It was only the first week but Manchester United ended it top of the Premier League table. They’ve scored more goals than anyone else, are yet to concede one and have played some scintillating football. United have been so impressive that they’ve been made favourites for the Premier League title in certain quarters.
Jose Mourinho is not one to make such a bold prediction. He is adamant that his United team should not be considered favourites for the title or hailed for their brilliance, despite the rampant nature of their 4-0 win over West Ham on Sunday.
“I’m too stable and too experienced to lose my discipline, to lose my stability and to think that a 4-0 result makes us the best team in the country, the favourites or the dream team.”
While United fans are getting carried away with the idea of winning the title for the first time in five years, Mourinho remains as pragmatic as ever. Diligent in his work, the United manager is pleased with his side’s evolution during his short time in charge. Despite trying to keep his feet on the ground and temper expectations, Mourinho’s comments indicate an additional element of excitement following such an emphatic win on the opening day.
“We’re not the favourites, we’re not the dream team, we’re just a team with more confidence than last season, with more time to work, more happiness and more relaxed. I’m calm. When I look to the last match I liked many, many things but the challenge is not to repeat the result because 4-0 in the Premier League is not easy but to repeat the same kind of performance.
“Good tactical discipline in the team, a really good clean sheet, good football, good dynamics in attack. We try to score more goals and try to play well. I liked it a lot. I also like the three subs, who normally are disappointed people to be on the bench, but even for five minutes like Jesse [Lingard], 10 like Anthony [Martial] or 15 like [Marouane] Fellaini, they came and performed at the same level.”
Press conferences can so often be full of bluff and bluster that it can be difficult to get a true read on how a manager is feeling. Watching Mourinho as he delivered his verdict on their start to the season though, it is abundantly clear that he is calm and that he does believe in this group of players. He was complimentary of their work and confident that they are on the right path, but there was a stark warning to his squad as well. Last season started impressively too, don’t forget.
“And when I look to the stands at the players that I didn’t select I am happy. It is just the beginning. Last season from the first three matches we had nine points and finished sixth so I’m not going to lose stability after a good first day and will not let the players think differently to me.”
There are many differences of course between Manchester United last season and Manchester United this season. Notably, the balance of the squad has improved, allowing Mourinho a few more options as the games start to come thick and fast. United have a clean bill of health ahead of this weekend’s match against Swansea City, although Luke Shaw and Ashley Young will feature for the Under-23’s on Monday night as they continue to recover from injury.
The return of Luke Shaw, a player who has suffered such terrible luck with injuries, might provide the final piece of the puzzle. Shaw is closing in on a first team comeback after recovering from the ankle ligament injury he sustained against Bournemouth back in March. Three weeks after that incident Mourinho referred to Shaw in glowing terms, suggesting his team would greatly benefit from the left back’s inclusion.
“Because of his age, physicality, intensity, aggression and ability going forward, he can be the best.
“But to be the best, you need to work hard and that’s what he’s trying to do.”
Mourinho’s right. Manchester United cannot be the favourites for the title or the best team in England after just one match. They can – and will – be rightfully praised for their performance against West Ham and will go into the rest of the season full of confidence. With Lukaku scoring goals, Matic looking imperious in midfield, Paul Pogba free to do everything that Paul Pogba does and players like Luke Shaw ready to come in and make a big impact, things are looking good at Manchester United.
Perhaps it is ok to get a little carried away?