Manchester United started a new era last summer with the arrival of Jose Mourinho. Four players were brought in by the Portuguese; Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. All four players have either found their feet or are heading leaps and bounds in the right direction to find them. Zlatan has scored 26 goals so far this season, helping the club to win both the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup, which in effect secured the third and fourth trophies for the club post Sir Alex Ferguson, or if you would rather, the second major trophy, the first being the Emirates FA Cup won by Louis van Gaal last season. Mourinho has talked about this coming summer with two or three players likely to be brought in with United and Mourinho overseeing a possible flurry of players surplus to requirements heading out of the club.
Luke Shaw has had a poor first season under Jose Mourinho. It is fair to say that his injury sustained in the 2015/16 season, which kept him out for the rest of the season, was enough to sideline him both physically and mentally and you could say that it still bears an effect on him today. Serious injuries do take time to return from, but from what is seen from the outside of the club, it does not look too good for the former Southampton defender. Shaw has made 14 appearances this season, the last of which was against Wigan Athletic in the Emirates FA Cup on the 29th January 2017. He was involved in the squad for the 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers on the 19th February 2017 but did not get onto the pitch during the match. The fact Shaw was overlooked for the trip to Saint-Etienne with United 3-0 up on aggregate from the first leg at Old Trafford could suggest that his days are numbered at the Theatre of Dreams. A run of matches to get back into the swing of things would do him well, but Mourinho has suggested that Shaw is still behind the likes of Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo in the left-back role. Currently, Shaw is linked to Tottenham Hotspur, according to The Sun, which could be a load of made up rubbish, but who knows. Working with Mauricio Pochettino could inspire Shaw to make his comeback, but it would be the easy way out for him.
Matteo Darmian started his Manchester United career last season under Louis van Gaal and was quickly praised as the second coming of Gary Neville. His form then went south and it went from bad to worse as the season drew on. This season, under Jose Mourinho, Darmian had the chance to restore himself into the starting XI, but the form of Antonio Valencia has kept him out of his favoured position at right-back. The Italian has made 16 appearances this season, most of which have come with him playing in the left-back role, a secondary role Darmian has played before, and seems to have done well as he his placed higher in the squad than Luke Shaw, who was mentioned above. Darmian was linked with a move back to Italy in the summer and again in January and will probably be linked with a possible departure this coming summer, a summer which could see Mourinho add two-three players to his squad in order to create a finishing touch to his Manchester United side, one which will be expected to challenge for the Premier League title, something they seem to have come up short on this season, but mathematically it is still possible, for the time being at least. Darmian is running out of time to restore himself at United if that chance has not gone already. As an Italian international, he will want to play for his country, but seldom playing could hamper that.
Bastian Schweinsteiger started the season being frozen out of the Manchester United first team and training with the U23 side. Not long after this, Jose Mourinho allowed the veteran German to train with his teammates again, which then saw him being added to matchday squads with him returning to action against West Ham United in the 4-1 victory in the EFL Cup on the 30th November 2016. Schweinsteiger then played another match over a month later, this time in the Emirates FA Cup in the 4-0 victory over Reading at Old Trafford, appearing again in the next round in which United beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 with the German scoring one of the goals. Schweinsteiger then returned for the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg clash with Saint-Etienne in which United won 1-0, 4-0 on aggregate. Not playing in the Premier League may well change with the fixture pile up United have at the moment with five matches being played in March, six in April and so far two matches yet to be rearranged against Manchester City and Southampton. Schweinsteiger may not have a future at United longer than the end of the season, but playing a part could well be a good decision from Mourinho who has praised his work ethic, even when he was frozen out of the team. The German confirmed that he would not play for another European club during his career with a move to the MLS seemingly on the cards, maybe China, which would surprise me.
Ashley Young has played 14 times for Manchester United this season, playing a bit part figure at the club. His last match, the 1-0 victory over Saint-Etienne saw him play in defence, despite the fact he has always been a winger at the club. Jose Mourinho has praised Young a few times this season, also suggesting that he wanted to keep him at the club. He had offers last summer and also in January, then with the Chinese Super League window closing at the end of February, reports surfaced that he was still a target, which again did not materialise. Young’s current contract expires in the summer of 2018, but United do have the option to add another year to that contract, should his services be required at the club. This summer may be the last chance for the club to see any return for the 31-year-old who signed for United from Aston Villa under Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2011. Young has done well to achieve what he has at United, but as he is not one of the first names on the team sheet and with United looking elsewhere to find the players to challenge for the Premier League title next season, it is only a matter of time before the veteran Englishman will be heading away from the Theatre of Dreams.
Adnan Januzaj has spent the current season on loan with relegation candidates Sunderland under the guidance of David Moyes, who was looking to establish himself in the world of management again after his ill-fated reign of Manchester United following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in May 2013. Januzaj has made 21 appearances for the North East club, scoring one goal in the EFL Cup against Shrewsbury and seeing red against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League weeks later. Januzaj needs to impress in order to keep his place in the Manchester United squad open for him, something he is not currently doing whilst playing for Moyes’ Sunderland. The Belgian has played well at times, but consistency seems to be a major problem for him. During the summer, both Januzaj and Andreas Pereira were loaned out, the latter to Granada in the Spanish La Liga, and has done well, despite playing for one of the poorest teams in the league, and seems to have a lot more to give to United, should he return to the club and fight for a first team place in the summer, which is likely. Januzaj seems to have risen early but just does not seem to be putting in the effort which is what previous coaches of the player have said, Warren Joyce for instance, a guy who knows what he is talking about. Mourinho will be looking for something better to complete his Manchester United squad and Januzaj does not seem to be of that ilk anymore, which is a massive shame considering he was lauded with the potential of Cristiano Ronaldo a few years back.
Wayne Rooney has had a mixed season under Jose Mourinho. He retained the captain’s armband, which suggested that Mourinho rated him and wanted to retain his services in the first team, which he has done, yet has not been afraid to drop the 30-year-old who has been upstaged by a play five years his senior. Gone are the days that Wayne Rooney would be lighting up the Old Trafford pitch, scoring goals for fun and being the key player for United. Rooney may have broken the 40-year goalscoring record held by Sir Bobby Charlton, but that does not bring the Rooney that signed for the club back in 2004 back. Rooney has been long linked with an exit from the Theatre of Dreams. Many thought it could have happened in the summer with his testimonial penned in for August, but nothing materialised. China were interested in the player, but Rooney seemed to have no desire to go there and play mediocre football for a substantial wage, which is fair enough. Everton, his boyhood club are calling though and are very much interested in bringing back their player, something Rooney himself is open to, which could boost the Merseyside club to maybe achieve some silverware in the new season, but that hold no guarantees. Rooney has been a great player for United, but I do not feel he is one of the legends of the club. His record is a great one to have,m especially being the top goalscorer for club and country, but compared to Sir Bobby Charlton, Rooney has a lot to achieve, which could still be done during the remainder of his career, maybe not at United.
Written by Mike Wilson