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Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Forwards

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, concluding with the forwards.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The former Swedish international signed for United on a free last summer on the expiry of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. In the weeks after his signing, United and other supporters were suggesting he was too old to make an impact in the Premier League, something which would come to haunt them from his very first match, despite it being in the FA Community Shield. Zlatan scored a total of 28 goals for United last season and it could have been more, the chances were being created for the veteran striker. United have some over-reliance on Zlatan, which suggested there were other problems which needed to be sorted, which seems to be why Antoine Griezmann was a target earlier in the summer before Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban was kept in place following an appeal with the Court of Arbitration of Sport. Alvaro Morata and Andrea Belotti also seem to be targets for United with one or both likely to arrive at the Theatre of Dreams this summer. Zlatan suffered a season-ending knee injury against Anderlecht at Old Trafford in April, ending his season, could have ended his career. He went under the knife in the weeks following and is now recovering from his injury. United released Zlatan at the end of the season, not choosing to extend his contract as it is likely he will not play for much first half of the season if he returns to action in 2017. He will be training with United in the meantime after being offered the clubs services, which he seems to have accepted. He could play a part on the sidelines for United, maintaining his winning mentality within the squad, which he did to an extent during the past season. Zlatan added three more trophies to his impressive career haul, which ended his United career in high spirits.

Appearances: Premier League: 28, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 45

Goals: Premier League: 17, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 5, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 28

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 8, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney had a good season if you count beating Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for the club. That is his season highlight. The guy, all due respect in mind, is past it. He offers nothing in an attacking basis, seemingly losing his goalscoring instinct. Once he would have shot from outside of the box, now he passes to the left or the right, losing that eye for a long-range goal. Rooney should have left United in 2010 when he handed in that transfer request, but the club were still somewhat reliant on the player who became the captain for both club and his country, which him being scrapped by England partly due to his poor form on the pitch. Rooney still has his uses, but as an attacking player who was once a figure you thought of when the words Manchester United were mentioned, now he symbolises frustration and a player trying to play in the top flight, despite no longer being all that good. I respect Wayne Rooney for his achievements at Manchester United, winning all major trophies, well apart from the UEFA Super Cup, but in terms of dragging out his career, he should really think about moving on. Gone are the days where he is worth 100% of his weekly wage.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 39

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 8

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 9, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2/5

Anthony Martial

The Frenchman did not have the best second season at Manchester United. Under Louis van Gaal he was a player who excited, a bit like Adnan Januzaj did during his first season under David Moyes. Anthony Martial was a ‘panic buy’ and ‘waste of money’, a player who would not fit into the Premier League, they said. What did Martial do? He proved his critics wrong. Martial is a class act, but at times under Jose Mourinho, he was not fulfilling his potential at United. Martial was criticised by the manager, left out of matches, but given chances whereby he never actually put the effort in. His year has not been a good one though with plenty of fallout from his personal life, which should not really be affecting his game, but he is only human. Next season should be a better one for Martial. It has already been confirmed by the player’s agent that he will still be at the Old Trafford club, which is a good thing. He should not be written off after just two seasons. He is still a player very much developing in the game.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 42

Goals: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 1, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 8

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Marcus Rashford

The teenager has gone from strength to strength in his first full season at Manchester United. Rising through the ranks last season saw him being propelled into the big time. This season would be a big one for him, playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a player who would teach him a lot, which was the case. Marcus Rashford spent much of the season being played on the wing, something which the player said he wanted to do in order to better himself and become that forward who could play anywhere on the pitch. He’s not a winger, and in a season where only one striker was utilised up front, playing him out of position was deemed better for his development rather that sitting him on the bench. After the unfortunate injury to Zlatan at the end of the season, it was left to Rashford to lead the line, being the player responsible for scoring the goals. He did just that, not in every match, but he scored some crucial goals, including a free-kick against Celta Vigo in Spain, the goal that won United the semi-final first leg. Rashford, still a teenager has the potential, the determination and the talent to succeed. Next season will be just as big for him as he looks towards earning his stripes.

Appearances: Premier League: 32, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 6, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 53

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed for United last summer, the third signing and one who would excite. The Armenian was wanted by many clubs in the Premier League, many of whom will deny they wanted him based on the fact Jose Mourinho and Manchester United got him. He had a tough start to his season, being hooked at half-time against Manchester City at Old Trafford, then suffering an injury and then sitting on the sidelines waiting for a chance to be given to him. When he got the chance, he paid the manager back. Mkhitaryan scored six goals in the UEFA Europa League, breaking a record in doing so. He has turned into a class act for his club, a player who will keep giving what is needed at the club. Mkhitaryan has the ability to create and score for United, as he had done throughout the season, scoring eleven goals in 40 appearances, which may not be the best, be compared to his peers, he did just as much, if not more than them. The Armenian will be fired up for the new season. New acquisitions are coming, ones to better the team and strengthen the weakened areas, better still, more of that winning mentality, which has been needed for the last three years following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Appearances: Premier League: 23, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 40

Goals: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 6, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 4, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Midfield

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, now the midfielders.

