Manchester United are always expected to compete for English Premier League titles, it’s just who they are as a club. The reputation they have built over the years means there is no other option for United to win titles. The upcoming 2018/19 EPL season will be no exception.
Boasting the likes of attacking threats Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez while retaining the likes of academy graduates Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, United’s attack is very much one that can be potent and able to dominate any game on any given day.
Defence has always seemed to be a problem with United, but try telling that to them. With the likes of Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Left-Midfield turned Left-Back Ashley Young and arguably the worlds best goalkeeper in David De Gea, last season United kept 19 clean sheets from a possible 38 games and only conceded 28 goals all season, that’s 0.74 goals per game. Not a bad effort by a defence that was considered a weak link.
United haven’t been as aggressive in the transfer market so far as they would have liked. Their only major additions to the team is Midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk on a five-year deal. They have also signed young Right-Back Diogo Dalot from FC Porto on a five-year deal to be the heir of Antonio Valencia. With a club as big as United, expect more signings before the transfer deadline, in particular more defensive depth.
United, none the less possess a team capable of winning the EPL, with very much the same team returning that finished second in the league last season. With that in mind, lets take a look at the players on United’s squad and preview what to expect from each this season.
- David De Gea: Will be the number one goalkeeper all season barring any sort of injury or unforeseen circumstance. His ability to make game-saving saves and tackles have been the reason he has won United’s player of the year a record four times. Expect more of the same this season.
- Sergio Romero: The second option in the goalkeeping ranks. Will only play if De Gea is unable to play for any sort of reason. Very capable at this level to produce.
- Joel Pereira: A youth academy player who is developing nicely and has played well in pre-season. However, while De Gea and Romero are around he won’t be getting much playing time. A loan move seems the best bet while he’s still developing.
- Lee Grant: Signed solely as a depth player, particularly for cup games more so than the EPL. Has been the starting GK in pre-season with De Gea on holidays after the World Cup. He has been playing well, but don’t expect to see much of him on the EPL stage.
- Victor Lindelöf: Didn’t play as much last season as United fans would have wanted to see. After a strong World Cup with Sweden that could potentially change. Has ability, reads the play well and is very comfortable on the ball as a centre-back. Lindelöf will be pushing for a regular spot in United’s defence this season.
- Eric Bailly: When on the pitch and not injured, Bailly is United’s first centre-back option. Very comfortable on the ball and puts his body on the line for the team. At a young age is a fantastic leader in the defensive half and will be a key figure in United’s defence all season.
- Phil Jones: When on the pitch he has proved to be a solid defender and contributor. He works hard each moment he’s out there. However,with Bailly, Lindelöf and potentially another centre-back coming in this transfer window, Jones may just be losing his spot and dropped to a mere fringe/depth player.
- Marcos Rojo: Was injured for a fair chunk of last season and had limited opportunities as a result. Is strong defensively, but with further additions to the defence and Bailly and Lindelöf seemingly further in the pecking order, it will be tough for Rojo to make it back into this team apart from being a rotation player.
- Chris Smalling: Has been solid over the years for United. Tall, athletic, strong and a big set-piece threat. Smalling has all the pieces of a solid defender but blunders at key times is a problem. Still, while there is no other defensive signing, Smalling will again be a key component of United’s defence due to his ability to be a threat on both sides of the ball.
- Ashley Young: As a make-shift left-back, Young really stepped up last season and cemented his spot as United’s number one in that position. Being a winger previously, the attacking threat is always there with Young. He has the ability to score and whip in deadly crosses for the attackers. If there are no further defensive signings, Young should again be number one after a strong campaign last season and in the World Cup for England.
- Luke Shaw: Has so much ability and could very much be United’s starting left-back. Quick, agile and an attacking threat, Shaw possesses ability to be a fantastic player. However, injuries have been the problem. If he is able to stay healthy, he will compete with Ashley Young for a regular starting role.
- Antonio Valencia: Another make-shift defender, starting as a right-winger. Valencia has really come into his own as a right-back over the last few years and proven to be a key attacking and defending figure for United. Quick on his feet on both sides of the ball, Valencia again will be number one on the right side of defence barring any sort of injury or circumstance of not being able to play.
- Matteo Darmian: Has played well in pre-season with Valencia and Dalot injured. If both are healthy, Darmian’s role will solely be for depth. Has ability to be a solid starting right-back, but appears out of favour with coach Jose Mourinho. He has been linked with moves back to Italy hasn’t helped his cause.
- Diogo Dalot: Hasn’t played a game for united yet, but viewings from his time at FC Porto suggest Dalot will be a solid player for years to come. Young, quick and comfortable on the ball, Dalot is expected to be the next in line and take over Valencia at right-back when his time is up. Expect to see some of Dalot this season, but not a whole lot.
