The Mastermind brings you an exclusive guide to every single Premier League team going into the highly anticipated 2017-18 season. From lineups, to transfers to the wackiest of predictions, The Mastermind has you covered. Here is your guide to one of this season’s top title contenders, Jose Mourinho’s new-look Manchester United.
After a season that most people would agree was disappointing for Manchester United, even despite picking up two trophies, there is a whole lot of optimism surrounding the club going into the 2017-18 season. The new-look star-studded side includes both Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, two of the Premier League’s best players over the past few years. When you add in the likes of Mastermind Top100 members Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, David De Gea and Paul Pogba, suddenly this is a title winning side again. Manchester United may still need to upgrade in defense if they are truly going to challenge for the title but at the same time, Mourinho’s strong-point in tactical management has always been making the defensive side of his team into an indestructible wall that can’t be broken. No matter how it’s done, Jose Mourinho will find a way to win his team matches. It’s just a question of if the Red Devils can win enough matches to see themselves over the line and win their first title since 2012-13.
PREDICTED STARTING XI
The normally stubborn Jose Mourinho could operate under a number of different formations this season, making it all the more difficult to predict what exactly he is going to do. Mourinho loves his wide players to do a lot of work in both halves and so the energetic and defensively sound Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Antonio Valencia are all likely to start. Jessie Lingard should also be expected to make quite an impact on the side and steal Rashford’s rightful place away in some matches. Daley Blind could also start on the left side of defense or play centrally and partner Eric Bailly at the back, making room for Matteo Darmian. The trio of Pogba, Matic and Herrera look set to start just about every game, regardless of the formation while Romelu Lukaku is also certain to start up top. Pogba could always of course also play more advanced of Herrera and Matic shoud Mourinho decide to go with 4-2-3-1. Juan Mata is expected to see less playing time this season but should still play a relatively integral role whether it’s from the starting lineup or from the bench. He could also make plenty of appearances in a 4-2-3-1 if Mourinho decides to sacrifice Ander Herrera for a match or two. The club can be very pleased that they have kept hold of David De Gea, their star goalkeeper who somehow still hasn’t left the club for Real Madrid. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and new-signing Victor Lindelof will also likely battle for a place inside of Mourinho’s XI all season long.
Jose Mourinho was seemingly very inflexible at the start of his reign in charge of Manchester United but something changed completely in the second half of the season as he started gambling and experimenting in a whole number of different ways. One of these ways was in introducing the ever-strange 3-5-1-1. Last season it involved Carrick playing in the whole that Matic is likely to occupy this season, a back-three with Darmian and Bailly as ever-presents, an advanced Antonio Valencia and Mkhitaryan just playing slightly off of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Portuguese manager is looking very likely to deploy the formation this season again in the Premier League after using it during the Red Devils’ UEFA Super Cup encounter with Real Madrid. The main change to the lineup would be in Romelu Lukaku swapping places with Zlatan Ibrahimovic but Victor Lindelof could also start in place of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Daley Blind. Finally, David De Gea is still likely to remain in goal despite Romero’s heroics at the tail-end of last season while Jessie Lingard could be deployed as a left-wing-back.
KEY PLAYER: PAUL POGBA
The Mastermind wrote many articles on the fantastic work of both Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia, but Paul Pogba is the star man in the team and has to be the most important player this season if the club are to win the Premier League title. He was fantastic last season in many games but dreadful in others and more certainly was expected of the French midfielder than he achieved in 2016-17. This season has to be the season he steps up and starts making a difference. This season, Pogba has to score more goals than 5 and assist more than just 4. If he can manage that and be Mourinho’s key man, Manchester United will be on their way to at the very least, challenging for the Premier League title.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER: VICTOR LINDELOF
No other young players are even really expected to see any game time at all other than Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof for Manchester United. With the Ivorian already having his breakthrough season last year, it is a very easy choice in picking out a potential breakthrough player for the Red Devils this season. Lindelof featured in 32 of Benfica’s 34 Primeria Liga matches last season, acting as one of the club’s most integral players on their way to lifting the trophy. If he can show the same kind of form he did as last season, Man United will be more than alright. The question remains about whether or not the 23-year old is truly ready to start for the club but when injuries occur as they always do, expect Victor Lindelof to be one of the first names to break into the team and make a name for himself.
Manchester United have had an excellent off-season in all regards including what they have managed to accomplish in the summer transfer window. In just a few months, Jose Mourinho has seemingly turned a Europa League winning side into potential Premier League title contenders and it looks very likely that this could be a season to remember for the Red Devils. Last season’s runner-up for the golden boot, Romelu Lukaku has arrived from Everton for a stunning £75 million fee, while title-winning Nemanja Matic has also arrived from Chelsea for a smaller and more reasonable price in the region of around £50 million. After speculation over the entire 2016-17 season, Swedish defender Victor Lindelof has also joined from SL Benfica for a fee in the region of £30 million. Given that the last young centre back United signed for that price was man-mountain Eric Bailly, there is a whole lot of optimism around this transfer even despite the high price. All three signings look to make an instant impact which is something that is just so positive for Manchester United going into 2017-18.
On the other end of the spectrum, Manchester United have let a number of players go this summer. Most notably is perhaps the club’s greatest ever player and legendary figure, Wayne Rooney who they have somehow let join Everton for free. Michael Carrick will be taking on his duties as captain of the club with Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera as vice-captains. Adnan Januzaj has also made a permanent move to Real Sociedad, youngster Josh Harrop has been let go to Preston North End and the versatile Timothy Fosu-Mensah will spend the season on loan at Crystal Palace. Overall it has just been an outstanding summer off-season for Manchester United and one that really does bring hope that this season could be their year.
- Romelu Lukaku will again be the league’s second highest scorer, losing out again to Harry Kane. The Belgian forward will score 22+ goals.
- No other player will net more than 12 goals.
- Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba will be the league’s most indestructible and compact midfield trio and will lead the club to an incredible unbeaten record that extends more than 10 games.
- Jose Mourinho will put his lack of trust in youngsters to extreme heights with only Marcus Rashford being given a chance to shine in the team. Rashford will go on to become a Young Player of the Year nominee.
- Ander Herrera will be in the top three for tackles won over the course of the season.
- Manchester United will have one of the worst disciplinary records in the league; receiving plenty of yellow cards to go around.
- Jose Mourinho will finally lead the club to a much-awaited first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge.
PREDICTED FINISH: 1ST
They had a lot of the necessary players last year and although it didn’t culminate in anything close to being a Premier League title last season, it was enough to win the club the Europa League and the EFL Cup. Now this season the club have their eyes set on glory for good and could be led in that direction by the likes of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera. The squad just looks so lethal going in, especially in forward areas with all that they have to offer. If they can just keep their defensive record to title-winning standard, something Mourinho certainly knows how to achieve, they could seriously be in for an upset and take this season by the scruff of the neck. They have the players on paper, now they just need to prove what they’ve got and show it on a regular basis during the 2017-18 Premier League season. It is certainly a risky pick, but Manchester United are The Mastermind‘s pick to win the title this season.