Paul Pogba

The £89 million man had a bad season according to his critics with their mentality being that he cost that much so should be scoring 189 goals, assisting 1001 times and keeping 250 clean sheets a season. A transfer fee does not dictate how many goals a player will score. Some suggest he should be a striker for the money paid. I don’t get why they get involved in conversations clearly above their mentality at the end of the day. Paul Pogba has been consistent despite changing from the Serie A to the Premier League, which is a much different league but still keeping his personal stats on par with the past four seasons at Juventus. Some will never appreciate Pogba and what he does for his club. Those people need to learn to accept that they have no control in any factor concerning the player but they won’t.

Appearances: Premier League: 30, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 15, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 51

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 9

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 10, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Juan Mata

The Spaniard was set to be the first player out of the door when Jose Mourinho was named the manager of the club, based on the opinion that he sold him at Chelsea so would do the same. That did not happen and Juan Mata became an important player throughout the season. Mata suffered an injury late on into the season with Mourinho ruling him out for the remainder, but he returned week after an operation, showing the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who were still on the sidelines after seven weeks from suffering their injuries in March whilst on England duty. Mata played 41 times this season, winning three trophies, two of them major honours, scoring ten goals, which was much-needed form the midfield during the course of the season. United need to be scoring more goals from midfield, with this summer’s acquisitions important into commencing that. Mata could well remain at United after this summer, he should at least.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 41

Goals: Premier League: 6, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 10

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard is a player who has offered a lot for his club over the last few seasons, scoring in the Emirates FA Cup final, the FA Community Shield and in the EFL Cup final, something he should be celebrated for, but for some reason, supporters don’t see what he offers the team. They seem to think he is not good enough and certainly not worth of a pay rise or a new contract, which he signed earlier in the season. Lingard may not be a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque player, he has something to offer. Many choose not to see it. He may not be a guaranteed starter, and next season with new additions coming, he may not be, but as a squad player, he has something to offer, until at least he leaves the club or does something special to become a starter. Sir Alex ferguson said he would be a late developer, of which he was. Perhaps he should be given a better crack of the whip.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 42

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 5

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 6, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Michael Carrick

The veteran midfielder will race the pitch against in the coming season, signing a new contract at the Old Trafford club over the past few weeks. Michael Carrick has been the midfielder that United would not want to lose over the past season, calm and assured on and off the ball, putting in the effort needed, the majority of the time at least, which United needed in order to control the midfield. Carrick is an important player, one which when Paul Pogba plays too, sees the Frenchman able to play in a more advanced position, adding something else to United’s team. Carrick will play for another year at least, then United will have to find his replacement if he does not arrive at the Old Trafford club this summer.

Appearances: Premier League: 23, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 38

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Ashley Young

Ashley Young is probably a player who will be allowed to leave the Old Trafford club this summer. He does have some teams interested in signing him. He has done well over the past season, despite playing a more defence minded position, playing in both the left-back and right-back positions, helping his team with what they needed. Only 23 appearances will not impress him, at the stage of his career, he will need to be a starter, which could see him leave for China, Turkey or even a lower ranked Premier League club. He was wanted by Watford in January, a former club of his before he signed for Aston Villa.Young was not a player many wanted to see at the club, especially after losing Cristiano Ronaldo, but to give him his dues, he has scored some important goals, playing some important parts at the club. This season saw him end it on the sidelines through injury, which would have irked him a little.

Appearances: Premier League: 12, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 23

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Ander Herrera

The Spanish midfielder has found his purpose this season under Jose Mourinho. Ander Herrera has played a much deeper role, marking players like Eden Hazard and helping United find some form this season, beating Chelsea 2-0 at Old Trafford from probably his best match for the club in three years. Herrera is wanted by Barcelona if you believe the transfer reports in the newspapers, but the player wants to remain at Old Trafford, which has been said by his own mind and mouth. United’s midfield is much better with him in it, now that he has seemingly found his purpose. Herrera, Paul Pogba, and another midfielder will do well for United, Pogba being allowed to do what he does, not having to continually drop back and defend the midfield, using his creative aspect for the game instead. Herrera is a crucial player for United, offering everything he needed to offer, doing what he needed to do. I am sure Hazard still has dreams about him marking him out of the game, something he was unable to get through during that match.

Appearances: Premier League: 31, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 6, UEFA Europa League: 9, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 50

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 2

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Marouane Fellaini

The Belgian had a mixed season. Jose Mourinho trusts him and he trusts Mourinho. That is something we shall have to get used to should he remain at the Old Trafford club this season. Marouane Fellaini has played his part for much of the season, scoring some important goals, but he has helped undo the work United have put in, that late penalty he gave away against Everton which turned what was looking to be a 1-0 victory, into a 1-1 draw. Fellaini offers aggression and physicality in the midfield, also playing well on the attack, offering height and an eye for a goal, especially from a header. That seems to be something that many will not congratulate him for because he arrived under David Moyes, was the only summer signing of that season and was not the player many wanted. I like Fellaini for what he offers, as over the past few seasons he has done some good things, but United do need much better than him in midfield, especially for Paul Pogba to be played to his strengths.

