Key insights after the start of Manchester United's competitive campaign.

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Image from The Sports Rush
The transfer window has slam shut and it has been quite an average summer for United. Mourinho has spent in the range of 70 million on three signings of Fred, Dalot and Lee Grant. But, United didn’t complete their transfer wish list and missed out key areas of central defence and right wing. It is Jose’s 3rd season at the club and it is already looking like a difficult season with several clubs investing in their team and ready to give a fight. While United are hanging on with an incomplete, yet stronger squad. It is truly going to be a challenge for a manager who has won a title wherever he has managed, to win a title in his 3rd and most difficult season of his United career.

The team won the opening fixture of the Premier League against Leicester City 2-1 with Pogba and Shaw scoring for the side. The match showed us quite a few positives and an improved team who are more confident while on attack after a splendid pre-season. The pre-season and the opener have given us few positive and key pointers for the finish line in May.

1.       Return of Attacking Football
The restructuring of the coaching staff has proved to be a potential game changer for the title push. It seemed that after the departure of Rui Faria, Mourinho would not be able to assume control of his side and maintain discipline in his squad. But, with the admission of Carrick, Mckenna and Rapetti has proved to be a hint towards a change in tactics and the return of high octane attacking football which has been a longing demand by the fans. Carrick would provide experience and motivation for the young players and making them understand what is means to play for the club and its traditions. He would also be a key mentor for the likes of McTominay, Pogba, Rashford and many other youngsters. Mckenna would provide introduction of modern and youthful attacking football after his successful stint as the u-18 boss. He may lack experience but would be a sign that it is the season for the youth to impress the manager. Stefano Rapetti, the new fitness coach would drastically improve the players stamina, pace and strength in the bid to start playing attacking football. He has worked with Jose at Inter before and has already shown signs of improvement in the squad with technical players like Fred, Lingard and Andreas all benefiting by his arrival.

2.       Resurgence of Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw really shut the haters and critics and has proved that he is ready for his chance in the squad. He has one year left in his contract and has refused to sign an extension as he wants to earn it rather than being rewarded or granted one. He has got the mentality in him of a United player and has impressed in the pre-season and the opener with great attacking runs and scored his first goal in his professional career and for United. He is ready to challenge Ashley Young for the left back spot. The manager believes in him and he has won the hearts of the fans.

3.        Fred and Pereira are going to be key.
New signing Fred has already shown that his presence has made the midfield fast and more dynamic was lagging for the past few seasons. United lacked that flair and pace in midfield which only a Brazilian would offer. His pace and technical ability have increased the number of chances created and has changed the all players play. Pogba has been given more freedom to attack which wasn’t given despite the arrival of Matic. Fred’s technical ability is proving to be a big asset for the squad. He is all over the pitch attacking, defending and mainly splitting the opposition to create passing lanes and more attacking runs which would benefit the likes of Sanchez. Andreas Pereira on the other hand has been like a brand-new signing. After his loan spells at Granada and Valencia, Andreas has finally been given the chance to play for United. He has improved his game and is ready to play in a new role of a number 6 under Mourinho. Although he would be better off as an attacking midfielder, it would be tactically good of giving Fred and him a similar role so that they can understand each other and offer unpredictability in the side. Matic could get a well-deserved rest and will have to compete for a slot in the starting line-up.

4.       Quality Attacking back-up.
it is most certain that Lukaku and Sanchez are going to be guaranteed starters but United also have quality attacking options like Martial, Rashford, Mata and Lingard ready to cover whenever needed. Andreas can also play as an attacker.

Stand-out Negatives:

1.       Lack of Pressing.
Mourinho isn’t much a believer of possession-based football and neither he is off attacking football. He is and will always be known a defensive manager no matter how negative it sounds. But now at United, he is keen to trim his philosophy. He is keen to bring back attacking football which is traditional game play of United. But what sense if the side aren’t applying any pressure in the match. The team is waiting to be attacked which causes lapse in judgement which slows the game even further. The more you press, the more attacking opportunities you will get. With players like Fred and Pogba, United would excel if they start pressing their opponents and stat quick counter attacks. This needs to change.

2.       Unpredictable defence.
United failed to invest and upgrade their defence which was needed. They failed to sign their targets and are again left with the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in central defence. Eric Bailly is set to be the first name in defence and Victor Lindelof has been an amazing partner to Bailly but doesn’t look completely ready and doesn’t acquire the experience which the manager wanted in the transfer market. Defence is once again our most vulnerable area.

3.       Desperate need for a Director of Football.
The negative transfer window once again showed that United require a Director of Football. Ed Woodward may be a great businessman and can get deals done, but he isn’t a footballing figure or has got any footballing knowledge, after all he is an investment banker. United require a figure who would be a link between the board and the manager. A person who knows the history, traditions and footballing requirements of the clubs. Woodward may make United the richest club once again, but cannot make them the most successful once again. United need a person who is an influential and popular figure amongst the fans and the players. They need a person like Francesco Totti, a Roma legend and loyalist who became Roma’s Director of Football. A former player and legend would be best accustomed for the job. Ryan Giggs would have been perfect if he wasn’t the Wales managers, but the likes of Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidic or a popular footballing figurehead would be perfect for the job. United require a Director of Football urgently and possibly before January as by the look of things, they are going to be active in the winter market.

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