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Manchester United: José Mourinho’s giants need to uphold second-season feat

Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks dejected after the UEFA Super Cup final between Real Madrid and Manchester United at the Philip II Arena on August 8, 2017 in Skopje,...

Star man: Young, handsome, athletic, zanily coiffed, beloved of sponsors and insanely skilful, all Paul Pogba needs to become the perfect Manchester United midfielder is to actually become a bit more influential in their matches.

On the pitch

At 6ft 3in he does, however, comply with José Mourinho’s basic demand that all his players be absolutely massive.

Biggest summer buy: Romelu Lukaku is statistically monstrous, scoring 26 times in 39 games last season and 104 times in 184 starts in this country, and only recently turned 24, and though he is not so prolific against the top sides against Sunderland, West Ham, Aston Villa and Bournemouth he has 26 in 32 matches at 0.81 goals per game. At 6ft 3in he too is absolutely massive.

Breakthrough season: Scott McTominay broke into the squad in April, playing six substitute minutes plus the entire last game of the season against Crystal Palace, and has impressed in pre-season. The former reserves coach Warren Joyce believes he is “technically sound with good skills” and “could be a proper box-to-box aggressive midfielder”, plus at 6ft 4in – nearly a foot taller than he was at the start of 2015 – he is also absolutely massive.

Bad boy: Ten people played more Premier League minutes than Marouane Fellaini last season but none outcarded the thistle-headed Belgian, who is only ever a stray elbow’s width from another early bath.

Boo boy: That’ll be Fellaini again. “Honestly, I just smiled,” he said of the hostile reception he received when preparing to come on as a substitute against Tottenham last December. “I told myself it was rubbish: real fans don’t boo their players.” After that match Mourinho said the midfielder “is a player and a person I like” who “will always have my protection”. Plus at 6ft 4in he is absolutely massive.

Destination Russia: Antonio Valencia is some kind of Ecuadorian superhero, commenting regularly about politics, filming videos of himself chopping plantain for the national dish, corviches, and also being the greatest football player they have ever produced. But Ecuador’s participation next year is currently, like those plantains, on a knife edge.

Glass half-full: Last season may have been in many ways disappointing, but when disappointment involves two cups and a 25-game unbeaten league run you can’t really grumble.

Glass half-empty: A team of giants playing dull but effective football might bring home some silverware but it’s just not very Manchester United.

Off the pitch

The manager: Mind-game magician and trophy-hoarding miracle-worker Mourinho has always – in every single job – won a league title in his second season. As he sometimes follows that by guiding teams to total implosion if allowed to stick around for a third there’s some pressure on this campaign.

The owners: The Glazers’ firm owns more than 6.7m square feet of premium retail space in the US, helping them to a ranking of 63 in Forbes’ list of America’s richest families. United will cough up £18m this year for the pleasure of being owned by them.

Shaun O’Donnell’s fan’s view: We’ll definitely challenge for the title – we may fall short but José knows this is a steady restoration job, not a quick fix. Mourinho has signed established top-flight experience in bringing in Matic and Lukaku, and he’ll get it right, but I am afraid it will not be with the swagger and panache of Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams.

Prediction: 2nd.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Simon Burnton, for The Guardian on Friday 11th August 2017 12.00 Europe/London

Title odds 7-2

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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