Appearances: Premier League: 28, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 47

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 1, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 4

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 9, Red Cards: 1

Season Rating: 4/5

Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Defence

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, moving onto the defenders.

Eric Bailly

The £30 million man who many did not know of when he arrived at Manchester United last summer. £30 million for an unknown many said. I remember the same criticisms when Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra rolled up at the Theatre of Dreams. The Ivorian was tipped to be one for the future by Jose Mourinho, but he turned into one for the now too. Bailly fits in at Manchester United like a hand into a glove. Did what was expected and showed the aggression needed to play at the back. Bailly has played in the right-back position too, but centrally he is much better. The arrival of Victor Lindelof this summer will be a big boost for Bailly, he will not have to be relied upon as much as he was during the past season, which is good for the player who will get some rest, but he will also form a partnership with the Swedish international, which could bode well for the club, securing the defence and pushing from the back, ensuring that late goals are not conceded, with United looking to turn their home draws into victories, which is important if the club wants to challenge in the Premier League next season, which will be a must.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 38

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 7, Red Cards: 2

Season Rating: 4/5

Phil Jones

This was the season Phil Jones was to return to his best, and at a point, it looked like he was getting there, then injury struck, again. Jones has been plagued with injury for almost all of his career at United, signing from Blackburn Rovers in 2011. Partnered with Marcos Rojo at a point over the last season, Jones was playing well, improving and impressing at times. There was still a long way to go, but at least he was heading in the right direction. Jones is the better option compared to Chris Smalling, in my opinion at least and if one was to leave this summer, I would give Jones another chance to show what he could do, making a decision at the end of the coming season. Mourinho likes Jones, injuries have been a problem, but this one saw those less serious. Jones has been at United for six years, Smalling seven, so allowing him the same amount of time could well prove to be a good decision. United need English players in the team and getting rid of both Jones and Smalling could well be a mistake.

Appearances: Premier League: 18, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 26

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Marcos Rojo

The Argentinian central defender was tipped to leave the Old Trafford club last summer, but he put his head down, concentrated on his football and became a resurgent player, partnering Phil Jones during part of the season, nicknamed RoJones, then forming a better partnership with Eric Bailly. Rojo earned his place on the team this season, and his place heading into next season. The fact he can play at left-back and in a more central role will be a big bonus. Victor Lindelof will add more competition for places, but with Rojo suffering a serious knee injury back in April, the fact that he probably will not play again in 2017 will see the Swedish international partner Bailly, forming a strong partnership, which will take a lot of work to break into for Rojo, but saying that it will give Mourinho another option at the back, as will Daley Blind. Rojo should remain at the Old Trafford club this summer, he is far too important to let go. Not that it is rumoured he will leave this summer, he can’t being that he is injured.

Appearances: Premier League: 21, Emirates FA Cup: 4, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 41

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling is a player who could well be sold this summer, which is what many would like to see. Under Louis van Gaal, the England international played well, and at a time was considered the best central defender at the club. Fast forward a year, that is no longer the case. Eric Bailly has that crown now, with Marcos Rojo also performing well under Mourinho, pushing the almost always injured pairing of Smalling and Phil Jones onto the sidelines, a place they have spent a lot of time over the past six or seven seasons. Smalling played well in the UEFA Europa League final against Ajax, which should not be suggested that he ended his season well. His was poor the majority of the time, criticised but his manager for not playing through the pain barrier, returning just at the right time after Bailly was ruled out of the final because he was sent off in the semi-final second leg. Smalling is not the guy that could replace Rio Ferdinand or even Nemanja Vidic. The arrival of Victor Lindelof could show him the door, here’s hoping. I am thankful for what Smalling has done at the club, but post-Sir Alex Ferguson, he has been a player who is yet to rise and lead the team, I not sure he could lead the team.

Appearances: Premier League: 18, Emirates FA Cup: 4, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 36

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 2

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 0, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Daley Blind

The Dutch international had a good second season at United, playing well as a central defensive player, rather than the left-back or even left-wing-back he had played in under Louis van Gaal. The player was paired with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly during the season, partnering Bailly for the last few weeks of the season after Rojo suffered a severe knee injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season and probably the rest of 2017. Blind may not be the best at what he does but he has the eye needed to play football, able to read the game well and do what is needed most of the time. Blind should remain at the club this coming summer, as he is an option. With Mourinho signing Victor Lindelof, which should go through this coming week, Bailly will have a partner for much of United’s matches, but the pair will also be split up in times where United will need to rotate, which will be for much of the season with United back in the Champions League and fighting on three domestic fronts.

