Manchester United kick-off their 2018/19 campaign against Leicester City on Friday, fresh off a turbulent pre-season that has already seen many pundits question the club’s title aspirations.
Ahead of their season opener, United will be without many of their recovering World Cup stars, including the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Paul Pogba, the latter of whom has recently been unsettled by an approach from Barcelona.
Worryingly, the Red Devils’ pre-season form has been poor, as their tour of the USA saw them register a solitary win against Real Madrid. This prompted Mourinho to comment Manchester United are “not a team yet”, and his summer of discontent has been exacerbated by Chief Executive Ed Woodward’s tardiness in the transfer market.
Mourinho revealed he wants “two more players” but “only expects one”, with the likeliest candidate emerging as Tottenham’s centre-back, Toby Alderweireld.
In the league last season, Manchester United took four points from their two meetings with the Foxes: a 2-0 home win in August, followed by a 2-2 draw at the King Power that saw them concede a last-minute Harry Maguire equaliser on a night where Mata bagged a brace.
Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw
Herrera, Fred, Perreira
Sanchez, Mata, Rashford
One to watch – Alexis Sánchez
Following his first summer off in six years, the Chilean forward looks refreshed and ready for the new season at Old Trafford. He scored twice during United’s largely lacklustre pre-season, but his selfless running and eye for goal meant he was one of the few positives to take from the tour.
Expect to see him line up in his favoured left-wing spot with Mata occupying the other flank. However, with no Pogba in the side, Mourinho will be keen for Sanchez to avoid dropping too deep, but rather link up with Rashford, who is likely to lead the line.
Predicted score – Manchester United 2-1 Leicester
Despite a host of absentees and an air of discontent around the club, United should have enough to see off their visitors.
By Josh Butler