Jose Mourinho and Man United head into season with more questions than answers

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Mourinho is facing an uncertain season at United.

Jose Mourinho starts his third season at Manchester United with more questions than answers about his Old Trafford residency.

The Portuguese has, on the face of it, made decent progress following Louis van Gaal’s yawn-inducing two-year tenure.
Mourinho took over after United had failed to make the Champions League and managed just 49 goals in the entirety of the 2015-16 Premier League campaign – their lowest tally since 1990.
Last season they were sitting at Europe’s top table again, finished second in the Premier League and were FA Cup finalists.
It was United’s best league finish since Sir Alex Ferguson, in his final campaign of 2012-13, delivered a record 20th domestic title for the club.
United, however, were a whopping 19 points and 38 goals short of champions Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s close geographical proximity to Old Trafford added insult to injury.
Tottenham and Liverpool were also easier on the eye as Mourinho’s functional football flopped in the Premier League’s beauty stakes.
As some sections of the support grew dissatisfied at Mourinho’s safety-first tactics, United were either impressively efficient or annoyingly hopeless.
United beat every one of the other 19 Premier League teams – including a remarkable 3-2 comeback win at City after being 2-0 down at half-time – but also lost to the promoted trio of Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle.
Meek surrender to Sevilla in the last 16 of the Champions League and to Chelsea in the FA Cup final provided further evidence that Mourinho remains some way from repeating previous glories.
So what to expect of United in 2018-19? Well, probably much of the same.
The determination – and eventual success – in tying down Marouane Fellaini to a new two-year contract indicates Mourinho will never forsake his football principles, even if many fans would have been content to see the big Belgian depart to signal a return to United’s traditional free-flowing style of play.
Speculation persists over the futures of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, the former now a World Cup winner after playing a pivotal role in France’s summer success.
The pair have cost United north of £140million, but both have had strained relationships with Mourinho after failing to produce what he wants from them.
There has been no stellar signing and United’s long flirtation with Gareth Bale could be over for good now that Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure from Real Madrid might finally allow the Wales forward to become the main man at the Bernabeu.
It is a moot point whether this transfer window so far has improved United for the challenge ahead.
Defensive midfielder Fred arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk for a £50million-plus fee but did not play a single second of Brazil’s World Cup campaign.
Fred is United's only notable signing of the summer so far.

Fred is United’s only notable signing of the summer so far.

Teenage full-back Diogo Dalot, signed from Porto from £19million, and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant – a £1.5million purchase from Stoke – are the only other summer recruits to date.
It is hoped that Alexis Sanchez, so disappointing after joining from Arsenal in January, will finally get his United career off the ground after a rare summer of rest from international duty.
But creativity – or rather the lack of it – remains a concern, and a suspect central defence which has far too often relied on the brilliance of goalkeeper David de Gea has yet to be strengthened.
Closing the gap on City looks a tall order and might depend on Guardiola’s squad suffering a reaction to last season’s efforts and coming back to the pack.
If United do not manage it, Mourinho can expect even more questions to come his way. 

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Antonio Valencia to be Man United captain, Jose Mourinho confirms

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has signalled that Antonio Valencia is set to be club captain for the new season.

The responsibility was held by Michael Carrick, who retired from playing at the end of last term and joined United’s coaching team.

Carrick made only five appearances in 2017-18 and Valencia wore the captain’s armband on numerous occasions.

The 32-year-old full-back skippered the team in the 1-1 friendly draw with Club America in Arizona.

Mourinho said afterwards: “The captain was Valencia last season. I think he is going to be the captain.

“And when he doesn’t play, we have to make decisions – it depends who is on the pitch. If (Chris) Smalling is, or if Ashley Young is, or if (Ander) Herrera is, or if (Juan) Mata is, if they are on the pitch, they are an option.

“I think a guy like (Nemanja) Matic has all the attributes to be Manchester United captain but of course he arrived only one year ago.

“But for me, I don’t care too much about the captaincy, I care more about the life in the dressing room and the leaders in the dressing room.”