Appearances: Premier League: 24, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 11, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 40

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 4, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3.5/5

Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw has not had a great time at Manchester United. His first season was plagued by injury and a lack of fitness stopping him from breaking into the team. After the dust settled, the new season came with Shaw putting in extra training to get ready, starting well. A double leg fracture ended his season just over a month in, which devastated the player. Shaw was ready to start his third season, this time under a new manager, Jose Mourinho. The supporters were raring for Shaw to have a good season, but that was not going to be the case. Injuries, lack of form and problems with his fitness and mentality plagued his season. Shaw eventually got his chance to make his manager happy, doing well but suffering a new injury, which saw him end the season on crutches, something which will also see him miss pre-season and quite possibly a chance to secure his place at left-back at the start of the new season, especially with the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Joe Riley and Demetri Mitchell waiting in the wings, which could add more disappointment to Shaw’s United career, but he is young and talented enough to persevere and break through, providing he can avoid injury, which has been the main thing he has suffered since signing for Manchester United.

Appearances: Premier League: 11, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 4, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 19

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Timothy Fosu-Mensah really should have played more during the last season, making a total of eleven appearances across all competitions. I am not sure what his favoured position is, whether it be at right-back, playing second fiddle to Antonio Valencia, or as a defensive midfielder, possibly the replacement for Michael Carrick, who signed a new contract in the last few weeks. The Dutch international certainly has a good future ahead of him. I am sure United and Mourinho will have plans for the youngster, who did not play any U23 football last season, seemingly earmarked to get him ready for the next season, which is hopefully the case. The player is good at what he does, he is already a fans favourite. A loan spell could well be coming for him, but I would like to see him remain at United and utilised in whatever position he wants to play in, seeing him rise through the first team and cement a starting place. Him, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera in a midfield three could be something to salivate in the years to come.

Appearances: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 4, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 11

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Antonio Valencia

For me the Ecuadorian was the Player of the Season for Manchester United, something thought by his peers as he was awarded the Player’s Player of the Season, but Ander Herrera was chosen by the supporters of the club, winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Season. Valencia turned a point under Mourinho, not being all that good defensively under Louis van Gaal, but under the Portuguese manager, he changed and could well have been the best right-back in the Premier League last season. Valencia signed a new contract earlier in the summer, which will surely mean he will keep his place, but cover will be needed throughout the season to keep him fresh, which there seems to be a lot of at the club right now with Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe and some other talented youth coming through the ranks. Mourinho could also opt to bring in cover during the transfer window. Valencia has a few years left at the top and being resurgent as he was in the last season, he could be the difference between United winning the league next season.

Appearances: Premier League: 29, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 9, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 43

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 7, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4.5/5

Matteo Darmian

The Italian defender had a chance to show what he could do under another manager, a chance to bring back his form from his first few matches for United, which saw him being compared to Gary Neville. That changes with performances not being all that good throughout his debut season, much the same this time, but injuries to Luke Shaw and the fact that Daley Blind was also covering for injuries to central defensive players, Matteo Darmian played at left-back for much of the season. He was not the best player in that position, but certainly not the worst either. Darmian may very well leave the club this summer with Mourinho looking for a side capable of challenging in the Premier League, the only competition they fell short of last season, but if he stays, he will be a valuable squad player, one which could seek a chance to become a starter, but that would depend on a few things, one being the fitness of Antonio Valencia who is the best right-back United have, despite him being a right-winger.

Appearances: Premier League: 18, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 29

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 3, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Axel Tuanzebe

Axel Tuanzebe was praised by Jose Mourinho near enough as soon as he became the manager, giving him his first team debut during pre-season on a trip to Wigan Athletic. The manager stated that giving him ten minutes was enough to see his qualities, suggesting that this season would be the season he would break through. It was but it was towards the end of the season where he was thrown into the first team, covering as a right-back with Antonio Valencia being rested against Arsenal, dealing with the threat of Alexis Sanchez very well. Tuanzebe then played out of position in midfield against Tottenham Hotspur, not playing his best game, which was understandable with him playing out of position. The player was utilised against Southampton and Crystal Palace also, as well as playing once in the Emirates FA Cup. Tuanzebe now knows what will be expected of him and with Marcos Rojo being injured for much of the coming season, along with new defensive acquisition Victor Lindelof, Tuanzebe could well find another chance to show the manager what he can do, keeping his defence rested in a bid to do much better next season, in the Premier League at least.

Appearances: Premier League: 4, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 5

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 0, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Goalkeepers

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, starting with the goalkeepers.

David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper played 45 times throughout the season, a figure which was only topped by a few players; Marcus Rashford 53, Paul Pogba 51, Ander Herrera 50 and Marouane Fellaini 47. David De Gea played well throughout the season, keeping 17 clean sheets, 14 of which were in the Premier League alone, being one of the best goalkeepers in the league, but Chelsea keeper and former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois was the recipient of the Golden Glove. De Gea is a player who has kept United competing over the last four seasons, being named Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year for three out of four seasons, with Ander Herrera winning the award for the past season, at last, a player who was not a goalkeeper, suggesting that United were ready to move in another direction under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. De Gea has been a target for Real Madrid post-Sir Alex Ferguson with the La Liga and UEFA Champions League holders failing because of a fax machine on deadline day in Spain during the summer of 2015 – two-years later falling foul of the fee United have placed on the head of their number one goalkeeper. Things may change yet this summer, but it would seem that United will keep their Spanish goalkeeper after this summer with Madrid looking to other targets, Courtois was one before he committed himself to Chelsea.

