Manchester United 2018/19 realistic season expectations

Manchester United finished second in the Premier League last season. It was the first time post-Sir Alex Ferguson, that the club had challenged the league leaders, despite the fact the destination of the Premier League title was sorted out ahead of Christmas in 2017. There was clear progress from the 2016/17 season with United drawing nine fewer matches, losing two more, changing a lot of 0-0 and 1-1 results into victories. In many other seasons, finishing with 81 points would have seen United lift the title. However, with Manchester City’s power, it was not meant to be.

During the 2016/17 season, Jose Mourinho’s debut at the club, United finished sixth, missing out on a UEFA Champions League position through their league position. This meant that United needed to win the UEFA Europa League that season, beating Ajax 2-0 in the final in Sweden. United also won the EFL Cup, now the Carabao Cup, meaning Mourinho was the first manager to lead the club into at least one major honour in their debut season. Rising from sixth to second is some achievement, taking on Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and finishing above them.

It was not good enough for some supporters of the club though. The moaning on social media was rife because Mourinho’s playing style was not the best. There were many better ways to berate the manager of his choice of tactics but on Twitter, some had decided that enough was enough and Mourinho needed to go. They feel it is their decision and expect to be heard. I mean, since when does a club listen to a minority of supporters to make big decisions. Not to mention some of the fans calling for Mourinho’s sacking actually wanted him in the first place. How quickly some things change.

Ahead of the summer transfer window, despite Mourinho suggesting that 3-4 players would be signed, which would include the January arrival of Alexis Sanchez, United signed Diogo Dalot, Fred, and Lee Grant. It may not be the best summer in terms of new additions but looking at the fact Real Madrid signed Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea, keeping David De Gea will be a massive boost, not to mention the fact that the ongoing speculation linking the player to Madrid ceasing to exist. The speculation surrounding Paul Pogba looks like lies too, with the Frenchman said to be happy at the club.

There have been many rumours this summer, especially with United seemingly seeking strengthening in the form of a central defender, which has not materialised. The likes of Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina and even Diego Godin were all linked to the club. Some supporters were banking on new signings this summer, believing the ITKs on Twitter, who let’s face it, had never been spot on with things like this and neither have the media. United were set to continue with just three new additions this summer, plus the return of some players from loan spells last season.

It is going to be a big season for United and Mourinho. Some have given the Portuguese manager this season to make amends from the previous two, some are expecting United to win the league title, other seem to expect one of the domestic cups to head to Old Trafford this season. I have not seen any who suggest United could win the UEFA Champions League. That does seem a long way off right now. What would be a positive season for United? I am sure there will be a lot of negative comments, but that is not what we need right now. Stop believing the press and form your own thoughts.

Closing the gap between Manchester City and Manchester United

The gap between the two Manchester teams ended at 19 points last season. United may need a miracle to claw this gap this coming season but if you give up without a fight, what is the point in supporting a team in any sport? United have a lot of talent in the squad and it needs to be used in the right way. A commanding central defender could have helped with this but only if United’s attack did what they needed to and those in between the defence and the attack provided the creativity required. The season will be big for Paul Pogba, Fred, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and even Anthony Martial if he stops sulking.

The task at hand it to cut down Manchester City’s lead, assuming they are still the team in control this season, which could well be the case. United beat City in April, coming from 2-0 down to turn the screw and stop City’s title-winning party if it was only for a week. That shows this team has something to stop those who feel they can dominate. Mourinho needs to get one over Pep Guardiola and if he cannot do it by buying a team to take on City, which was never something that was going to happen, not in the way City did it, doing it by getting the best from the players could be the best way.

Ensure a top four finish, preferably retaining second-place, challenging the big six

Finishing in the top four is necessary for a team with the status of United. The club is a business now and to achieve the business goal, as the hierarchy clearly have no plans to achieve the footballing goals, remaining in the top four is necessary. UEFA Champions League money seems to be important to Ed Woodward, the Glazers and the clubs sponsors. Once the club stops being able to challenge for a top four position, a lot of rebuilding would be required, which of course, would cost the owners a lot of money.

If United consistently continue to challenge, spending more money on players seems pointless to the money men, as the club will not make any more money by winning trophies, which seems strange but in the era of Glazernomics, you can believe that this would be true. The Glazers have only ever taken from the club, never actually given anything. They took ownership of the club by taking out loans, which were fixed to the club. They seem to sell as many pointless shares in the club as possible, to keep their greedy hands full of money. A bit of Fergie magic may be needed, in order to get a team not good enough to see good enough.

