Last year’s position: 5th
Current Manager: José Mourinho
2016/17 Manchester United Season Preview
Positives from last season:
United made full use of their quality in youth. Having lost several stars due to injury through the course of the season, the likes of Jesse Lingard, Guillermo Varela, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and famously, Marcus Rashford took their chance when it was handed to them. The latter going on to represent England at the Euros. United look set for the future.
Another positive was the arrival of silverware. Manchester United won the FA Cup for the first time in 12 years. In what proved to be Louis van Gaal‘s last game in charge, United dramatically overcame a spirited Crystal Palace challenge at Wembley. Academy star Jesse Lingard scoring a stunning volley deep into extra-time giving United the victory. The positivity of a trophy win will surely help spur on this young side.
Anthony Martial was signed on deadline day of the summer window in 2015. Many were left surprised by the large fee paid by the Red Devils, including those in Martial’s home country of France. 17 goals and 8 assists later, Martial is regarded a rising star in this team and big things are now naturally expected of him in the future. Goalkeeper David de Gea also committed to a new 5-year contract early in the season after a failed transfer attempt to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Weaknesses from last season:
Louis van Gaal was highly criticised all season for his pragmatic brand of football, which affected results and eventually led to United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League. A tempering of attacking football meant that United scored just 1.29 goals per game last season. They’ve never previously averaged less than 1.5.
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson departed as manager, United have dropped points to teams deemed ‘less talented’ than them, particularly at Old Trafford. That continued last season after home losses to Norwich City and Southampton as well as stale 0-0 draws against the likes of West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion. They were also knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages, after having the chance to be group winners with two games remaining. More embarrassing losses included 3-0 away defeats to Arsenal and Tottenham.
Louis van Gaal spent a mammoth £98 million on six players in the summer of 2015. Unfortunately most of the transfers proved to be unsuccessful. Dutchman Memphis Depay failed to deliver after showing early promise. Experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger was out of form or injured for large parts of the season. At the back end Matteo Darmian and Morgan Schneiderlin failed to cement a spot in the side for long periods. Their form was affected as a result.
The sacking of Louis van Gaal has led to the appointment of José Mourinho. The ex-Chelsea boss has already won three Premier League titles in two stints with the Blues and his arrival has been received well by the supporters of the club. He’s already made a huge impact at the club having extended veteran midfielder Michael Carrick‘s contract for another year and handed new deals to both Marcus Rashford and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly was signed from Spanish side Villareal for a reported €38 million following several solid displays in defence for the La Liga side. He was considered as one of the best players in that league last season. There had also been interest from Manchester City and Chelsea, amongst others before eventually signing for United.
Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan was voted as the best player in the Bundesliga last season and has joined José Mourinho’s team at Old Trafford as they bid to re-establish their challenge for the title. The 27-year-old amassed 23 goals and 32 assists in 50 games across all competitions last season and will be crucial in United’s attack.
United added the best player in Ligue 1 to complement Mkhitaryan in the form of 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimović. He arrives on a free transfer. 50 goals in 51 games in all competitions makes him exactly the type of forward United have been craving for. Ibrahimovic will be motivated to work with José Mourinho again. He once said that Mourinho was a man “he’d be willing to kill for”. The pair were successful in Italy with Inter Milan, and look to do the same in England.
The Pogba Possibility
Mourinho has hinted at one more signing to be made. This is rumoured to be Paul Pogba currently at Juventus. A world record transfer fee exceeding €100 million is being touted. The flamboyant midfielder left Manchester United in 2012 in unclear circumstances. He has gone on to become one of the best players in World football. Pogbas has already received a Ballon d’Or nomination, a FIFPro World Team of the Year spot and was the Best Young Player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Players to watch:
Marcus Rashford dazzled in the 28 minutes he played at the Euros for England and looked to be in fine form in pre-season. On the back of a sensational breakthrough first season, he could be set for another brilliant campaign.
Chris Smalling was one of the best centre-halves in England in 2015/16. He could be set for another fine season. He will be aided by the arrival of a out-and-out centre half in Eric Bailly. The two could potentially form a formidable partnership at the back.
Key matches: vs. Manchester City [10th September (H), 25th February (A)]; vs. Leicester City [24th September (H), 4th February (A)] vs. Liverpool [15th October (A), 14th January (H)]; Arsenal [19th November (H), 6th May (A)]; Tottenham [11th December (H), 13th May (A)].
Outlook for 2016/17: A proven Premier League manager with a winning mentality, combined with the right blend of experience, youth and leadership could take this Manchester United team all the way to the top of the Premier League. No doubt title win will be Mourinho’s aim.