The 27th season of the Premier League begins today, when Manchester United takes on Leicester City at Old Trafford.
Manchester United is set to play the curtain-raiser of the Premier League season. Yet, there’s a sense of exhaustion among the supporters of the club. The last four weeks have been a rather painful story of broken expectations and strangled hopes. The transfer stories continued to arrive, but the signings didn’t. And as a result, Manchester United go into the new season with only one signing suitable enough to be drafted straight into the first team squad.
As Jose Mourinho’s side enter the Old Trafford to begin the 2018/19 Premier League against Leicester City later this evening, they would primarily hope to overcome their next-door neighbours, Manchester City. Last season, a whopping 19-point gap separated the two Manchester clubs in the league.
Manchester United’s pre-season has been far from inspiring, but the club received a boost when most of its star players cut-short their holidays to begin their training. Even when Mourinho hinted at major players not featuring, at least in the starting XI, United will not be short of its stars if need be.
And so, how will Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United line up in their first Premier League match of the season? We take a look.
Formation – 4-3-3
Jose Mourinho switched to three in the front late in the 2017-18 season, and is likely to continue with the same formation for this season.
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
If there is one decicison on which Jose and his staff won’t need to scratch their heads, it’s this. David De Gea returned to training earlier this month and featured in the pre-season match against Bayern Munich. The Spanish goalkeeper has won four Club Player of the Year trophies in the last five seasons, and also received the Premier League Golden Glove in 2017/18.
He may have returned to Old Trafford on the back of a poor World Cup performance, but De Gea has proved his mettle time and again at the club. He is one of the major star performers of Manchester United, and this won’t change as the season begins.
Defenders – Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw
Defence had been a major worry for United last season, as injuries to first-choice central defenders and lack of consistency resulted in many dropped points. While there has been no defensive signing, bar 17-year old Diogo Dalot, Mourinho’s side will feature a similar defensive line-up as the last season.
Bailly and Lindelof are fit to start the season, which is a huge relief for the Portuguese manager. The key, however, would be to maintain the fitness levels. Luke Shaw didn’t enjoy a very good pre-season but has seemingly won the manager’s trust after spending most of the last season on the bench. Matteo Darmian was linked with a move away from the club, but in the absence of captain Antonio Valencia, the Italian defender makes his way into the XI.
Midfielders – Fred, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira
The arrival of Fred is likely to strengthen the midfield once the regular starters like Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic come back into the side. Andreas Pereira has been one of the few shining lights of the pre-season, and eventually won Mourinho’s confidence. The Brazilian midfielder will be joined by Scott McTominay, who may feature due to unavailability of Ander Herrera due to injury.
Forwards – Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford
Mata and Alexis joined the club early in the pre-season, and are likely to feature in the XI. Marcus Rashford cut-short his vacations to arrive at the club earlier this month, and played against Bayern Munich on August 6. Romelu Lukaku also joined training this week and may make an appearance in the game.
Jose Mourinho has been overtly criticial of Anthony Martial, and even when the French forward resumed training with the club, it looks unlikely that he will feature in the match.
Surprise elements –
With Jose Mourinho, one can never predict things convincingly. The Portuguese manager didn’t outrightly deny the participation of the likes of Pogba and Romelu Lukaku in the match, and it won’t be surprising to see one or both in the starting XI. Lukaku, too, arrived from vacations earlier than expected to start training, and his work ethic has impressed the manager and fans alike.