Manchester United helped us earn big profits last season by landing both the EFL Cup and the Europa League, but their sights will be set upon bigger prizes this season. Jose Mourinho bagged both trophies in his maiden season at Old Trafford, and success in the latter competition earned his side a place in the 2017/18 Champions League.
Beating Ajax and winning the Europa League glossed over a relatively poor domestic season in which the Red Devils finished 6th in the Premier League, and qualifying for the Champions League via that route helped Mourinho avoid any backlash for such a lowly position. There will be no such leeway this year though, as everyone associated with the club from fans to owners expects a serious tilt at the league title. It’s been four barren seasons since United last won the Premier League – when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager and Robin van Persie top-scored for the Red Devils. The ill-fated reigns of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal are best forgotten as far as United fans are concerned, but the question is whether Mourinho can lead them back to the top table as a competitive force in the elite competitions.
Last year’s big money signing of Paul Pogba captured the attention of media, fans and pundits alike, with the French international drawing widespread criticism for any less than spectacular performances. This season’s marquee signing of Romelu Lukaku might just take the pressure off the former Juventus midfielder and Jose Mourinho clearly believes that Pogba can have a much more productive season this time around. The pair also enjoy a close friendship and could create a formidable partnership at the forefront of the Red Devil’s attack.
The Portuguese manager has also moved to shore up United’s defensive frailties with the signing of Swedish international centre-back Victor Lindelof for £31 million from Benfica. Other transfers that could also be imminent include the potential capture of Chelsea defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic and Inter Milan left-sided player Ivan Peresic. Both would be significant additions to a squad already burgeoning with exititing young talent.
The only high-profile departure has been that of Wayne Rooney, who has returned to boyhood club Everton, but this comes after a season in which Mourinho struggled to find a place for the England international in his side.
We already made an early case for backing Manchester United to win the title prior to the acquisition of Lukaku, and there is little reason to abandon that bet. BetVictor are now offering odds of +400 about the Premier League returning to Old Trafford after a four-year hiatus.
A place in the top four and a serious tilt at the Champions League will be the minimum requirements for Mourinho this season, and there is no question that he has been given the funds for a two-pronged approach over the next 12 months. It is also worth noting that one of the most successful managers in Europe has an incredibly strong record in his second season at most clubs he has managed in an illustrious career.
The Premier League will be hotly contested this season with no less than six clubs looking like genuine contenders, but there are reasons to believe that the two Manchester sides have better chances than Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs. Each of the latter four will have to contend with European football – a problem that didn’t affect Chelsea and Liverpool last season – although Arsenal may view the Europa League as a distraction rather than a priority. Spurs finished second in the league last year despite a disappointing Champions League campaign, but they will be playing home games at Wembley this year while White Hart Lane is redeveloped and that could easily affect results this time around.
The Premier League has five entrants in this year’s competition, and they look better equipped than many a season to be competitive. However, they may still fall short of the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, and Bayern Munich who have not only the experience, but arguably the very top players in Europe within their ranks.
Ever the pragmatist, Mourinho ensured he started his reign at Old Trafford by bagging the EFL Cup last season – the first piece of silverware up for grabs in the English game. Having gone on to take the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League, one suspects that he will have little interest in that competition this season and it would be no huge surprise to see United’s proliferation of young players take up the mantle in the league cup. If you fancy a repeat of last year, the Red Devil’s can be backed at +700 with Bet365, but this tipster is hanging his betting slip on Manchester rivals City and Pep Guardiola.
Meanwhile, United can be backed at the same odds of +700 with William Hill and Betfred to lift the FA Cup. Louis van Gaal secured that trophy the season before last as his reign at Old Trafford came to an end, and although one would expect United to be competitive, much will depend on the state of their season when the third round comes around in January. If the Premier League and Champions League are still on the radar the FA Cup could well take second stage.
Manchester United to win the Premier League