Opinion: How can Manchester United win next season's Premier League title?
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Finishing 19 points behind domestic rivals Manchester City, and with added anguish in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, it's no wonder why the United fans find themselves with doubts creeping into their minds. Is Jose Mourinho the right manager for the future of the club? Does he need to be? Are the players performing to their maximum effort? These questions linger on the tongues, and the minds, of the collective Manchester United fanbase around the world. The added pain of the noisy neighbours' (the self-proclaimed 'Centurions') cruise to the Premier League title means that every member of staff associated with the name of Manchester United must step up, or face falling further behind their perennial rivals. But just how can they achieve such a feat? To improve on last season's respectable 2nd placed finish of 81 points, and overcome Pep Guardiola's side will not just be difficult: it will be Jose Mourinho's biggest challenge to date. A common voice of concern from amongst Old Trafford fans is the lacklustre playing style utilised by Mourinho last season. Scoring just 68 goals from 38 Premier League games, (less than both Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal) the match-going fans are starting to wonder just how useful the likes of Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and co. can play in such a rigid structure. The players which possess attacking talent in abundance (the likes of Pogba, Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford) are the players which Red Devils fans, and in particular the press, have widely criticised or labelled as underperforming. This barren season in terms of silverware has to lead to Woodward and the Glazer family investing in new additions to the squad immediately, spending a combined total of £66 million on Brazilian international midfielder Fred, and young Portuguese prospect Diogo Dalot. Mourinho feels that there needs to be added impetus in the middle of the United spine, with the signing of Fred designed to accommodate the services of Paul Pogba while at the same time improving the level of quality in the centre of the park. This could also be deemed as a direct replacement for Belgian Marouane Fellaini, with his contract due to expire this summer. Fred will play a substantial part in United's play next season while Dalot is deemed to have more of a part role, learning from the likes of Antonio Valencia and providing competition for him. The 19-year old only made his professional debut for FC Porto in February, making seven first-team appearances for the Primeira Liga champions.
Malcom are other options being targeted should the deal fail to materialise.
A more experienced centre-half with leadership qualities is also high on Mourinho's priorities, with the obvious target being Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld. However, the two clubs are said to have reached a disagreement in the deal, with Daniel Levy holding out for more than £55 million.
Mourinho has not only changed the squad of players, as his coaching staff has also undergone a regeneration for the first time in 19 years following the departure of Rui Faria.
United stalwart Michael Carrick has joined the coaching staff for the coming season, while former Under-18's coach Kieran McKenna has been promoted to join Jose's side on the bench. Italian coach Stefano Rapetti, whom Mourinho worked with during his time at Inter Milan, has also been drafted in as a first-team coach.
This new coaching team are now tasked with adapting the defensive-focused approach of last season and inserting the layer of attacking talent and dogged determination to win the games against the more skilled opposition, as well as appeasing the fans.
The standard 4-2-3-1 formation Mourinho chose to implement last season was done for the sole purpose of protecting the backline, which Jose feared wasn't good enough to cope on their own. The reason why Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera were 10 yards further back on the pitch than needed was because of Mourinho's lack of trust in Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and co.
With the addition of Fred, the energetic box-to-box midfielder will allow Pogba to stretch further up the field and utilise the areas of the pitch in which he is most effective: creating chances and attempting long shots on goal. This will also allow Mourinho to naturally evolve in a 4-3-3 system, which should allow the likes of Sanchez to rush down the byline and stop from getting in the way of Pogba, which happened constantly since the Chilean's arrival last January.
With the transfer window now coming to an end before the start of the new Premier League season, Mourinho and his staff will use the maximum time possible during pre-season to integrate his new signings into his side, and also evolve his current crop of players with refreshed tactics.
However, the question remains: will it be enough?
Image Credit - Flickr Commons, Pixabay.
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