Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Manchester United

Man united

Image: BBC.co.uk

Last season was a bit strange for Manchester United, as they seemed to underperform but still came out of the season with two trophies and a place in this year’s Champions League. Jose Mourinho has taken his squad and strengthened through the spine. Victor Lindelof has come in from Benfica, and the highly-rated centre-back, who can also deputise at right-back, should form a solid partnership with one of last season’s stand outs, Eric Bailly. After the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United needed a statement signing up front. Romelu Lukaku is a goal-scorer and will easily hit 20 goals this season, but his streakiness at Everton maybe a slight worry for United fans. Despite his goal in the European Super Cup, the Belgian did miss a couple of sitters. However, the morale effect of signing Lukaku ahead of title rivals Chelsea could be even bigger than his on-field impact. United’s signing of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea could be one of the best signings of the summer. Although the defensive midfielder is not one of the most glamourous signings, his presence in midfield will allow Paul Pogba to roam more freely, instead of being bogged down having to focus on the defensive work. A midfield trio of Matic, Pogba and Herrera will get the best out of all three, with Pogba occupying a role similar to the one that he starred in for Juventus. United’s side is beginning to look like a title-challenging squad, but there is still some concerns that Antonio Valencia is their best option at right-back, whilst their plan B of hitting it long to Fellaini is also cause for concern given the presence of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in the squad. As mentioned in my preview for Manchester City, the Manchester derby in early April will be a key game in determining the final position of both sides, and in United’s case could be the determining factor between mounting a title challenge and settling for a top four finish.

Key Player: Paul Pogba. The Frenchman had an okay first season back at Old Trafford, performing well but just lacking that bit of luck. Only Kevin de Bruyne struck the woodwork more often than Pogba last season, whilst only Jordan Henderson averaged more passes per game. With the addition of Matic, Pogba will be free to focus more on the offensive side of his game, which will inevitably lead to a rise in both goals and assists. There will also be less of a spotlight on the midfielder after the arrival of Romelu Lukaku, as he did suffer from close scrutiny and unrealistic expectations due to his then world record transfer fee.

One to Watch: Axel Tuanzebe. The centre-back made his debut back in January in the FA Cup win over Wigan, and went on to appear in five games last season. He was awarded United’s Young Player of the Year award in 2015, as well as the 2017 Reserve Player of the Year award, and now looks ready to step up and make more of an impact on the first team. With fellow youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah heading out on loan this season, Tuanzebe remaining at Old Trafford indicates that he will feature more often.

Last Season: 6th

Predicted Finish: 3rd

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Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Manchester United

Zlatan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the winner in his competitive debut against Leicester in the Community Shield. Image: The Telegraph

For the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, this Manchester United side looks like a genuine force. Jose Mourinho’s appointment as manager has split opinion, but he does have the pull factor that his predecessors have lacked. United have brought in Eric Bailly to bolster the defence, and although his £30m transfer fee looks pricy at the moment, he has looked as if he could be a mainstay in the United defence for the next ten years. The midfield is United’s strongest area, having brought in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba for a combined £115m. This only further strengthens a midfield that already includes Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jesse Lingard. And of course, there’s Zlatan. Ibrahimovic certainly won’t struggle to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League, but his mobility might lead to him not having the impact he had at PSG. But if Martial, Young, Lingard, Depay and Rashford provide support from the wings, a lack of mobility up front won’t matter. After narrowly missing out on the Champions League places last year, this new look United side will certainly looking to at least challenge at the top of the table.

Key Man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite the return of Paul Pogba for a world record fee, it was Zlatan’s arrival at Old Trafford which has caused the most excitement. The Swede has joined after scoring 156 goals in 180 games for PSG, and has hit the ground running by scoring the winner in the Community Shield.

One to Watch: Timothy Fosu-Mensah. The Dutch defender broke in to the United first team last season and impressed in a number of positions across the back four. He has signed a new long term contract at the club this afternoon, signalling Jose Mourinho has faith in the 18 year old, especially given other youngsters Donald Love and Paddy McNair have left the club.