Appearances: Premier League: 35, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 45

Clean Sheets: Premier League: 14, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 1, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 17

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 2, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Sergio Romero

The Argentinian goalkeeper was signed by Louis van Gaal during his second summer managing United, a free agent coming into replace both Victor Valdes and Anders Lindegaard. Romero is the number one goalkeeper for Argentina but has not played in the same position ay his club, something which seems strange, but when he has been called on, he has done what he needed to do. Under Mourinho, Romero was thought to be surplus to requirements, but that was far from the case, as was the fact Juan Mata was thought to be the first player out of the door. Romero was trusted in the UEFA Europa League during the past season, playing in 12 of the 15 matches, doing what he needed to do and trusted to play in the final, a match United needed to win to secure UEFA Champions League football. In 18 appearances, the Argentinian kept 12 clean sheets, which is pretty good for a player not trusted to fill the position on a more permanent basis. That could well be the case if De Gea does actually leave the Old Trafford club this summer, but that is looking unlikely at this moment in time.

Appearances: Premier League: 2, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 12, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 18

Clean Sheets: Premier League: 2, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 8, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 12

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 0, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 3/5

Joel Pereira

Joel Pereira started the season on loan in Portugal playing for Belenenses. He was recalled in January because of a goalkeeper injury crisis which meant he would return to U23 action in the Premier League 2 with Jose Mourinho giving him his debut in the 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic in the Emirates FA Cup, albeit only around ten minutes of action, but the manager’s trust in the player was shown at the end of the season with Pereira making his full debut for the club, this time in the Premier League against Crystal Palace. Pereira is a wanted man this summer with Portuguese clubs looking to sign him, which could well happen unless Mourinho was able to persuade the player into staying at the club unless any move was on loan again. Pereira is a talented goalkeeper – perhaps if De Gea did leave the club this summer, he could be the number two goalkeeper, but he would need to play regularly in order to develop into a better shot-stopper.

Appearances: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 2

Clean Sheets: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 2

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 0, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 2.5/5

Report: Leicester City 1-2 Manchester United – FA Community Shield

Manchester United faced Leicester City at Wembley to contest the FA Community Shield on Sunday afternoon lining up with two of their three new summer signings. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly started for Jose Mourinho’s side. The Portuguese manager opted for David De Gea in goal for United and Antonio Valencia, Bailly, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw in defence. The two-man midfield was fortified by Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini with the three behind Ibrahimovic being Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, and Anthony Martial. Seven substitutes were named, with six of them able to be used during the match.

United started the match off well, getting the ball forward, but Leicester seemed up for their challengers; with Jamie Vardy beating Bailly to break through with Blind making a last-ditch tackle to spare United’s blushes. United went into a period of dominance in possession on the attack with Martial beating his man and firing into the side netting ten minutes into the match. United looked up for the match against the Premier League champions with plenty of attacking football coming into play. Marouane Fellaini had the best chance of the match so far in the 16th minute, but his shot on goal went straight into the hands of Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester nearly took the lead in the 20th minute of the match with Shinji Okazaki close to finding the top corner of De Gea’s goal, after taking a deflection. The resulting corners for Leicester did not pressure United with them regaining possession and trying to find the opening goal themselves. Half way through the first half, Vardy was on the attack for Leicester and was through one-on-one with Bailly, who nipped the attack in the bud with great composure. United have so far evaded from any blushes in this match, and Leicester has had a few chances on goal. United took the lead in the 32nd minute of the match through Lingard who was given the ball by Rooney just inside Leicester’s half, burying his shot past Schmeichel with United now in the driving seat, for now at least.

Heading into the closing minutes of the first half, United were still looking to punish Leicester with Rooney being fouled by Danny Simpson, who got the first yellow card of the match. United was dominating in possession with very few chances taken by Leicester. United ended the half in control with Leicester looking a bit dejected. Not too sure about Rooney’s place in the team, I feel United play much better without him. He’s no longer the main man in the side and there are far better options on the bench – Henrikh Mkhitaryan for instance. Mourinho could well make a few changes at the start of the second half in a bid to get his players fit and ready for next weekend’s Premier League curtain raiser against Bournemouth.

Jose Mourinho opted not to make any changes at the start of the second half, with Leicester bringing on Demarai Gray and Ahmed Musa replacing Okazaki and Marc Albrighton. Leicester almost capitalised on the attack if not for Bailly who made two quick interceptions to stop the Leicester threat. Rooney seems no better at the start of the second half, losing possession too easily. Fellaini cost United a goal with a poor back pass with Vardy intercepted beating De Gea and levelling the score. United now have a lot of work to do, some of that should be to find Fellaini a new club this summer. Leicester seemed to be a little but more resurgent on the ball now that their equaliser had given them something to obtain from the match. United need to start organising themselves a little bit better making sure small mistakes do not cost them.

