The last three years have been tumultuous to say the least for Manchester United. Two managers, dismal transfers and millions of unsettled fans all inevitably resulted in the club’s dramatic fall from grace. Winning league titles was the norm for the once-“biggest club in the world”, but with this year’s FA Cup the only silverware since Moyes’ Community Shield win in 2013, change was called upon and manager Louis van Gaal was sacked upon season’s end.
This European summer will be seen as United’s turning point in their history as they make a bid to return the Glory Days to the Theatre of Dreams. Jose Mourinho’s appointment as manager marks the statement of intent from Ed Woodward and the rest of the staff behind the scenes to bring joy and success to everyone involved in and around Old Trafford.
At the time of writing this article three new arrivals at the club have been confirmed, with Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic all joining Mourinho for the new Premier League season. With the signing of Paul Pogba from Juventus also seemingly imminent, excitement and anticipation are at their highest level for a very long time at United.
Eric Bailly adds youth and stability to a shaky defence that let through many “soft” goals last season, often costing the team valuable points that could have seen them qualify for the Champions League. Bailly’s probable partnership with Chris Smalling at the back needs to be stable from Matchday 1, as the two full-back positions in United’s defence yet to be nailed down with Luke Shaw returning from a horrific double-leg break and Matteo Darmian struggling for form last campaign. David De Gea’s likely stay in Manchester will help solidify the team’s youthful back 4.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan brings form in abundance to England, recording the most assists for any club in any of Europe’s Top 5 leagues last season (26 assists in all competitions). Mkhitaryan is known as a creative player with flair and excitement who consistently supports the strikers in front of him, and it comes as no surprise that he was one of only two players in the Bundesliga last season to achieve double figures with goals and assists (11 Goals and 15 Assists). This is an exciting prospect for a United team that struggled in front of goal last season, scoring a dismal 49 goals in the league from 38 games.
The worst-kept secret of this transfer window was proven on July 1st when Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced to the world he was joining United through his various social media accounts. Fresh off a 30+ goal season for PSG, the Swede will re-unite with friend and former boss in Mourinho to help bring the title back to Old Trafford. His partnership up front with Rooney will be vital to both personal and team success.
However perhaps, the most exciting prospect of all is the potential front line United can field week-in, week-out. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all available, fans and spectators can expect to see goals in abundance with the quality and excitement to match. The combination of experience and youth in United’s front third could prove to be a deadly task for opposition defences. Martial and Rashford’s pace and flair down the wings, Rooney’s calm play with ball behind the strikers, Mkhitaryan’s creativity and vision and of course Ibrahimovic’s sheer strength and determination on the ball all add to shape arguably the Premier League’s best attacking unit. The chemistry and relationship between the young and the old, under a new Mourinho system, holds the key to whether Manchester United will return to the top of English football.
This upcoming Premier League season is shaping up to be the most exciting yet, with quality and promise strong among all clubs. United, albeit a very strong unit, will have to compete with traditional rivals (Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool) and teams with lower expectations that can still hold their own at the top of the table (Tottenham, West Ham and Leicester) in their quest for the Premier League crown.
With all clubs refreshing their squads to improve their chances at the title, United without a doubt have the most quality and excitement to hit the ground running against Bournemouth on Matchday 1 and continue the fine form into the rest of their campaign. Their noisy neighbours in blue, Manchester City, seem to be their only real threat – in terms of quality on paper – to the League title, who have also had a managerial re-shuffle and in turn have re-ignited the fiery rivalry between Jose Mourinho and new boss Pep Guardiola.
Despite all this, it is hard to look past the strength and quality in abundance within the United list. With Mourinho at the helm, it would be a disappointing season if United finished anywhere lower than the top.