Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea is full of confidence that his club can challenge for the Premier League title this season, especially under the manager of the ‘winner’, Jose Mourinho. It has been three years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager, with United since only winning the FA Community Shield in 2013, and the Emirates FA Cup in 2016. The excitement that always surrounded Manchester United had eroded with many dreading what the team would do on the pitch under both David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. The fear factor was taken away from Old Trafford, with many teams arriving and taking home points they may never have got if Ferguson was still the manager. Within weeks of Mourinho’s unveiling by the Old Trafford club, he managed to sign Eric Bailly from Villarreal, Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who was a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain and Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund – United are still hotly anticipating a return for former midfielder Paul Pogba, whose transfer will almost certainly become a new world record.
De Gea, the clubs Player of the Year for the last three seasons, was subject to transfer speculation of his own a year ago with Real Madrid competing for his signature, only for that to breakdown on deadline day in Spain with the Spanish goalkeeper remaining at United, signing a new long-term deal and openly speaking about wanting to remain at the club. Now that United have a manager capable of leading a title charge, it seems to have the goalkeeper ticking again in a way which breeds excitement. De Gea is happy with the transfer business conducted by his club and when he was asked whether his side could challenge for the Premier League title, currently held by Leicester City, he said:
“Of course, of course. I think we signed top players, really good players. We are Manchester United and we want to fight for everything. I feel for the fans, for the club and the players (that something exciting is coming) – you feel like it is a new era. I think the club is really strong now. The players, we want to everything and hopefully, we can do it.”
The Spanish goalkeeper spoke at the launch of Manchester United’s new home shirt in Shanghai, before heading to Beijing where they face Manchester City in the International Champions Cup on Monday. De Gea emerged on the stage with manager Jose Mourinho for the unveiling of the kit, which had been leaked on the internet many months before United unveiled it. Mourinho, only leading the team for a number of weeks has impressed his new squad or the ones that have trained under him so far, at least. The winning mentality is something that is being brought back, which was one of the main things eroded under Moyes and Van Gaal. The managers organisation and his past history of winning is something which has impress De Gea especially, he said:
“He is a strong character. He is a winner – he is one of the best managers in the world and we feel it. We are really comfortable with him. He is a strong character but he makes jokes. It is good for us to laugh and I think he is a really good manager.”
On of the summer signings, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will head to Manchester to commence his pre-season training. The former Swedish international took part in Euro 2016 this summer, retiring from international football once Sweden was knocked out, was given some extra holiday in order to get ready for the new season – his debut at Manchester United. De Gea, excited to get things moving with the new team is excited that Ibrahimovic signed for United and when asked if he will add a new dimension to United’s attack, he said:
“You know he [Ibrahimovic] is a top player, he is a top striker. He is a killer and hopefully, he plays his best in Manchester.”
When Manchester United arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday morning (local time), the heat and humidity will have been something that hit them. Despite that, Mourinho has had his 25-man squad training twice a day, which will benefit them. They will also train twice a day when they return to Manchester. United face Borussia Dortmund in the heat and humidity on Friday, losing 4-1 to a side who were playing their fifth match of pre-season, therefore a fitter side, one which had not lost many of their first-team due to tournaments being played this summer. Speaking about the conditions in China, De Gea said:
“With the heat, with the humidity, it is really tough but we enjoy China,” said De Gea, who watched the International Champions Cup loss from the sidelines. It is my first time here. It is really hard training but we enjoy it a lot. It is unbelievable the fans in China. It is really crazy, but it is good for us. We enjoy it a lot. The tour brings us closer together, with a new manager and with new players. Of course, we need to train, train and try to be a compact team. The key in pre-season is try to be fit as soon as possible and then go to the Premier League and try to win.”
Manchester United flew to Beijing on Saturday after the new home kit unveiling and an open training session. United will, providing the weather allows it, face Manchester City at the Birds Nest Stadium famous for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing – the first Manchester derby of the season, albeit a ‘friendly’ affair. It will be the first Manchester derby of foreign soil, which will be something which could start the bragging rights of the new season. Jose Mourinho will meet Pep Guardiola, both managing new sides this season, who have not met since both were managing Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Speaking about facing their rivals, De Gea said:
“It is not the same, playing away from your country, in China against City. But it is always a special game and of course we are going to try and win.”
Manchester United are certainly getting ready for something big this season. Opposition supporters have been talking about United a lot more this summer, mocking their choice to bring in Mourinho, who was sacked by Chelsea in December, rather than continuing with Louis van Gaal, who at the time was two years into his three-year contract. To be, that suggests that the hate is returning, which will be a good thing. With the Paul Pogba deal still being concluded, with United looking to secure the player for a world record fee, that will only increase the hate and the shouts that ‘Manchester United were trying to buy the league again’. You can’t buy the league. Manchester City has spent over £1 billion trying to do that on a consistent level, winning the league in the 2011/12 season, and again in the 2013/14 season. Since then, Chelsea and Leicester City have won the Premier League, with City finishing second and fourth respectively.