Jose Moutinho made his first change with Ander Herrera replacing Carrick. Jesse Lingard seems to have suffered an injury, with another change coming for United with the goalscorer unable to complete the match. Leicester made two more substitutions with Andy King and Danny Simpson being replaced by Nampalys Mendy and Luis Hernandez. Juan Mata replaced Lingard too. United seemed to lose momentum after the changes with Leicester wanting to find a winner United need to put a bit of work into their play. Mourinho made two more changes with Marcos Rojo and Marcus Rashford replacing Shaw and Martial.

United look better going forward with Rashford on the left. United won a corner after Rashford tried to get into the box with the ball, for Leicester to send the ball out of play. The corner amounted to nothing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a good chance to score for United, but his shot was thwarted off the line. Leicester replaced Christian Fuchs with Jeffrey Schlupp heading into the last ten minutes of the match with Musa nearly scoring the winner for the Premier League champions. Ibrahimovic found his goal minutes later with what could be the winner. Valencia put his cross into the box and Ibrahimovic headed home. In the moments after the goal, Mourinho replaced Rooney with Morgan Schneiderlin and in the dying minutes of the match, Henrikh Mkhitaryan replaced Mata, who was a substitute earlier in the match. Manchester United have won the FA Community Shield for the second time post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

Man of the Match: Eric Bailly

Goals: Jesse Lingard 32′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 83′

Assists: Wayne Rooney 32′, Antonio Valencia 83′

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw (Rojo 69′); Carrick (Herrera 61′), Fellaini; Lingard (Mata 63′ (Mkhitaryan 90+3)), Rooney (Schneiderlin 88′), Martial (Rashford 70′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: Romero

Bookings: Eric Bailly 71′

Starting XI: Leicester City v Manchester United – FA Community Shield

Manchester United face Leicester City to contest the FA Community Shield at Wembley this afternoon. The Premier League champions versus the Emirates FA Cup winners. United have had a dreadful three years since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and with Jose Mourinho now at the helm, the confidence is coming back, the opposition supporters are talking about United again, which means the fear factor is returning. United are about to spend around £100 million on Paul Pogba, who has been given permission by Juventus to undergo a medical with his former club. United could have the strongest squad they have had in years – which could return them to the summit of English football. It may not happen immediately as Mourinho has to eradicate Louis van Gaal’s philosophy from the squad, which may take time. Today could see United reign supreme at Wembley for the third time this year, to beat the Premier League champions and getting ready for the season proper a week from today with United facing Bournemouth away from home. Here are the starting XI’s and list of substitutes for each team this afternoon.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw;

Carrick, Fellaini;

Lingard, Rooney, Martial;

Ibrahimovic

Substitutes:

Romero; Rojo; Mata, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Schneiderlin; Rashford

Leicester City:

Schmeichel;

Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs;

Mahrez, King, Drinkwater, Albrighton;

Vardy, Okazaki

Substitutes:

Zieler; Hernandez; Musa, Schlupp, Gray, Mendy; Ulloa

Scouting The Opposition: Leicester City v Manchester United – FA Community Shield

Leicester City achieved something almost unimaginable last season and will approach their new campaign with confidence. With pace up front and solidity at the back, they will prove a tough nut to crack for most domestic opponents again this year. But as they are now a Champions League club, exertions in Europe could damage their hopes of remaining at the top of English football. The Foxes are happy for opponents to have the lion’s share of possession. With veterans Wes Morgan and Robert Huth at the back, they rely on defensive prowess to repel more cultured attacking play. The pace of Vardy and creative spark of Riyad Mahrez make them a threat on the break. A tactic that saw them win the Premier League with relative ease.

Manager: Claudio Ranieri

Once a renowned ‘Tinker Man’, Ranieri went against type and expectations by fielding an unchanged side as often as possible last season. This was key to Leicester’s Premier League triumph and he has vowed to stick with his best eleven for this pre-season clash. Ranieri is one of the most experienced managers in the league but may find his job more difficult this term. His luck held out last season with a relative lack of injuries and the continued form of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Added commitments in Europe and the absence of midfield linchpin N’Golo Kante will make a successful defence of their Premier League title seem more daunting.

Form Guide

Barcelona 4-2 Leicester City

Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 Leicester City

Celtic 1-1 Leicester City (Leicester win 6-5 on penalties)

Predicted XI

Danny Drinkwater faces a big test at the heart of midfield this season as he seeks to replace the influence of Kante. A full summer of rest should give him the energy to begin this task at Wembley on Sunday. He is likely to find help from new signing Nampalys Mendy.  His intelligent reading of the game should provide useful cover to the back four, in the absence of the strong tackling of Kante. Ahmed Musa is another new arrival who will use Sunday’s match to stake a claim for a place in Ranieri’s starting eleven. The combined pace and finishing of Vardy and Musa (who hit 42 goals for CSKA Moscow last season) will stretch even the best of defences.

Key Player: Jamie Vardy

Leicester’s unprecedented title win was the product of a whole team of career-defining performances.  Their togetherness and work rate overshadowing almost all individual moments. Yet Jamie Vardy stood out as their star man for much of the season. Emboldened by low expectations, Vardy showed no fear to become a talismanic presence leading the Foxes from the front. His pace and tenacity caused problems for all opponents last year as he bagged 24 goals including against Manchester United at the King Power stadium. His run of 11 consecutive league goals was enough to encourage Arsene Wenger to enquire about the forward this summer, only to be ultimately disappointed when he signed a new long-term contract with the Foxes. His pace and clinical finishing will cause United problems should they play a high back line. New signing Eric Bailly will have to make sure he does his homework should he start the match. But Chris Smalling will hope his pace can negate the threat of his England teammate.

