, 2018
With pace, strength, skill, work rate and an eye for a variety of goals, be it tap-ins, long-range pile-drivers or headers, Sanchez is the complete modern forward who terrorises defences when he’s in the mood.
Of course, Mourinho doesn’t necessarily seem the ideal manager for getting the best out of Sanchez, as he’s shown something of a blind spot to world class attacking talent in recent times, but the former Gunner is good enough to get around that.
As well as him, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku had superb World Cups and will also be among the main men to watch.
We all know about the potential young players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have if they’re given the chances to show it, but in terms of a breakthrough star at United this season, we think the one to watch could be Andreas Pereira.
Coming in to something of a problem area for the Red Devils, the young Brazilian should have the opportunity to nail down a regular starting place at last after struggling to do so previously, ending up going out on loan.
The 22-year-old has really looked the part in pre-season so far and if he continues to play there’s no reason he can’t be the top class midfield playmaker this club needs.