Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Manchester United manager in late May was viewed as a step in the right direction by the majority of the football community.
The Portuguese is expected to lead United, who have lost their way since the departure of iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson, back to winning ways.
While some continue to question his tactics, there is no denying Mourinho’s record in the Premier League and his ability to produce results.
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There is an ever-increasing amount of money in the English game, which allows even mid-table teams to compete for top quality players and managers.
This in turn leads to an overall increase in quality of football, and has caused great competition for places over the past few years.
None of the “top four” are now guaranteed those places, so expectations will be high of the former Chelsea boss.
These are five key issues he needs to focus on and find a definite answer to as early as possible to meet those expectations.
Wayne Rooney - Striker or Midfielder?
Considered by most to be in the twilight of his illustrious career, there are those who consider that the best days of the United and England skipper are now behind him.
Still, there is no denying the quality he possesses, and he will no doubt be an integral player for Mourinho at United. Since he is not as quick as he once was, and is not scoring as freely as he used to, recent years have seen him shift from his original position as a striker, to a deeper number 10 role.
However, his tenacity, desire and seemingly limitless stamina, coupled with his phenomenal passing vision and accurate long range shooting, has seen him slot seamlessly into midfield.
Mourinho will definitely have to weigh up the evidence and decide where to deploy his most experienced player in order to get the best out of him.
Marouane Fellaini: No.10 or Deep-Lying Midfielder?
The powerful Belgian has struggled to recreate the form that prompted his former boss at Everton, David Moyes, to bring him to United.
Immensely strong in the air, Fellaini provides a sizeable target for any teammate looking to cross the ball into the area, and is an undeniable goal threat.
Similarly, he can also be utilised as a deep-lying midfielder, making late runs into the opposition box while protecting his own goal from any aerial threat.
While he was used to great effect in his former role at Everton, his national boss claims the latter is his most suitable position.
Either way, it will be the job of the new United boss to figure out how to make the most of him, because his past performances indicate that when used in the right areas, Fellaini can make sizeable contributions to the team.
The Spaniard has played under Mourinho at Chelsea, where he thrived in the number 10 role.
However, he fell out of favour with the Portuguese and left London for Manchester in January 2014. He has upheld his reputation as a clever, classy, and elegant player, but has not yet reached the heights he did at Chelsea. This has been attributed to lack of game time, as well as being played out of position during his time at United.
Mata is most effective when playing as an attacking midfielder, just behind the striker. This is where he creates most chances for the strikers with his clever and incisive through balls.
However, he has been mostly played out wide since joining United, which has limited the effect he has on games.
Mourinho will have to decide whether he wants to try again with Mata, or whether he wants to move him on just like he did at Stamford Bridge.
It is a common adage in football: ‘Strikers will win you matches, but the defence will win you titles’.
A settled and solid defence is a key part of any title winning side, something Manchester United have prided themselves on. Some of the most iconic defences over the years have been the base of their multiple title wins.
Recently, however, many teams have taken advantage of the fact that their defence is now not as good as it once was. Multiple injuries in the area have not helped their cause, with the last couple of seasons seeing an incredible number of different defensive combinations fielded by United.
The conversion of tricky and fast wingers, such as Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, to full-backs out of necessity shows the state of United’s back line at times.
However, a few positives have also come from this.
David de Gea has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, and the world.
Chris Smalling displayed calmness, leadership, and maturity last season, which was his best season yet, as he formed a solid partnership with the versatile Daley Blind.
The return to fitness of Luke Shaw and the addition of Eric Bailly will only help United in the coming season, but defence is an area that Mourinho will have to look at seriously if United are to return to past ways.
The performance of United’s young players last season was one of the few bright sparks in a campaign that otherwise failed to live up to expectations.
An unprecedented number of academy graduates were given their professional debuts, with some of them becoming instant stars. No more so than Marcus Rashford, whose goal scoring exploits landed him a place in the England team for the Euros.
FA Cup hero Jesse Lingard and the world’s most expensive teenager Anthony Martial also turned in consistent performances throughout the season, which showed maturity beyond their years.
Players like Andreas Pereira, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, and Tim Fosu-Mensah also assured United fans of an exciting footballing future.
Mourinho will have to decide whether to be very active in the transfer market, bringing in established first team players, or to put his faith in the youth, which has certainly proved their worth in the recent season.
He might draw on the incredible success of the ‘Class of ‘92’, when United gave a number of academy graduates a chance and went from strength to strength, culminating in the historic treble in 1999.
What does Jose Mourinho need to do at Manchester United this summer? Let us know YOUR thoughts in the comment section below!
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