After qualified success in his maiden campaign as Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho will hope to dust off his tried and tested second-season formula in 2017-18.
Mourinho led United to victory in the League Cup and Europa League last season, the latter yielding a place in the Champions League, but their football was drab and they finished a distant sixth in the league.
Having won the league in his second season in his last five jobs — Porto, Chelsea (twice), Inter Milan and Real Madrid — he will be expected to mount a strong title challenge at the very least.
« Can we win it? We can, but maybe we won’t, » Mourinho told ESPN in a recent interview.
« Everything is good and strong, but some of them (other clubs) are really strong in the market, so it is going to be difficult.
« Normally the second season should be better than the first because you know the club, you know the players. The players, they know you.
« The club know you can affect in a positive way the structure, you can affect in a positive way the people that work around you.
« But this is modern football. It’s getting much harder for everyone, so we don’t know. »
United’s signings have been thoroughly in keeping with Mourinho’s pragmatic approach to the game, the Portuguese having galvanised his squad with extra height and muscle.
Centre-back Victor Lindelof, midfielder Nemanja Matic and striker Romelu Lukaku are all over six feet (183cm) tall, giving United the second-tallest squad in the division behind Tony Pulis’s West Bromwich Albion.
Lukaku faces the greatest scrutiny, having been brought in to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the charismatic Swede was released in the wake of the serious knee injury he suffered last season.
Lukaku, 24, has scored 87 goals for Everton over the past four seasons, statistics that moved United to sanction a$97.9 million acquisition.
– Make-or-break for Martial –
But the Belgium international failed to convince Mourinho during their time together at Chelsea and will be playing in the Champions League proper for the first time.
A battering-ram striker in the finest Mourinho traditions, Lukaku’s task is to sharpen an attack that mustered only 54 league goals last season.
« I’m here to score goals and be the focal point of the team, » Lukaku said.
« At Manchester United, we play to win and that’s the mentality when I get on the pitch.
« I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. Now I’m here and it’s time to work hard and, hopefully, deliver. »
With Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney no longer around, there is pressure on Paul Pogba to establish himself as the team’s leader after blowing hot and cold in his first season following his return from Juventus.
Anthony Martial, meanwhile, faces a make-or-break campaign, having slipped from view last season after failing to earn Mourinho’s trust.
The 21-year-old Frenchman faces stiff competition for one of the two or three places in support of Lukaku, with Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard among Mourinho’s other options.
Matic, who won the league with Mourinho at Chelsea in 2015, is expected to slot into midfield alongside Pogba and Ander Herrera, with former Benfica man Lindelof due to partner Eric Bailly at centre-back.
United face a relatively benign start to the season, Rooney’s return to Old Trafford with big-spending Everton the most taxing assignment of their opening seven fixtures.
But October and November bring meetings with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the space of three weeks, by which time United’s Champions League campaign will be in full swing.
Martial: « Mourinho is hard with me »
Author of a good start to the season as a replacement with Manchester United, Anthony Martial looks back on his relationship with José Mourinho.
It’s much better for Anthony Martial. A one-year absence from the French team, the Manchester United striker found Didier Deschamps’ starting lineup against Germany (2-2) on Tuesday and signed a superb assist on the opening of the score of Alexandre Lacazette. A return to the international scene that results from his start to the season with the Red Devils. Lining Marcus Rashford on the left wing, the 21-year-old has turned into a super sub, with 6 goals and as many assists on his meter.
« Toto » Martial especially took the fold of the discipline that José Mourinho imposed on him for a year and a half. « He’s tough with all of us and he’s tough with me, that’s not the question, » said the native of Esssone on the Premier League channel. He recalls his long complicated relationship with the Portuguese coach: « At first we did not know each other very well, but things are better now. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and the result is that we learn to give the best every time. »
I also know that he really loves me
If the former Monegasque, recruited for 50 million euros in 2015, manages to become a top player one day, he will probably thank the « Special One ». « I know it’s for my benefit and I also know he really loves me, so there’s no problem with this discipline », concludes Anthony Martial. Especially since the young striker now knows that the efficiency, which he knows to show today with his limited playing time, can allow him to be in the France group for the 2018 World Cup.
Chelsea without Michy, Musonda ni Moses but with David Luiz
Against WBA, Chelsea will not be able to play Michy Batshuayi, Moses or Musonda.
Batshuayi is injured. (Marc Atkins / OFFSIDE / PRESS SPO / PRESS SPORTS)
Traveling to West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea will have to do without Michy Batshuayi (ankle), Danny Drinkwater (calf), Charly Musonda (knee) and Victor Moses (ischios). On the other hand, David Luiz returned to the group after being sidelined by Antonio Conte.
Chelsea: the cost of the future stadium explodes and becomes historic!
Determined to build a new stadium, keeping the foundations of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea has revised upward the cost of its future speaker. Moreover, the next stadium of the Blues could become the third most expensive cave in the world.
In a world of football business where the race for money has become the major stake of clubs, the renovation or the construction of new stadiums are one of the means studied by the trainings to increase their income. In France, the Atlantic Matmut of Bordeaux or the Groupama Stadium of Lyon are two of the most telling examples. In England, the big arms of the Premier League have also yielded to temptation.
And if Tottenham, who plays all his home games at Wembley, is waiting for the delivery of his new White Hart Lane at the start of the 2018/2019 season, Chelsea is also preparing to give Stamford Bridge a serious facelift. Like the Spurs, the Blues rely on existing infrastructure to expand their stadium. A mission entrusted to the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron. For the moment, nothing has been built yet, but according to the Times, the cost of the case is being exposed.
Clearly, the London club had expected a renovation to the tune of £ 500m, or about 561 M €. But the English newspaper reveals that the bill should eventually amount to 1 billion pounds, or 1.122 billion euros! A total cost that would be multiplied by two. A great accounting difference that would bring the new Stamford Bridge into the record books. Indeed, the future speaker of the Blues would become the third most expensive stadium in the world, behind two American behemoths: the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta Falcons) and MetLife Stadium (New York Giants) whose cost is estimated at 1.3 billion euros.
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