Scoring more goals throughout the season

Manchester United scored 101 goals in all competitions last season, which included two own goals, only one of which came in the Premier League. Talking about league goals, United only scored 68 in 38 matches last season, with champions City scoring 106 in the league alone. Scoring more goals in the league will be something United need to accomplish. The creativity in the midfield will need to be a lot better and with Fred’s addition, not to mention Pogba coming off a successful World Cup, that could be something United are tasked with this season.

Alexis Sanchez having a break this summer, which will be the first in a long while, could have refreshed him ahead of what could be a good season for United. Mourinho wanted to strengthen in defence this season, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant being the only additions in this area. United’s defence could have done with some security at the back but having the second-best defence in the Premier League last season is not all that bad, especially after they conceded just one more goal than City in the league.

If Mourinho can get Anthony Martial, Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku all in the right zone, scoring and creating goals, then United’s goalscoring problems could be close to coming to an end. No player at United for a number of years has scored as many goals as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lukaku (27) over the past two seasons. Lukaku is capable of scoring more, especially in the league. Knowing what Martial is capable of, let alone that of Sanchez and Rashford, the attacking line could dominate for United, which could solve a few problems. United’s squad is not riddled with poor players.

Ability to finish teams off rather than entertain pressure, which prolongs an already long and tough season

Last season, United were not as ruthless as perhaps they once were. In the Premier League last season, United drew six times, three of those during the busy Christmas period. United’s first draw was the 2-2 away to Stoke City after United started the season in fine fettle beating West Ham United 4-0, Swansea City 4-0, and Leicester City 2-0. The inability to finish Stoke off was the start of the problems for United. The next draw was away to Liverpool, a 0-0 with neither team taking the game by the scruff of the neck. That is four points dropped for United.

During the Christmas period, draw against Leicester City (2-2), Burnley (2-2), and Southampton (0-0) meant a further six points were dropped by United, based on what could have happened if they had been able to finish off these teams. The final draw of the season came in the penultimate match of the season, a 0-0 draw against West Ham, which showed a huge turnaround after dominating the team at the start of the season. It is not only the draws that United failed, it is the defeats too.

United were beaten by each of the promoted teams last season; Huddersfield Town (2-1), Newcastle United (1-0), and Brighton and Hove Albion (1-0). Not only would United have made 12 points up by finishing the teams they had drawn against, but winning these three matches would have been worth nine points, which could have been the difference between winning the league and coming second to Manchester City. Even if United had drawn in those three matches, they might not have won the league, but City’s points total could have been dealt a massive blow.

Reach the quarter-final stage, or further in the UEFA Champions League

The Champions League is a competition that many would like to see United win. However, realistically, that is not something that many supporters think could happen. It would be great if it happened, but demanding something as complicated as this will never work. United need to be getting out of the group stages, through the round of 16 and from there, there is a level of success. To win this competition, United need to have a team on par with Real Madrid. Despite some talent strewn throughout the team, the level of ability is not on par with the Madrid side, even after Cristiano Ronaldo left.

To keep progressing, United will need to beat their position in the elite European competition from last season, where they were knocked out by Sevilla at the round of 16 stage. Progressing into the quarter-final and doing well will be progress and something that will drive the club forward. Making the semi-final stage would be great too, but let’s keep this realistic. I am sure Mourinho will be happy to see his side reach the quarter-final and from there, anything could happen. The end of the month will tell how easy or hard the group stage will be for United.

A good run in the domestic cups, winning one of them

United made it to the final of the Emirates FA Cup last season, beaten by Chelsea, which was not a great feeling, especially as the match lacked any quality from either side. Winning a domestic cup could be a bright point of the season, especially after United ended last season with nothing. United could be boosted by a cup run, in either competition, although if United win one, opposition supporters will be quick to suggest it is not a major thing, despite celebrating like it is the pinnacle in football themselves.

In the Carabao Cup last season, with United as the holders, a defeat to Bristol City away from home ended United’s participation in the competition which was won by Guardiola’s City. United could go out to win this trophy, which will not be bragging rights by any means but is a form of success in itself. If the early stages see United facing lower league competition, playing some youth players on the fringes of the first team will be great for their development. Mourinho has trusted youth in his two years at the club and will continue to do so.

United may have a long way to go before they become the club they once were. The main factors which suggest the club is well on the way to doing that is the fact the hate towards the club has returned. Whether it be opposition supporters, Liverpool-aligned pundits and former pros, or the journalists thinking that they have the right, knowledge and know how to bang the nails into the Manchester United coffin. United will always be hated, adored and never ignored. The journalists get by writing pure drivel when it comes to any aspect of the club and every supporter wants to read about it.

Let’s get behind the players, the manager and the club and get stuck into the new season we will all be a part of. Let’s forget the negativity, leave those fans who change their club at the sight of any bad times. We are Manchester United!

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copyright: JW

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