Last Season: 5th 

Prediction: 3rd

Chelsea sack Mourinho

Chelsea have sacked manager Jose Mourinho after the club’s poor start to the season. The Blues won the title and the League Cup last season, but find themselves just a point above the relegation zone after 16 games.

Mourinho sacked

Source: The Guardian

Chelsea have won just four of their opening 16 Premier League matches, beating only Arsenal, and relegation candidates Norwich, Aston Villa and West Brom. The Blues are, however, through to the First Knockout round of the Champions League after topping Group G.

Tensions have been high at the club this season, beginning with the row with club doctors Eva Caneiro and John Fearn after their on-pitch treatment of Eden Hazard during August’s draw with Swansea. Since then he has been punished by the FA for his comments about the referee in the 3-1 loss to Southampton and for confronting the referee at half-time in the defeat by West Ham. His most recent outburst, after Monday’s defeat against Leicester, saw him declare that his work had been “betrayed” by his players.

It is thought that former bosses Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti are potentially in line to replace Mourinho until the end of the season, with Brendan Rogers and former Spurs flop Juande Ramos also in frame.

Premier League 2015/16 Preview – Chelsea

Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier LeagueChelsea cruised to the title last season, and it is difficult to see how they will not be able to defend it. Jose Mourinho as added shrewdly to his title-winning squad, with Falcao will hope to regain his form after a dismal season at Manchester United and Asmir Begovic has arrived to provide add competition to Thibaut Courtois. Eden Hazard was involved in 23 goals last season, whilst Cesc Fabregas topped the assists charts with 18. Mourinho’s side boasted the best defence in the league, and they are looking to strengthen by chasing John Stones, whilst Kurt Zouma will already be looking to challenge Gary Cahill for a place alongside John Terry. Falcao and Diego Costa don’t have the best injury records, so the Blues could be left short up front, whilst it remains to be seen whether John Terry will be able to lead the defence week-in, week-out. With both Manchester City and Arsenal in their first six fixtures, Chelsea can establish their dominance over their title rivals from an early stage.

Key Player: Eden Hazard

One to Watch: Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Prediction: 1st

Sentimental Chelsea blow title chance?

Deluded Chelsea fans have forced Roman Abramovich in to surrendering the league title and strip apart a successful team. Since Rafa Benitez was named interim boss last year, fans clamoured for the return of ‘the special one’, with this blinding them from what Benitez achieved.

Mourinho is returning to the Bridge after “[his] worst season as a manager”, where a feud with club captain and Real Madrid icon Iker Cassillas blew up in to a full scale players revolt against him. His touchline antics in Spain, such as poking Pep Guardiola in the eye, led to Andreas Iniesta claiming that “he damaged Spanish football”.

Although rows with the likes on John Terry and Frank Lampard seem unlikely, neither is guaranteed first team football, but nor will they be contempt with a place on the bench all season.

Another thing to look out for is the deconstruction of a potential world-beating side. Mourinho has reportedly told David Luiz, who his touted by many as a future Chelsea captain, that he “will be sold if he doesn’t stick to his role”. Then there is the system, a 4-2-3-1, including 2 hard-working wingers who he expects to track back. This system has already seen the demise of Joe Cole and Luca Modric, who’s careers stagnated under Mourinho. The same fate is likely to affect two out of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar. This would rip apart what was looking one of the most fearsome attacks in the world.

One positive of Mourinho’s return though is that we are likely to see Romelu Lukaku playing regularly for Chelsea. Mourinho likes strikers in the ‘Drogba mould’, and Lukaku is essentially Drogba without the diving or petulance.  Although this has led to rumours that Fernando Torres is on his way out of Stamford Bridge, Demba Ba is surely the more likely option to be up for sale. Ba, although a decent Premier League striker who will score 15-20 goals a season, is not the calibre of player needed to challenge for the League and Champions League. Torres, however, showed with his form in last season’s Europa League that he is on the road to recovering his best form.

Torres’ form, as well as Chelsea’s Europa League win and solid 3rd place in the Premier League was down to the management of Rafa Benitez. Benitez’s squad management got the Blues through 69 games last seasons with relatively few mishaps. Chelsea would be in better stead for a title challenge with Benitez at the helm, but the fans’ sentiment forced him out.