After around 85 days of hiatus, Premier League returns to town and it has all the ingredients to be a cracking season. With all the new heavyweight managers it surely will be a delicious prospect for all the football lovers. But the excitement amongst the Manchester United fans is insurmountable, at least for now. Jose Mourinho and United, two winning machines, when put together, will mean box office; and it sure does seem that way.
A lot of fans were of the opinion that Mourinho’s signing will be this summer’s biggest. After the transfer market that United have had, it now certainly seems not to be the case. Each and every pain area (almost) addressed and United now have a squad which is certainly capable of challenging for the title, if not win it. United’s and Mourinho’s first challenge is away from home and comparatively easier but the former Chelsea manager will be without the services of his world record signing, Paul Pogba, due to the two yellow cards that he accumulated in the Coppa Italia last season. With him out of the picture for this game, Mourinho might resort to one of his pre-season starting XI’s. However, this will be Mourinho’s biggest test since his arrival at United and he might want to make some personnel changes keeping that in the mind.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
It shouldn’t be a surprise anymore that the Spaniard will be one of the first names on the starting XI sheet. United’s number one has been their best player for past three years and will like to keep the performance and quality up to the same levels.
Full Backs – Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw
As soon as Shaw proved his fitness to last for the entire 90 minutes, the left back spot was sealed. The youngster was arguably United’s best player last season before he faced that horrible leg break. He hasn’t really hit the stride this season yet, but certainly looks to be on the right track to do so. The right back is a whole different story. With the options of Valencia and Matteo Darmian, it came as a surprise that Mourinho persisted with Valencia instead of Darmian, who is the specialist in that area. But Valencia has proved his doubters wrong so far during the pre-season. He has looked a different player this pre-season and it only makes sense to persist with him and his form.
Central Defenders – Daley Blind and Eric Bailly
With Chris Smalling suspended for the opening game, due to his red card against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final, it seems that the manager might persist with his center back pairing from the pre-season. Bailly, who was adjudged the man of the match in the Community Shield game has looked the part and his physical nature of play seems to compliment Blind’s intelligent and ball playing defensive abilities perfectly. It remains to be seen how regularly he features in the starting XI but he certainly looks to be a very good young defender. Blind, too, has been a regular in the pre-season and seems to be a much safer bet to Phil Jones or Marcus Rojo.
Central Midfielders – Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera
Carrick started along with Marouane Fellaini in the last game, who frankly speaking, did decently until his “assist” to Jamie Vardy for their equalizer. However, in spite of his decent performance, the Fellaini/Carrick midfield seems very immobile. Herrera gives a better option going forward and moving the game along. Carrick, on the other hand, will have the task cut out for him of cushioning the back line.
Wingers – Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard
Martial has not yet hit his stride which one saw in the last season but that can be attributed to the lack of pre-season and match fitness. There is an available replacement in the squad in the form of Memphis Depay but it might be too soon, to drop Martial off, looking at his pre-season form. But, in a completely contrasting style, Jesse Lingard has been impressive on the other flank and also scored a fantastic individual goal against Leicester City. He might just sneak ahead of Henrik Mkhitaryan for that right-wing role based on his past few games.
Number 10 – Wayne Rooney (C)
The club captain has been doing justice to the tag of a “slow starter” with his below par performances in the past few games, especially the Community Shield. How long can he go on with such form, only Mourinho can tell, but he will in all probability keep his starting spot for the Premier League opener.
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
In Zlatan, United have an experienced and physical striker who will not only score crucial goals for his team but also be that leader on the pitch. Marcus Rashford, who started almost all of the games in the second half of the season, for the team, might not get as many minutes but will be a lethal force as a substitute while running at the tired defenses. But for Premier League it seems likely that Mourinho will stick to Zlatan for starting the games.
Last time United traveled to AFC Bournemouth, Louis van Gaal’s job was almost on the line. It won’t be anywhere near that crucial for Mourinho but a winning start is important and will certainly make things easier for him. Let the party begin!