Manchester United’s pre-season ended with a whimper against Bayern Munich but what have we learned ahead of their season opener with Leicester?
United ended a turbulent pre-season campaign with a disappointing showing, losing 1-0 to the German champions and failing to register a shot on target.
Jose Mourinho has just four days to add to his squad before Thursday’s transfer deadline as he bids to wrestle the title back to the red half of Manchester.
History repeating itself?
Mourinho’s mood has turned sour during this pre-season campaign – perhaps indicating a repetitive pattern seen at previous clubs in his third season in charge. The manager has openly criticised Antonio Valencia’s physical condition, questioned Eric Bailly’s leadership qualities and disciplined Anthony Martial for not returning to their tour after his girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy in Paris.
However, Mourinho’s biggest bugbear has been regarding his transfer budget. Brazilian international Fred has been one of three signed up, but Mourinho is keen to have two new faces in the squad and fears United are in for a “difficult season” if he is unable to get the players he desires.
We’ve seen Mourinho in this type of mood before. This dark demeanour was on show during Chelsea’s start to the 2015/16 campaign. Despite winning the Premier League title in May and signing a new-four deal in August, Mourinho oversaw a sloppy International Champions Cup campaign where Chelsea suffered defeats to New York Red Bulls and Fiorentina. The champions went into the new campaign with no wins from their five pre-season matches.
Mourinho was frustrated with the level of professionalism during that trip with Diego Costa returning reportedly overweight and a section of players repeatedly turning up late for training.
Off the pitch, Chelsea were linked with Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane and John Stones. Those deals were not done. Instead, Mourinho signed Baba Rahman from Augsburg for £21.7m and Papy Djilobodji. All that pre-season woe culminated in a classic Mourinho pitch-side meltdown in their opening Premier League game at Stamford Bridge against Swansea when he became angry when Chelsea’s medical staff rushed to treat Eden Hazard with his team chasing the game.
After that 2-2 draw, momentum was never grasped and Mourinho was sacked in December with the reigning champions just one point above the relegation zone. From title winner to unemployment in seven months.
You had to feel for Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez in the hot and humid conditions in Munich.
United rarely ventured out of their half to provide their front men with any meaningful opportunities. The service into both of them was very poor.
Sanchez had a hand in both goals against Real Madrid last week but failed to build on that performance as he was asked to do a lot of tracking without the ball on the left wing. It was like United were set up to defend a 1-0 lead in a Champions League second leg.
Mourinho will have learned little in terms of what those two can bring to the party for the visit of Leicester.
Over the 90 minutes, United only had one shot on goal – a wayward 35-yard effort from Fred, who was without question the bright spark for Mourinho.
He didn’t play a single minute for Brazil at the World Cup, but has looked full of match sharpness in his two starts for United in pre-season. Always willing to take the ball in dangerous situations, his willingness to play forward could be a key asset for United this season, especially if Pogba can find some of his World Cup form. That partnership could have serious potential.
Who’s available for Friday?
The return of Rashford, who played 65 minutes, will give Mourinho an added option for his starting XI on Friday night against Leicester. Although his impact was very limited in a one-sided friendly, he has to be pushing for a starting spot alongside Sanchez.
Man Utd vs Leicester
August 10, 2018, 7:00pm
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Meanwhile, Martial was not in the United squad for this final pre-season game and his future at the club remains unclear.
Martial left United’s pre-season tour of the United to attend the birth of his son but failed to report back for over a week and suggested his partner Melanie da Cruz had been unwell. Martial’s agent clarified in June the forward wants to leave United and Mourinho is open to selling him, according to reports.
He is training back at Carrington, along with Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard while Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young are yet to return to training after their World Cup exploits. All are very unlikely to be available for the season opener.
Nemanja Matic, Diego Dalot, Sergio Romero and Antonio Valencia are missing through injury while Eric Bailly limped off against Bayern Munich after performing solidly with Victor Lindelof.
With Deadline Day and the Premier League party starting on Friday, it looks set to be a crucial week for Mourinho.