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Fringe Players Await Manchester United’s September Programme

A look at the options available to José Mourinho as he prepares for the potential fixture pile-up during Manchester United’s September programme.

Manchester United manager José Mourinho informed The Mirror earlier this week that he cannot wait for September. So far this season, without any Champions League involvement, the Red Devils have been restricted to playing once a week. This will all change next month when United have midweek fixtures in the League Cup and Europa League. This mean that at least thirteen United players will be anticipating United’s September programme.

Sergio Romero

The Argentina goalkeeper looked to be on course to nail down the number one spot at the start of last season. This was until David De Gea signed a new deal following the collapse of his move to Real Madrid.  He made just four further appearances, none of them in the Premier League.

Although Romero is a competent shot stopper, he is not in the same league as the Spaniard. With the potential fixture pile-up in September, Mourinho might be tempted to give his first-choice keeper a rest.

Matteo Darmian

The Italian looked instantly at home during the first two months of last season. It seemed that United may have finally found the eventual replacement for Gary Neville. The £14 million fee United paid to Torino looked a bargain at first. Unfortunately for Darmian, as the team’s form nosedived towards the Christmas period, so did his own. Not helped by switching from right to left-back by Louis van Gaal, he will be anxious to prove he was not just a flash in the pan.

At the moment Antonio Valencia blocks his path to the first team. The Ecuador international has looked a different player since Mourinho took charge. A congested fixture list might be just the thing that gives Darmian his chance to prove his worth.  The speculation that United are to sign Monaco full-back Fabinho, however, won’t help his cause if it turns out to be true.

Chris Smalling

A surprise inclusion but the simple fact is that because the defender was suspended for the opening game of the season, Mourinho had to look at his options. So far he has settled on Daley Blind and new signing Eric Bailly. Their combination of silk and steel means the two players have complimented each other superbly so far. Smalling’s only appearance so far was as a late substitute against Southampton on Friday.

Smalling won’t be too worried as his game has developed massively over the last two years. He is almost unrecognisable from the player sent off at the Etihad two years ago. The only issue is that he may have to wait until mid-September before getting some minutes under his belt. With the Manchester derby coming up, Mourinho may be reluctant to change a defence that is performing so well.

Phil Jones

A rather large fall from grace has occurred for the player Alex Ferguson once dubbed “the new Duncan Edwards”. Injuries have meant that Jones has featured in less than half of the available Premier League games over the last two seasons. As a result his development has been severely hampered, although he has settled on centre-back as his favoured position. He is yet to make a single appearance this campaign.

His United future could depend on whether Mourinho can seal the signing of Southampton’s José Fonte. Should he secure the Portuguese international’s services, Jones would likely become United’s fifth choice in that position. He may be waiting to see how developments unfold before responding to Stoke City’s  reported interest in him.

Marcos Rojo

The loan signing of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson to Wolves means that Rojo is likely to be back-up to Luke Shaw for the left-back position. Shaw has returned from his horror injury last season, and so far seems to have made a full recovery.

The Argentine international has struggled at times to deal with the pace of the Premier League. His lack of natural fitness, and struggles with his weight, mean that he can be error prone. If Mourinho intends to rotate his squad, the slightly less hectic Europa League may suit him better.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

The big Dutchman made his debut last season against Arsenal, and looked instantly at home in the team. Despite the impact that Marcus Rashford made in that game, many fans were excited by what they had seen. Towering well over six feet tall, Fosu-Mensah fits the profile of the type of player Mourinho favours. The 18-year-old has power, pace and above all great technique.

Although he struggled during last season’s F.A. Cup semi-final against Everton, he caught the attention of his national team. Holland coach Danny Blind called him up to his squad for the friendlies against Ireland, Poland and Austria. While he did not get onto the pitch, he seems assured of a big future in the game. September could be the month in which he forces his way into his manager’s plans.

Morgan Schneiderlin

The surprise early season form of Marouane Fellaini has seen Schneiderlin make just two substitute appearances so far. He is another who seems to fit the profile of the type of player Mourinho favours. Strength and aggression are two of the key components of his game, and suggests he will be given a chance at some stage.

