There will be much to prove to supporters and superiors alike in decorated manager Jose Mourinho‘s second season as the Red Devils‘ boss. To say that there is pressure on “The Special One’s” shoulders to deliver silverware would be an understatement, but here are three reasons why Manchester United will finish first in the Premier League:
1. Potent Scoring
The signing of 24-year-old forward Romelu Lukaku will fill the giant void left behind by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Lukaku is much younger, faster, and has never participated in the UEFA Champions League- call that added motivation for the Belgian international to showcase his scoring prowess. He notched a brace in his team’s home opener against West Ham United on Sunday and netted 25 goals for Everton last season, but is expected to surpass that number after demonstrating exceptional chemistry with Marcus Rashford (one assist), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (two assists), Anthony Martial (one goal, one assist), and his good friend Paul Pogba (one goal).
2. The Emergence of Pogba
It took almost three-quarters of the last campaign for Pogba to find his groove and adapt to the English football style he left over five years ago. Critics kept a close eye on last year’s world record signing, yet most failed to realize that Mourinho required Pogba to commit to intelligent defence- something many do not consider to be his strong suit.
Nevertheless, he successfully completed 75% of his tackles and averaged almost 69 passes per match for a grand total of 2,178, fourth-highest amongst all Premier League players.
He scored a goal against West Ham and impressed with his unique first touches that he uses to get past defenders in a flash. Now that his focus will almost exclusively be on offense, expect Pogba to contribute a healthy balance of goals and assists en route to solidifying his status as one of the best players in Europe.
3. A Deep Midfield
Nemanja Matic was signed from Mourinho’s former club Chelsea to establish a strong defence in the midfield and, in many ways, to set Pogba free of back-checking responsibilities. What supporters might not have expected to see was Matic convincingly rush up the field numerous times against West Ham and complete a total of 69 passes last Sunday.
Now that Wayne Rooney has returned to Everton, the underrated and oft under-appreciated Juan Mata will play a more important role and should find his consistent offensive touch yet again along with Ander Herrera, Pogba, and Matic. Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick can both prove to be useful substitutes in a defensive role, while Jesse Lingard and Mkhitaryan tend to be used as right wingers despite being labelled as midfielders. Martial will look to find the back of the net consistently from the left flank, and add the name of promising prospect Andreas Pereira to the winding list of midfield choices as his contract is set to expire in June of 2018. The 2017-2018 season will offer Pereira a chance to prove he has a future with the Red Devils.
With all of that in mind, it’s clear that United’s manager has a beautiful problem on his hands when it comes to naming his starting XI- one that will surely rival that of reigning champions Chelsea while giving Arsenal, Manchester City, and Liverpool a long-awaited run for their money.