2018/19 Manchester United Season Preview

 Manchester United will go into this season hoping to avoid the publicised Jose Mourinho third season syndrome. However, there are a lot of opinions that are thrown around about Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. Many critics believed that Mourinho is passed his best in England and he has been overtaken by media darlings such as Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp. Unfortunately for Mourinho’s critics, in the space of two months, in a crucial part of the season, Mourinho guided United to wins over Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham. United will go into this season with not much expectation on them compared to Mourinho’s previous two seasons. However, does the special one, have a trick up his sleeve?

Manchester United Season Preview

Last Time Out

In the 2017/18 season, Manchester United finished in second place in the Premier League and lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea due to a Phil Jones error that gifted Eden Hazard a penalty. Perhaps this aspect of United’s season wasn’t fantastic, but it certainly wasn’t as horrendous as some have made out.

The major disappointment with United last season was their Champions League campaign. United settled for a 0-0 draw away to Sevilla in the Champions League round of sixteen first leg tie. Additionally, United lost 2-1 at Old Trafford to the Spanish club which dumped the reds out of Europe prematurely. What angered most United fans was Mourinho’s post-match comments about football heritage. However, they lost against a team they should have beaten so no excuses were necessary.

Overall, last season was United’s highest league finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and, although they did not win anything, it was a decent season. Additionally, United acquired the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Alexis Sanchez, three players who could potentially make a massive difference now that they are settled into the club.

Key Player

Romelu Lukaku was by far United’s main threat last season; perhaps he was the one player with the talent who actually delivered. United have several players who have the ability to change a game, such as Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez. However, these players weren’t consistently producing game-changing performances.

Although Lukaku will likely remain as United’s main goal threat, it is Alexis Sanchez that could make a difference in whether United are competing for top four or the title. The Chilean can operate on either flank, in attacking midfielder or even as a striker. He was Arsenal’s best player in a poor team for many years. Also guiding Chile to back to back Copa Americas, Sanchez holds the ability to expand United’s attack even more.

Throughout his career he has demonstrated his crossing, shooting and passing abilities. However, these qualities are not the main thing he would bring to this under firing United team. It’s Sanchez’s winning mentality and hunger that will help United succeed. If the Chilean has settled in at Old Trafford he should be able to put in the heroic performances United fans saw in glimpses from Sanchez. If Sanchez can sustain the type of performances against Manchester City at the Etihad and Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final, United are a team to be feared.

Manager Analysis

A lot has been said regarding Mourinho. Although he has the ability to self-combust, he also has the ability to mastermind a successful title campaign. A natural born winner, Mourinho has added two trophies to United’s cabinet in his first two seasons. He won more with United in his first season than some of his rivals have won in their entire spells at their respective clubs.

So far this pre-season, Mourinho has been very vocal about how he is worried about United’s preparations. He notes that it is not ideal preparing for the season without his best players due to the World Cup. However, United are not the only team with this problem so it should not be too much of a concern.

Mourinho has signed Fred, a Brazilian midfielder who is likely to play alongside Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba in a midfield three. He also signed Diogo Dalot, a young Portuguese fullback, who can play on the right of the left. Perhaps Dalot is one for the future and may not feature regularly for the reds.

A concern is United’s failure so far to bring in a centre back or a left back. However, if the likes of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo can stay fit and consistent than United fans shouldn’t have to endure the consistent mistakes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. The failure to secure a left back also gifts Luke Shaw another chance to save his Old Trafford career; something the ‘in the know’s’ in the media could not see happening.

Predicted Finish

There is little talk of United and the title as it seems to be all about Manchester City and Liverpool. Perhaps United could benefit from being out of the spotlight. Should United get off to a good start, they have every chance.

The acquisition of Fred may compliment Paul Pogba. He may be able to reproduce some of his World Cup winning performances for United. Should everything go as planned for United, expect them to be challenging for the title.

However, should everything go badly, and third season syndrome comes through, expect United to be fighting for the last top four spot.

Prediction: United finish second but a closer gap to City than last season.

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