Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager of Manchester United, four seasons have passed with three different managers. This has led to a great deal of squad turnover, and in the aftermath, there are only six players who remain from Sir Alex’s last season in charge of United. This article will rank these players in the order of the impact they could still have on United’s second season under Jose Mourinho, taking into account their performances in Mourinho’s last season and this years pre-season. Ranked in this list are players who saw somewhat consistent playing time in Sir Alex’s final season in charge of United.
1: David De Gea
The player who tops the list is one of the few players in United’s current squad who is undeniably one of the best in the world. There are many reasons for De Gea to top this list. De Gea was not called into action as much last year as in recent years, however, when needed he is capable of winning games for United. This is difficult for a goalkeeper to do, and De Gea is one of the few in the world who can pull this off with spectacular saves and consistent shot stopping in goal. De Gea right now is in the prime of his career and is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, and if United challenge for the title this season having a goalkeeper of De Gea’s quality will go a long way to putting them a step up on their fellow title challengers.
2: Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia is a player on this list who has a shout at topping the list. Valencia was one of United’s most consistent players this past season playing at right back. He put in consistent performances where he was both defensively solid and a threat going forward. There could be a case made that he was the best right back in the Premier League this past season. This season, Valencia will again be a key player for Mourinho. He is far and away United’s best option at right back and will look to continue his brilliant form while Timothy Fosu-Mensah spends time at Crystal Palace developing into a potential replacement for Valencia as he grows older.
3: Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick is a player whose role will continue to diminish at United. With the signing of Nemanja Matic, he will struggle to make consistent appearances in the midfield. However, last season United saw some of their best runs of form in the league come with Carrick in the midfield. Whenever he was called upon last year, he stepped in with consistently solid performances. He is still a class midfielder, and at 36 he will still look to make an impact for United this season. Along with being a dressing room leader for United, Carrick brings calmness and control to United’s game, which will be extremely useful for Mourinho’s side this year.
4: Phil Jones
At the end of last season, Phil Jones would’ve seen himself further down on this list. However, after his preseason performances and his brilliant opening weekend performance against West Ham, he moves up to fourth. Jones showed this weekend that if he can stay healthy, he has the capability to keep Victor Lindelof out of the starting lineup and be a rock at the heart of United’s defense. Last season, he formed a brilliant partnership with Marcos Rojo before both fell victim to injuries. This year, he will look to form a consistent partnership with Eric Bailly early in the season, and then stay healthy this time and show he is capable of being a class center back consistently.
5: Ashley Young
Ashley Young is a player from Sir Alex who has been consistently scrutinized over the years. He is no longer a pacy winger with a rocket shot who can terrorize the defense of opponents. He is however, a disciplined player who will always do a job when called upon. Young saw playing time on the wings under Louis Van Gaal, but also at fullback and wing back. This continued under Mourinho, with Young being used as an option at fullback fairly frequently. Being able to play left back, right back, or on the wings gives Young good value as a squad player. With United looking to go far in both domestic and European competitions this year, the games will start to rack up, and Young will be important for this team when he comes back from injury.
6: Chris Smalling
Unfortunately, Chris Smalling finds himself as the last player on this list. It seems harsh on Smalling, considering he was one of the best players for United under Louis van Gaal and saw consistent time at the heart of Mourinho’s defense. However, Smalling’s career seems to have taken a sharp downward trend. On opening weekend of the Premier League, it was Phil Jones and Eric Bailly who started at the center of United’s defense. Victor Lindelof is another center back who is sure to see playing time after coming in from Benfica this transfer window. That puts Smalling as United’s fourth choice center back. He also has to contend with Daley Blind, who started the Europa League final, and Marcos Rojo when he comes back from injury. This could mean Smalling sees a significant cut in playing time, which is why he ranks last on this list.