Score Prediction

Leicester has struggled so far in pre-season and N’golo Kante will be a huge miss in midfield. With Huth suspended, the Foxes are likely to give new signing Luis Hernandez his first start in central defence. He may face a baptism of fire against a rejuvenated Manchester United who will look to the finishing and aerial power of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the creativity of Henrik Mkhitaryan to unlock a sturdy defence. Jose Mourinho does not seem to know the meaning of the word Friendly and has made it clear to his squad that these last games before the start of the season should be taken seriously. If Leicester decides to go 4-4-2 to offer a debut to Ahmed Musa, we could see an open and attacking contest. With the new-found firepower and confidence in the United ranks, it looks like Leicester could be in for another tough day.

Leicester City 1-2 Manchester United

Tactical Preview: Leicester City v Manchester United – FA Community Shield

After an indifferent pre-season, the real test starts for Mourinho and his men and Manchester United face Leicester City in the FA Community Shield. It’s expected that Chris Smalling will be fit enough to come in to start in central defence as Mourinho confirms he is back in training during his pre-match press conference. Another likely change, although unconfirmed is that new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan will replace Jesse Lingard on the right-hand-side providing that clinical edge United have lacked over the last couple of seasons. Mkhitaryan, who completed a £26.3m deal, was instrumental in Dortmund’s good season where he registered 11 goals and 15 assists in the league, and will be looking to continue that fine form in the season ahead. The right-back position seems unclear too as Antonio Valencia, who captained the side against Galatasaray, was impressive in pre-season but Matteo Darmian could easily step in after a good couple of substitute appearances. 

Leicester has been preparing for the new season against some tough opposition including Celtic, Paris St Germain and La Liga winners Barcelona. This will have been a great challenge and experience for the squad but coming into this game off the back of two defeats won’t be the best for Claudio Ranieri’s men. With key men Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez set to stay at the King Power Stadium, the team will be confident of repeating their form from last season. Former United players Danny Drinkwater, Danny Simpson and Matty James could all potentially feature with the first two likely to start after excellent seasons with the Foxes. £16m signing Ahmed Musa, a club record fee, is a dangerous player providing pace, power and a keen eye for goal after bagging 18 goals in 53 games for CSKA Moscow.

Formations and style of play

As mentioned above, Manchester United are likely to line up in a 4-3-3 formation with Rooney sitting behind the striker. This is a favoured style of Jose Mourinho with one genuine holding player, either Carrick or Schneiderlin, a box to box midfielder, likely to be Ander Herrera as Bastian Schweinsteiger is seemingly out of Mourinho’s plans, and Wayne Rooney as the number 10 with Juan Mata the replacement. Mourinho has deployed this style with Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid in the past as well as using it in the pre-season games. This mean that  the two central players to drop back with the defence allowing the front three to stay forward to counter attack hard and with precision.

Leicester will play as they did in their title-winning season, the 4-4-2 formation relying on two genuine wingers to get up and down the pitch and Jamie Vardy to run in behind. In two games last season, both finishing 1-1, the main threat was the long ball over the top from either Kante, Drinkwater or Mahrez allowing Jamie Vardy to run on to. This will again be the problem United face as well as the added pressure from set-pieces where United struggled during pre-season.

In my eyes, there are two key match-ups for this game, firstly Riyad Mahrez v Luke Shaw. Luke Shaw was a massive loss for United last season after suffering a horrific injury in September keeping him out for the entire season. Since his return, he has shown great pace and endurance which is key in how United will line-up this season. However, this will likely be his biggest challenge since his return with the tricky Mahrez to contend with. Mahrez was PFA player of the year last year and not surprisingly, his 17 goals and 11 assists in 36 league games played a pivotal part of Leicester’s success. If Mahrez gets the better of Shaw on Sunday it could spell danger for United.

The second battle will be between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. Morgan and Huth formed a solid partnership at the back last season helping keep 15 clean sheets in the league and Morgan managed a terrific feat of playing every single minute the entire season. Both tall and physical, a sure match for any attacker in the Premier League. However, this season brings with it a new challenge for the reigning champs in the legendary striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who brings height, skill and one of Europe’s best ever goal records, scoring 302 goals in 484 games. This will provide United with a clinical edge that been lacking since the Sir Alex era ended at Old Trafford.

In his press conference on Friday, Mourinho spoke about how he wanted to make this his team, not a shadow of what Louis van Gaal left for him. Clearly not a fan of the style in which United played under the Dutchman, Mourinho said

“The players are giving everything to adapt, step by step. My team will be my team.”

