It means expectations are mixed ahead of the new Premier League campaign. It would be inexcusable not to mount a serious title challenge, yet supporters can’t help be alarmed by developments. However, there are plenty positives for Mourinho to take ahead of the new season following a sometimes testing pre-season trip to the US. Pereira performs Andreas Pereira has had to stake his claim the hard way after risking a loan-move to Valencia last season against Mourinho’s judgment – but he looks revitalised and full of desire this summer.
He has excelled in the No.6 position on the tour of the US and though Nemanja Matic is still the main man, the young Brazilian has shown he is ready to step up. If Paul Pogba maintains his World Cup form and Fred can hit the ground running, United’s midfield department will look pretty healthy. And Pereira might have played his way into Mourinho’s line-up plans, certainly for the opening game against Leicester. Sanchez sharp United fans are yet to see the best of Alexis Sanchez, but he looks like he could be ready to lift off. This is the first summer in nine years in which the 29-year-old has not had to juggle international commitments with resting his body for the new campaign. An extended break has helped him to get back up to sharpness and his performances in a front-two alongside Juan Mata certainly bode well in terms of a potential back-up plan – and given Mourinho something to think about. His contribution to the team could sky-rocket once the World Cup stars have found their feet and the scene is set for the Chilean to prove his doubters wrong next season.
Giving youth a chance The lack of senior stars during pre-season has had both positive and negative effects for United this summer. Results have been below par and first-team players who have played have been required to do so in an unsettled team which lacked consistency. However, those negatives need to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially when the positive development of the likes of Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Demetri Mitchell are considered. Eyebrows were raised when so many academy stars boarded the initial flight to the US but they have soundly expressed their qualities. Expectations need to be contained for the next crop of hopefuls, but there is certainly quality knocking on the door of the first-team eagerly anticipating its opportunity. Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Joshua Bohui in action during a first team training session at UCLA.
Take nothing for Granted David de Gea’s presence will again be vital for United this season and with Sergio Romero in reserve United are blessed with strength in depth. However, if injury were to strike either or both them, new signing Lee Grant has shown on the tour that he has not been signed just to keep the other two company. At 35, he is back-up to the back-up, but in the US he proved himself capable of contributing to first-team duties. His experience adds value to the dressing room environment and he has already proven himself to be a popular addition among teammates.
Squad bonding Mourinho has helped give the impression of a tense mood within the United camp. The United manager has had to cope without his World Cup stars and is clearly frustrated with the club’s failure to get a fourth signing over the line. However, it is clear to see the players have enjoyed themselves. The young players have integrated into the squad well, with their initiation singing entertaining first-team stars and staff. Social media has once again provided a behind-the-scenes look at the stay in America and supporters should be encouraged by the way in which new signings Grant, Diogo Dalot and Fred have all settled in. And a number of players have been at pains to get the message out that the mood is positive within the group.