By Adam Joseph
Ideal XI: (Flexible 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1)
David De Gea
Smalling Bailly Darmian Shaw
Schneiderlin Herrera Pogba
De Gea: could it be anyone else? De Gea is perhaps the most crucial part of the team’s spine. He bails out the team time and again, and under a better coach and a far better defensive setup, the Spaniard could be set for his best statistical season yet.
Darmian: Antonio Valencia has impressed in preseason and Fabinho might still arrive, but of the current squad Darmian is the best right back at the club. Mourinho will help him improve as an attacker, and as a parading full back he will have no choice but to do so. Incredible defensively but his attacking output will determine his future.
Smalling: more arrivals are likely with another experienced centre half set to join, but Smalling is likely the best of the current bunch. Staying fit for another full season is an interesting challenge, but if the Englishman can replicate his 2015 calendar year he will be a starting XI player.
Bailly: quite simply if the Ivorian replicates his form from the Community Shield whilst he adapts to English football, he is going to be a hit. There is a long way to go in his career at the club and it is early days, but Bailly has the potential to be a terrific athlete who is not only good with the ball and also great in the tackle.
Shaw: it is so good to see the Englishman back on the pitch. He is so solid defensively whilst excellent at getting forward, it’s easy to forget he was in the Premier League team of the season whilst at Southampton. The 21 year old is set for an excellent campaign, fingers crossed he stays on the pitch.
Schneiderlin: Paul Pogba could be the best thing that has ever happened to his French teammate at Old Trafford. He has had a tough start to his Old Trafford career, but like Darmian and Memphis shouldn’t be judged on his performances under Louis Van Gaal. Schneiderlin has the potential to be one of the club’s best in 2015-16.
Herrera: Daley Blind is also born for this role, but with Schneiderlin in the line up Herrera makes more sense. He can get forward, create and score goals but he also is a willing (albeit not perfect) defender. A Schneiderlin-Herrera-Pogba midfield is tantalising. The Spaniard could be reborn if he can take his chance (if he is given one).
Pogba: this is still incredible to think about. His success at the club is far from certain, but if he is given the free role where he can both roam and dominate midfield he could be at his best. Mourinho will not want to rush his record signing, but the world will be waiting to see what the magical Frenchman can do now that he has come home.
Mkhitaryan: he has had a quiet preseason, but it appears Mourinho is not rushing him into the team as he adapts to his new team and country. It could also be that he knows what he will get from the Armenian and is giving others a chance to prove themselves. Once he is in the XI though, it’s very unlikely he’s coming out unless it’s to rest.
Ibrahimovic: Zlatan has made his mark early, with his first touch a brilliant flick on for Jesse Lingard, whilst his first goal won them the Community Shield with a clever header. The 34 year old will be swapped in and out with Marcus Rashford but with 9 straight seasons of 20 goals or more, a similar season of production can be expected.
Martial: the pressure and spotlight has been taken off the mercurial wide forward with the arrival of his new superstar teammates, and it’ll be fascinating to see how he performs with less defensive and media attention on him. He won’t be relied on so heavily, and there’s a chance for him to thrive as a result.
Three Random Predictions
Memphis will be reborn – Memphis will be lucky to survive Jose Mourinho’s cull, but it appears he will be given another chance. Expect him to thrive in a system that will emphasise his dribbling skills and with a little patience fans could see him replicate the stunning play which made the club sign him from PSV Eindhoven last summer.
Manchester United will have a player in each area in the Team of the Season – with so much quality across the squad, if all goes to plan United could have a player in each area of the team of the season. Hypothetically, De Gea, Shaw, Pogba and Mkhitaryan could all make the team of the season. Others too. How crazy is that?
Jose Mourinho will NOT serve a touchline ban – he’s not that different to old versions of the Portuguese, but Mourinho will be smart this season. He will wear his heart on his sleeve for his players and against his rivals, but he’ll save his emotions for his must see press conferences. War will engage with Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola and the rest, but Mourinho is out to win. That is the number one priority.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport