Man United manager Jose Mourinho has never been shy about coming forward, and so it will have come as little to no surprise really to hear that he has stated the Red Devils’ pre-season is a bad one owing to so many absentees. The vast majority of those not present are players still on holiday after good-to-remarkable World Cup campaigns of course, while former Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez has remained in England to sort out some “personal administrative issues”. With such a depleted squad able to partake in some warmup matches in the United States ahead of the Premier League curtain-raiser on Friday, August 10, United were unable to overturn 12-time Mexican champions Club America. Mourinho’s men had to settle for a 1-1 draw, a Juan Mata strike cancelling out Hector Martin’s header on the hour.
However, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku and new signing Fred set to join up with the squad before too much longer, United should be able to get back to something which resembles a full-strength squad before the Leicester match. That game against the former champions is one which Mourinho and co. will have earmarked as a match in which a win is essential. After all, being the first match of the season a win would send England’s most successful top flight club in history back to the top of the Premier League, even if it were to be for less than 24 hours. That is a position which has been all too rare at Old Trafford since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2013 – the last time the club won the Premier League.
There is still plenty of business left for the powers-that-be in the red half of Manchester to do before the transfer window closes in early August, but one of the top targets for this coming season will absolutely be overturning “noisy neighbours” City and reclaiming the Premier League crown – or, at the very least, closing the gap. City won the title at a relative canter last season, winning it with a 19-point margin over second-placed United. That gap is a Premier League record, and so anything other than halving that would be a worrying season for the Reds or, indeed, the rest of the Premier League.
The odds on anyone other than City walking away in 12 months’ time still as champions are going to be slimmer than they have been previously of course following their last dominant campaign. United have already done more business than City this summer, with the champions having only signed Leicester forward Riyad Mahrez so far. United, on the other hand, have brought in Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant – and with more names being linked with a move to Old Trafford day by day, the best bet would be to suggest that Mourinho is nowhere near finished with his transfer dealings just yet.
Gareth Bale and Ivan Perisic are but two names who have been linked, though whether the club can pull off these deals or not remains to be seen. Both would be regarded as something of a coup, and Perisic was said to be keen on similar reports a year ago as he enjoyed playing under Portuguese boss Mourinho while they were together at Inter Milan.
On top of all of that, Mourinho going up against Pep Guardiola always has the potential to be more than a bit spicy, so this season will certainly be a spectacle to look forward to!