- Timothy Fosu-Mensah: After returning from a solid loan campaign with Crystal Palace last season, Fosu-Mensah will look to break into the United squad this season. Quick and strong defensively mixed with solid showings in pre-season indicate he is ready to make the jump, but nobody knows what Mourinho has under his sleeve for him. Could be loaned out again or will be a fringe player with United this season.
- Axel Tuanzebe: Still relatively young, Tuanzebe will find it difficult to break into this team. Is developing well and has definite ability as a young player, but further development won’t hurt his cause either. Expect him to be loaned out this season at some point.
- Paul Pogba: United’s key man in midfield. Strong, powerful and endless ability in all aspects of the game, Pogba oozes class all over. After a fantastic showing at the World Cup for France, expect a new and re-invented season from Pogba and expect him to lead United from the front all season long.
- Juan Mata: Is a key playmaker for United and finds himself at the right place at the right time more times than not. Might not be the quickest or the tallest player, but his ability with the ball and ability to pick out a pass make Mata a solid player. Will be fighting for a regular starting spot all season but will play all season long.
- Jesse Lingard: A United academy graduate and keeps improving each and every year. Quick, agile and a knack for scoring a goal make Lingard an important piece for United’s midfield. After a strong showing with England at the World Cup, regular minutes look set for Lingard this season.
- Ander Herrera: Is a fantastic defensive midfielder who can also be an attacking threat. Has his moments and will play key minutes. The signing of Fred means regular minutes may be a problem in the long run. An injury to Matic has helped his chances of starting more, but when Matic is back, Herrera will likely come off the bench.
- Marouane Fellaini: Strong and a tall presence in midfield. Fellaini won’t start or feature regularly, but will come off the bench if a goal is needed due to his height and heading ability from crosses. Always has a knack to score at times when it’s least expected and this season will be no different.
- Nemanja Matic: Had a strong World Cup for Serbia, but surgery was needed for him and could be out for some time. When fit and healthy, Matic is strong defensively and very calm and collected with the ball. He is the anchor in midfield protecting the defence, which will be no exception once he is back from injury.
- Scott McTominay: A youth academy graduate who played his fair share of minutes towards the end of United’s campaign last season, and played very well. Is a very similar player to Nemanja Matic, a strong defensive minded midfielder that is able to shut down opponents. Don’t expect McTominay to be a regular starter by any means, but will play key minutes for United to see out games during the season.
- Fred: The most recent signing for United, after not much of a showing for Brazil in the World Cup. Fred will be looking for a strong first campaign with United in midfield. Quick, strong for his size, fantastic defensively while also having the ability to pick out a pass, Fred will be an instant hit with United and a certain starter in midfield that is sure to help Paul Pogba become the player the world wants to see.
- Andreas Pereira: After a very decent loan spell with Valencia last season, Pereira will be looking to become a key part in midfield for United this season. Quick and the ability to score a goal gives Pereira a real chance to play minutes this season. Will not be a starter, but strong minutes off the bench are a real possibility. Strong pre-season form is definitely helping his cause to remain with the squad and play.
- Alexis Sanchez: Played decently after arriving from Arsenal in the January transfer window. He will now look to improve on that this season with a full pre-season with United and no World Cup duties with Chile. Quick, skillful, comfortable on the ball and a big time goal scoring threat. Sanchez will be a regular starter and a key part in United’s goals this season.
- Romelu Lukaku: The main striker, Lukaku will be looking to improve on what was already a solid first campaign with United last season. After a good showing with Belgium at the World Cup, Lukaku will be looking to bring that goal scoring form into the EPL season. Strong, technically gifted and a fantastic finisher. Lukaku will be at the centre of United’s attacks and goals scored.
- Anthony Martial: Has been linked with moves away from United and that doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. When fit and firing, Martial is a game changer. He is fast, skillful, potent in front of goal and is a world-beater. If he stays at United, he will be a key component in the attacking third whether that be starting or coming off the bench for key minutes.
- Marcus Rashford: Another academy graduate that just keeps improving right before every United fans’ eyes. Skillful, technically gifted and very quick with or without the ball. Rashford has the potential to be the next big thing in English football. Rashford won’t be a consistent starter all season, but when he does play expect him to set the world alight and play a key role in United’s attack and show just why he is so talented.
United’s squad is basically the same team as last season with the additions of Dalot and Fred. That is to say they are still a quality team. They had their moments of brilliance, but also had their moments of disappointment that need to be fixed this upcoming season.
The team will be looking to improve on from their campaign from last season. They would love to go one step further and hoist the English Premier League for a record 21st time.
United have the potential and quality in the squad to lift the trophy come seasons end. However, they will need consistent performances over the course of the season. If not they will struggle to take it away from the likes of Manchester City (last seasons winner), Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea who have all made key signings to also heavily compete for the title yet again.
Predicted Finish: 3rd