Contrary to popular belief, Schneiderlin did not have too bad a debut campaign at Old Trafford. He was solid, if unspectacular, but the same could be said of the team overall. If he can get game time, and rediscover his form from Southampton, he could be a key player under Mourinho.

Ashley Young

It’s hard to read exactly what Mourinho’s intentions are regarding Ashley Young. The winger was one of the few players to improve during Louis van Gaal’s tenure. Prior to the Dutchman’s arrival in 2014, he was thought to be surplus to requirements. Young’s attitude, in which he seemed to buy into the manager’s philosophy, impressed van Gaal. He subsequently became a key player, and proved many doubters wrong.

Mourinho will no doubt rotate his squad next month, as the fixtures come thick and fast. We should see by then if Young is given the chance to stake his claim for a regular place.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

The £26 million summer signing, and first Armenian to play for the club, looked very impressive in pre-season. The Old Trafford faithful have clearly taken to Mkhitaryan, having already composed a chant in his honour. Despite being voted Players’ Player of the Year in the Bundesliga last season, he is yet to start a game.

It seems unlikely that Mourinho would have spent that amount on such a player if he wasn’t a part of his plans. So far he has explained that his omission is due to tactical reasons. September could be the month when he gets to show his new fans what he is all about.

Memphis Depay

This could be the biggest season of Memphis Depay’s career. He arrived at Old Trafford last summer with big expectations placed on his shoulders. He certainly started promisingly, with two brilliant goals against Club Brugges in the Champions League qualifiers. As the season progressed he soon went from hero to zero. Although clearly talented, he found his attacking prowess nullified by the negative, safety-first football under van Gaal. There were also persistent rumours regarding his attitude.

This summer has provided a wake-up call for Depay, as he was dropped from the F.A. Cup Final in May. He has provided fans with plenty of videos on social media, showing his rigorous training regime. Mourinho himself has previously stated that he admires the player. The feeling remains, however, that if he is given the chance to impress, he must grab it with both hands. If he doesn’t, he probably won’t be wearing United’s iconic number 7 shirt this time next time year.

Marcus Rashford

The local boy who was given his chance due to a mounting injury list. Not in his wildest dreams could he have dared to hope for how his career has since taken off. He scored two goals against Midtjylland on his United debut, a European game at Old Trafford. He followed that up with another double, this time against Arsenal, on his Premier League bow. Other highlights included a winner against Manchester City and an F.A. Cup winner’s medal. Just three months after being a reserve team player, he made his England debut; and scored against Australia. His impact was such that he was selected for Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.

So far this season his only involvement was as a substitute in the Community Shield victory over Leicester City. This is no surprise given the form of Zlatan Ibrahimović, but at 34 years of age he won’t be expected to play every game. As the fixtures mount up it’s probably safe to say that Rashford will be given his chance. Given how his brief career has panned out so far, it’s very likely he’ll make the most of it.

Michael Carrick

The options Mourinho now has at his disposal mean that there seems certain to be a lot of rotation in this area. One of the first things he did after his appointment was to secure a new one-year deal for Carrick. His experience is something that Portuguese manager clearly values, but so far his only appearance was in the Community Shield.

At 35 years old, it’s to be expected that Carrick will be rotated regularly during the season. The fact that Mourinho was so keen to keep him suggests he will be given his chance over the coming weeks.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

The fact that the German is one of the most decorated players in world football clearly cuts no ice with his new manager. As soon as Schweinsteiger returned from Euro 2016, he was made to train with the reserves. After moving to Old Trafford from Bayern Munich last summer, his arrival did not have the expected impact. He struggled for fitness, missing more than a third of United’s games, and hardly impressed when he did play. The Schweinsteiger who used to dictate games for Bayern seemed a distant memory.

Mourinho has made it clear that Schweinsteiger is not a part of his plans, and is keen to sell. There is reputedly interest from both Milan clubs, but the stumbling block could be his reported £200,000 weekly wage. If nobody takes the midfielder, and United get a few injuries, it may represent a chance to prove his manager wrong.

Moving Forward

It will be interesting to see which players are given a chance during Manchester United’s September programme. Most of the above players will be expect to be involved at some point next month. It is likely, however, that anyone who doesn’t feature can probably consider their Old Trafford career to be on borrowed time.


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