Jose Mourinho is set to reshape his Manchester United squad this summer ahead of what he hopes will be a Premier League title charge next season.
His challenge is to bridge a 19-point gap with Manchester City while also restoring some of United’s style.
Mourinho’s team earned more points and scored more goals than they managed in his first season in charge, but criticism from some supporters about the way the Portuguese coach approached the FA Cup final has highlighted the need for a more entertaining brand of football.
It is especially true after Pep Guardiola’s champions scored 106 league goals — a new record — on their way to finishing the season with 100 points.
Here’s a look at where Mourinho might make additions this summer and who could come in …
Mourinho has been clear his top priority this summer is to sign a midfielder to replace Michael Carrick. He might have to bring in two if Marouane Fellaini leaves on a free transfer. Nemanja Matic is guaranteed his place after a positive first season at Old Trafford. Paul Pogba is too, and one of the requirements of the new midfielder will be helping to get the best out of the Frenchman. United lacked creativity, especially in the second half of the season. Pogba has the talent to provide it but he needs to be freed — just a little bit — from his defensive responsibilities. Sources have told ESPN FC that Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Nice’s Jean Michael Seri and Roma’s Kevin Strootman are all options.
Ashley Young has had his contract extended for another season but there are doubts about Luke Shaw’s future. The 22-year-old made just eight Premier League starts last season and, as a result, missed out on a place in England’s World Cup squad. Mourinho expects a lot from his full-backs and if a new left-back arrives this summer, it will have to be someone who can attack and defend. United were criticised for a lack of width last season and although Young did well, a new left-back could help solve that particular issue. Sources have told ESPN FC that Mourinho has an interest in Alex Sandro at Juventus, Kieran Tierney at Celtic, Danny Rose at Tottenham and Espanyol’s Aaron Martin.
Antonio Valencia has been United’s regular right-back since Mourinho arrived in 2016 but there are concerns about his continued ability to play two games a week. Analysts noticed he tired significantly at the back end of last season and Mourinho has had to pick and chose his games carefully. The other recognised right-back in the squad, Matteo Darmian, is available for the right price and Juventus have already registered their interest. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who spent the season on loan at Crystal Palace, is likely to get preseason to prove he can fill the void.
On the wing
Mourinho has insisted he will not sign another attacking player this summer after sanctioning Alexis Sanchez’s move from Arsenal in January. United expect Sanchez to get better after a summer free from international duty and a full preseason. After three goals in 18 games so far, he will have to. There are question marks over Anthony Martial’s future with sources telling ESPN FC the Frenchman has become concerned about a lack of opportunities since Sanchez’s arrival. He scored in three consecutive Premier League games before Sanchez’s move but started just five more league games after his arrival. Mourinho would like to sign Willian — hard-working, creative and a goal threat — but United face a challenge to convince Chelsea to sell. Sources have told ESPN FC the Brazilian is open to a move to United but there would be a backlash from Chelsea fans if he was allowed to follow Matic to Old Trafford.
United were overly reliant on Romelu Lukaku last season and struggled for goals when he didn’t play. He wasn’t fit enough to start any of the final four games of the campaign — including the FA Cup final — and in his absence Mourinho’s team managed one goal in six hours of football.
It was hoped that Zlatan Ibrahimovic could take some of the pressure off in the second half of the campaign but the Swede struggled with his fitness before leaving for LA Galaxy. Lukaku will will be first-choice again next season and anyone who comes in would have to be satisfied with a secondary role.