Manchester United face Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium at 13:30 BST on Saturday. Jose Mourinho’s first match in charge of Manchester United. It has been suggested that Mourinho will be looking at many young players ahead of the pre-season tour of China in which United will face Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on the 22nd July, followed by a Manchester derby with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in Beijing on the 25th July. From there, United will travel to Sweden where they will face Galatasaray in Gothenburg. That will end United short pre-season tour, but they also face Everton at Old Trafford in Wayne Rooney’s testimonial on the 3rd August, before travelling to Wembley to face Leicester City in the FA Community Shield on the 7th August – a week later, United start the new Premier League season away to AFC Bournemouth. Jose Mourinho spoke about the match against Wigan Athletic, in which he suggested that he would be using players that are relatively unknown to him, but that he trusted Nicky Butt and John Murtough for their judgement on the players involved. Mourinho, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:
“The first game against Wigan is very important as I am going to have some players I don’t know very well who I am bringing into the first team. I don’t know them well but I just trust Nicky Butt [Head of Academy] and John Murtough [Head of Football Development] and the youth structure’s judgement.
“Obviously, I am going to work closely with them and I’m going to have to trust them when they say we have a few players who, in a couple of years, can be first-team players. It’s important to know them and give them the opportunity to work.”
It has already been speculated that both Axel Tuanzebe and Tyrell Warren will be involved in the match against the newly promoted Championship club at the weekend. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, David De Gea, Marouane Fellaini, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Anthony Martial will not be involved due to their participation in the European Championships in France, which was won by Portugal and former United team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. Marcos Rojo, Sergio Romero and Antonio Valencia will also not be involved after playing in the Copa America, which ended around a fortnight ago with Chile again lifting the trophy after beating Argentina – in effect a reply from the 2015 Copa America tournament. That leaves many players out of the match, and for much of the pre-season tour, meaning that many younger players will be given a chance for the Portuguese manager and his coached to scrutinise them and work out whether they have a place at the club in the future. New signings Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who did not play in tournaments this summer may well be involved, so we will be able to scrutinise them for ourselves.
Luke Shaw has now returned to fitness after his horror injury last season, he will almost certainly be part of the travelling squad on Saturday in a bid to prove his fitness ahead of the pre-season tour. The likes of Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are also training, so could also be involved, in some stage of the match. Jose Mourinho will obviously be looking at some younger players – for them to prove to him that they have what it takes to play for him in the first team. This may not be something they can achieve in one match, with them maybe given a chance on the pre-season tour in China, which will be good for them. James Weir, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Matt Willock are all names that come to my mind, players that have a future at the Old Trafford club, ones who could offer Mourinho what he wants when selecting a squad that he feels will give him experience, pace, mentality to win, stamina and youth. I feel those are the requirements or at least some of them.
Jose Mourinho has a good squad already – the arrivals of Bailly, Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan will do well to strengthen that considerably, among other names currently linked to the Old Trafford club. Axel Tuanzebe could well take the place in the squad that may have been afforded to Tyler Blackett, who looks set to leave the club with Jaap Stam’s Reading one of the clubs looking to sign him. Guillermo Varela is another that may have been included against Wigan, but his future looks uncertain at the club, especially with Fosu-Mensah waiting in the wings to step into his role, should he decide that the right-back position is one he feels he could thrive in – that is certainly a position which is up in the air at the moment with Matteo Darmian and Varela not able to make the position their own, and Valencia ending the season in that role. Mourinho likes strength in positions, so both Valencia and Fosu-Mensah look likely candidates to head into the new season in that role. Fosu-Mensah has played as a central defender, as well as a holding midfielder, so it all depends on what position he sees himself playing in the future.
The match against Wigan Athletic on Saturday will be one that United need to take command of – not fielding a strong team of stars, but players who have a future at the club. Henrikh Mkhitaryan could well make his debut ahead of the pre-season tour of China, where he could also feature against his former club, but Eric Bailly could also start, making his debut and a bid to settle himself in the back four, possible partnering Chris Smalling this coming season. David De Gea will not be expected to play in goal, neither will Sergio Romero, who may still be on holiday after playing in the Copa America final some weeks ago, so it may well be that Sam Johnstone or even Joel Castro Pereira may feature for United, which would be good for them, especially with Johnstone needing to get some first team experience after only playing U21 football for the majority of last season. This is what I feel the starting XI against Wigan Athletic could be;
Obviously, at this moment in time, this is just opinion, as I do not know the travelling squad for this weekend’s match. I am sure Mourinho will be looking at some players to prove to him that they should travel on tour, with United leaving for China on Monday. There certainly is a lot of talent at the club at this moment in time, and as Mourinho has stated that he has trusted Nicky Butt and John Murtough on their judgement, a young side could be the one that plays against the Sky Bet Championship club, who only a few years ago won the FA Cup under Roberto Martinez.