A disappointing season saw Manchester United finish in 5th place, missing out on Champions League football for the second time in three years. Sub-par performances, a stubborn manager with tactics that were overplayed and outdated did not help their cause one bit. Of course, injuries played their role throughout the season. At one time United were playing Leicester in a top of the table clash before injuries took their toll. A lack of creativity and lethality in the attack was a major problem. United have seriously declined in the 3 years since the departure of Sir Alex and Jose Mourinho has a major job on his hands to take them back to the top. He’s working quickly, however, adding 3 terrific new players in Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic and Bailly to the squad with a fourth signing seeming imminent.
There were some positives from last season, though. The injuries paved a way for several youth players to make their first-team debuts and Rashford, Lingard and Fosu-Mensah seemed to have impressed the most. The arrival of Anthony Martial is another major positive. Despite it being his first season in England and playing the majority of the season on the left, he still ended the season as United’s top scorer. At 20, he’s got massive potential and the best is yet to come. The rise of Smalling also was one of the reasons why United had one of the best defensive records in the League. He was like a wall at the back for United and stood up and took charge when the defense looked clueless at times.
Two players who will be crucial for Man United in the upcoming season will be Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Jose Mourinho’s sides of late have strived on their defensive stability and so Smalling will be crucial. Although he took his game to the next level last season, there is still room for massive improvement. Playing alongside different partners is not helpful and it seems like Blind, his partner for most of the last season, won’t be playing at centre back anymore. At this moment, Bailly looks the most likely candidate to partner Smalling and the latter being the more experienced of the two will need to take control. His ability to be a leader in defense will be crucial.
Mkhitaryan just moved from Dortmund and while it will take him time to settle and get used to the pace of the English game, he will be crucial for United. If pre-season is anything to go by, Mourinho seems keen on playing him as a number 10. At Dortmund he was instrumental in creating goals and that will be his job here too. There will be a lot of pressure on him to add some creativity to the United attack. United have always been known for quick and threatening counter-attacks and that seemed to have disappeared over the last 3 years. But the Armenian again will be crucial in this aspect.
His pace will come to use as he links the defense and attack. Of course, he’s not the only one. Anthony Martial will be crucial again. He has goals in him even when playing wide and teams need at least one striker to be scoring 20 goals in the season if they want to be competing for the title. Any time United looked to create anything last season, they turned to Martial and with more help around in the likes of Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic, he can have an even better season.