Season Preview: The Special One Takes Over At Manchester United


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Sir Alex Ferguson cemented a legacy in the red half of Manchester that may never be replicated anywhere in Europe. Across four decades, he set a standard for excellence that all associated with United are desperate to keep alive and fighting. Since his retirement in 2013, Sir Alex has cast a large shadow on the managers who have taken on his former role.

David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal saw their United teams falter over the past few seasons and failed to capture the imagination of their supporters. Even an FA Cup victory last year was not enough for Van Gaal as ownership has brought in a new manager to lead the Red Devils.

Jose Mourinho arrives as one of the most successful yet controversial managers in Premier League history and takes over a position that he has long craved.

He brings with him confidence, charisma and the proven ability to craft a winning squad. The lofty expectations set by Sir Alex demand success in both the EPL and the Champions League, but also a proactive and attractive brand of football as well. We take a look at what to expect from Mourinho’s first season in charge.


Louis Van Gaal’s approach and philosophy at the helm in 2015-16 left supporters and pundits frustrated. Last season’s United team had great difficulty finding goals with any consistency despite using various formations and lineups.

This trend ultimately led to his dismissal and Mourinho’s appointment as manager. How Mourinho plans to use his inherited squad and new transfers will be the key to his success at Old Trafford.

One such transfer arrival that should make a significant impact immediately is midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund.

The Armenian international lit up the Bundesliga last year, registering 11 goals and 15 assists during the league campaign on his way to being named Bundesliga Player of the Year.

Having shown incredible potential for several years at Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk, the 27-year old seems to have truly hit his stride this past season and is bursting with confidence on the pitch.

Mkhitaryan also can play on the wing and in a centre forward position, providing Mourinho with a necessary flexibility in the lineup to be utilised throughout the season. His playmaking skills and quality service from the midfield should open up a bevvy of scoring chances for young forwards Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.

How often both of those two individuals will see playing time may depend on the exploits of another high profile signing made this summer in forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who signed a year deal on a free transfer.

The enigmatic Swede brings his proven goal scoring talents and legendary personality to Manchester United to play once again for Jose Mourinho after the two worked together at Inter Milan seven years ago.

Ibra scored an otherworldly 113 goals in 122 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain over the past four seasons and provided memorable moments on the international stage with the Swedish national team as well (including one night that goalkeeper Joe Hart would like to forget ).

Critics will point to the fact that France’s Ligue 1 is not at the same level of the English Premier League, but to dismiss the quality of Ibrahimovic’s play during his career would be foolish.

His size, strength and technical ability on the ball should prove to be a force during his first season in the English top flight.

Mourinho has already hinted at the possibility of seeing Zlatan playing up top with Marcus Rashford, as Ibra’s strength and Rashford’s speed could be a danger to any opposing defensive formation.

Manchester United is reported to be in extensive current discussions with Juventus in regards to acquiring former youth and senior team member Paul Pogba.

The 23-year old French international midfielder’s addition to the squad would usher in an interesting storyline and return to England.

After making his first team debut for Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012, Pogba left to join Juventus and has quickly risen to super stardom in leading the Serie A giants to dominate the Italian league.

The 23-year old French international midfielder’s addition to the squad would usher in an interesting storyline and return to England. After making his first team debut for Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012, Pogba left to join Juventus and has quickly risen to super stardom in leading the Serie A giants to dominate the Italian league.

His performances for France at Euro 2016 left some underwhelmed, but Pogba has become a hot commodity on this summer’s transfer market. While the interest is there from Mourinho and United, Juventus is asking for upwards of 120 million Euros for his services so it’s hard to say if this is truly a done deal.

If the move does come to pass, United will be able to add a dynamic playmaker in the midfield for years to come. When deployed as a holding midfielder as he was for much of Euro 2016 for France, Pogba seems uncomfortable with his decision making and positioning.

If placed in a more advanced or #10 role, United could have one of the best players in the Premier League. This is all, of course, is only speculation as a contract and transfer sheet have yet to be signed.


Jose Mourinho is known for his defensive approach to football. While he has had teams with attacking flair, tactically he is often found “parking the bus” and grinding out results. His last Premier League title with Chelsea two seasons ago is an excellent example, as protecting a lead in a match is

His last Premier League title with Chelsea two seasons ago is an excellent example, as protecting a lead in a game is the top priority. Will this be enough to satisfy a fanbase that wants to see an attractive brand of football week in and week out?

A lot will depend on how the Special One uses his existing roster, like with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata. Having been the one who sold Mata to United from Chelsea for being surplus to their needs, one must assume that he may not be a fixture in Mourinho’s midfield.

Jose has been on record that he may not use Wayne Rooney as a striker this season and that he may find time in the United midfield. A 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield or a 4-2-3-1 may be the best way for Mourinho to maximise midfield contributions and rotate his stable of talented forwards. Mkhhitaryan’s ability to play on the wing may see a 4-3-3 formation used from time to time to create more space in matches as well.


After a 4-1 preseason loss to Borussia Dortmund last week in China, Mourinho is preparing his squad for an important upcoming campaign. Champions League qualification seems to be an absolute minimum, as style and approach will carry serious weight with supporters as well.

He will need to make a good impression in Manchester as soon as possible, especially with his old friend Pep Guardiola now across town managing at City. He will have many options in which he can use to bring success to the club, and if the Pogba transfer does go through he will find himself with even more.

Roy Emanuel
Roy Emanuel
Roy was born and raised in New York but now calls Arizona home. A passionate writer/editor focused on bringing quality content to those that love the beautiful game. La Liga, MLS and League Two always catch his eye. His work has appeared on MSN, FanSided, Last Word On Sports and other news outlets.


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