Mourinho said he will “probably not” have Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford available for the start of the Premier League season.

The pair, who got to the semi-finals of the World Cup with Belgium and England respectively, are not on United’s pre-season tour as they take a post-tournament break.

Alexis Sanchez 543

Fellow forward Alexis Sanchez has been given the green light to join up with the squad in the United States.

Sanchez had initially been left in Manchester due to what the club said was a “personal administrative issue” – widely assumed to be a problem with his visa after he accepted a 16-month suspended prison sentence in Spain earlier this year over a tax issue.

Mourinho said in a press conference shown on Sky Sports News: “Today it was (Anthony) Martial. When Martial left the pitch, it was Mata (leading the attack). When Mata went to the sides, it was a kid that trained with us for the first time this pre-season (Mason Greenwood).

“There’s no Lukaku or Rashford – not here, and probably not even for the start of the Premier League.

“So it’s about when Alexis lands, and when he lands he has to play because he trained with us for five days before we departed to Los Angeles (on Sunday) and we left one fitness coach behind with him to keep training with him.

“Of course, it’s individual training but when he arrives, he has to play.”

Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Phil Jones were other United players involved in the World Cup’s last four.

United’s next match of the tour is against San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday in California.

Their opening Premier League fixture is on August 10 against Leicester at home.

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Jose Mourinho has plans for Tahith Chong after teenager impresses on Manchester United debut

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Tahith Chong looks to spark a Man United attack during their opening pre-season game.

Jose Mourinho doesn’t believe Tahith Chong belongs in the Manchester United first team yet, but has plans for the teenager to train more with the senior side in the hope of “increasing his evolution”.

Mourinho feels Chong, 18, is good enough “technically and tactically” to play for United but is not yet there physically as he heaped praise on the Dutch winger following his involvement in the equaliser as the Red Devils came from behind to draw 1-1 with Club America in Phoenix in their opening pre-season game on Thursday.

The Portuguese is without a host of his World Cup players in the United States as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young enjoy a break after their extended exploits in Russia, with David De Gea, Nemanja Matic, new signing Fred and Alexis Sanchez set to join the squad in the next few days.

“I have plans to make him train the most possible times with us, because that increases his evolution,” Mourinho said of Chong.

“But he has to play where he belongs, he has to play in the academy and develop physically, because physically is where he’s not ready.

“Technically, he’s very good, tactically he understands the game and he understands his position, but by the physical point of view, when the game gets into contact situations, he’s in trouble, he’s fragile, he’s still a kid.

“But the talent is there, the personality is there, the passion to play, the humility to learn, so this is a fantastic experience for him. It depends on some cup matches. He’s one of the good kids we have, but it’s not for today but for the tomorrow – he’s a good kid.”

United start their Premier League campaign against Leicester on August 10.

Chong joined the Premier League side from Feyenoord in 2016 and has been part of the Under-18 side since.

Jose Mourinho was impressed by Dutch teenager Tahith Chong.

Jose Mourinho was impressed by Dutch teenager Tahith Chong.

He recently overcame a cruciate ligament injury and is continuing to impress. He replaced Anthony Martial after an hour in front of a sparse crowd of 37,660 that was markedly below the University of Phoenix Stadium’s 63,400 capacity.

Chong’s debut for the first-team was followed by Mason Greenwood – two years his junior – when he came on for the impressive Luke Shaw with 14 minutes remaining.

Chong played his part in Juan Mata’s equaliser 12 minutes from time when he fired in a cross which Ander Herrera headed against the right post and Mata scrambled home.

Although Mourinho sees physical limitations in the youngster, who was young player of the year at United last season, the manager praised him for his confidence.

Mourinho added: “He was good. He came with the intention to show, and in a moment where we have no strikers on the pitch, Martial was the only one and then he left, so we needed people to create, have some initiative, which he did.

“The action for the cross for the goal is a beautiful action. He was enthusiastic, he was confident to play.

“Of course physically he has his limitations, and when he has one more touch and he allows that body contact of course he loses it, but when he makes the ball move and attacks people one against one, he has quality.”

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