Quite a clear message that he wants to make his own mark on the way United play, which from a fan’s point of view can only be positive. Last season United became known for being a team to dominate possession, create few chances and conceding sloppy goals often from set pieces. According to Whoscored, United conceded an average of 10.8 shots per game, made 11.3 attempts on goal with an average possession of 56%. This will change, Jose Mourinho’s sides are often not wasteful. The possession will likely stay the same as they’ll want to force the game, attack strong and make it count. Adding players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who love to get into attacking positions because they know they have the ability to deliver when it comes to assisting or scoring. Anthony Martial playing on the left-wing offers the direct style Mourinho likes to play with, as he did with Hazard and Willian at Chelsea, plenty of runs in behind and players supporting in the box to create as many chances as possible.

The big thing Mourinho will have to fix, and will have known it from the start, is the wasted possession. Leicester won the league with a low rate of possession but counter attacking especially against the big teams who love time on the ball. Mourinho will have to find a way with the players he has to break down defences more efficiently than Louis van Gaal managed to do because the majority of teams in the Premier League sit back and allow United to play, then counter against a relatively weak or inexperienced defence.

The only blessing really for Mourinho in a tactical sense is that Leicester will sit deep, it’ll be an open game allowing our midfield to dictate the play and find a way to break down the opposition. 10 men behind the ball with the counter of  Mahrez, Vardy and Musa will be tough but with some patient play and clinical finishes, United should come out on top.

Preview: Leicester City v Manchester United – FA Community Shield

Manchester United face Leicester City to contest the FA Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday. Last season, United and Leicester drew 1-1 in both matches, in which Leicester became the reigning Premier League champions. United was playing boring possession based football, which made them better on paper, but not on the pitch. Jose Mourinho has tried to change that, making United more attacking in the weeks leading to this match. United need to grab the bull by both horns and show their opposition this season just what they are capable of. Mourinho has signed Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – with another signing to come – Paul Pogba. The career of Bastian Schweinsteiger may have been ended by the Portuguese after he sidelined him from the first team, making him train with the reserves, which is the same as Victor Valdes did last season. Much has been made of this with some suggesting Mourinho was bullying the German, which is absurd.

United have a lot to prove this season, especially after the fear factor Sir Alex Ferguson has instilled into his sides has now been eroded away in the past three seasons – teams have been coming to Old Trafford taking points they may not have got under Ferguson. The dire management reigns of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal gave teams something to aim for – winning. and that is what they did, which was enough to shock supporters and the players made it seem like they just did not have the fight anymore – which was not great. Much like the season following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, United will contest the FA Community Shield, last winning it under Moyes in 2013 after beating Wigan Athletic 2-0 at Wembley. Leicester City may be the current champions of England, but their pre-season has not been the best and they could be destined for a tough season, especially after losing N’Golo Kante to Chelsea earlier this summer. Jamie Vardy rejected Arsenal, which was funny and the midlands club seem to be doing all they can to retain the services of Riyad Mahrez – one of their stand-out players last season.

United have a good squad, Mourinho has selected 22 players, with a 23rd on the way – a very good midfielder. The Portuguese manager feels that having a 23-man squad will be best for him, especially with the number of matches United will play this season, but he also suggested that he could have too many players – meaning some will be annoyed not to get much game time, which is to be expected. United will be looking to get back to the top of the Premier League, laughing in the faces of those who thought it would never happen again. Many thought United were doing a ‘Liverpool’ with the team not winning a league title since the last millennium, more than 26 years to be exact. United have been out of the limelight for three seasons now, the longest they have gone without winning the league title – just the second time in the history of the Premier League. The last time United had not won the title for three years, they went on to win three in a row from the 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09 seasons. Could this be the case this time? I would like to think so.

Manchester United have taken a 25-man squad to London for this match, 18 of which can be named in the playing squad, eleven of those starting and seven on the bench – six of those can be used during the match, or at least that was the case last year as Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-0. Chris Smalling and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who were both absent from the match against Galatasaray a week ago have recovered from their injury/fitness issues and have both travelled with the squad. Smalling will, of course, be suspended for the opening match of the Premier League season against Bournemouth in a weeks time. Come on United!

Manchester United Form:

Everton 0-0 D, Galatasaray 5-2 W, Borussia Dortmund 4-1 L, Wigan Athletic 2-0 W

Leicester City Form:

Barcelona 4-2 L, Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 L, Celtic 1-1 (6-5 penalties) W, Oxford United 2-1 W

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone;

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Matteo Darmian;

Midfielders: Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin;

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Leicester City Squad:

Manager: Claudio Ranieri

Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel, Ron-Robert Zieler, Ben Hamer;

Defenders: Luis Hernández, Ben Chilwell, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Daniel Amartey, Danny Simpson, Marcin Wasilewski, Christian Fuchs, Yohan Benalouane, Ritchie De Laet, Liam Moore;

Midfielders: Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Andy King, Marc Albrighton, Bartosz Kapustka, Jeff Schlupp, Demarai Gray, Nampalys Mendy, Riyad Mahrez, Gökhan Inler;

Forwards: Ahmed Musa, Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki, Leonardo Ulloa, Raúl Uche, Tom Lawrence

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Leicester City 1-3 Manchester United

copyright: JW