After three weeks of blitz with the first international break, things seem to have slowed down a little; but only to get rough again. Manchester United have got off to a rollicking start to this season’s Premier League campaign. But things are going to get tricky once they return from the international break. With seven games to play in 22 days, United will be, for the first time this season, forced to test their bench strength.
United have enjoyed a rather smooth start to the campaign and hence have not indulged in too much of tinkering with the starting XI. In fact, the inclusion of Anthony Martial in the last game was the only change that Jose Mourinho made to his starting XI in the first three games of the season. This will certainly change in the next few weeks. A few of the United players are on their international duties but Mourinho, who appeared as a substitute goalkeeper for a charity game, will have had enough quiet time in his office to strategize and have preliminary rotation plan ready. Well, we might not know if Mourinho is ready but Juan Mata certainly hopes to prove that this team is ready for the incoming onslaught. In his weekly blogs, Mata looks ahead on the upcoming games and challenges.
“We’ve had a very good start in the Premier League and the challenge now is not only to keep the same level, but to do the same in the rest of the competitions as well: Champions League, Carabao Cup… It’s a football marathon and we can prove that we have a squad full of good players who are willing to put their skills at the service of the team.”
With the likes of Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick amongst several others relatively unused, the squad looks a little better equipped for the “tough times” than last season. But it could have been even better if Andreas Pereira would have decided to stick around. If the decision of going on loan is right or wrong, only time will tell but he surely would have had an important role to play this season; not a regular starter but a decently utilized squad player. Mata also wished him good luck while also confirmed that United’s window was closed when Zlatan Ibrahimovic re-signed for the club.
“As you know, there have been many rumours about signings here and there before the end of the transfer market. In our case, these days have been relatively quiet, since the squad was closed with Zlatan’s return. I’d like to wish the best of luck to Andreas Pereira in Valencia, he’s a great player and I hope he has a good season and the fans can enjoy it.”
United were in pursuit of one thing for the majority of the last season, getting back in to the Champions League. One could very easily see what it meant to each and every player of that team, including the manager and his staff to win the Europa League. Winning the trophy was special but what made it even more special was the fact that it got United to the Champions League. Teams like United are meant to compete with the very best of Europe and Champions League gives players the opportunity to face that challenge. It is very obvious that it means as much to the players as it is to the fans. Mata, too, looks very excited for the Champions League nights at Old Trafford.
“The Premier League is back this week and we’re going to focus on our visit to Stoke City, always a difficult game. After that we will start thinking about the Champions League nights, which are back at Old Trafford, finally.”
With Stoke City next and Champions League and Cup competitions coming up, there are no easy games. With Manchester City hosting Liverpool this weekend, it is important for United to build on their good start and increase the point difference. Every game from here on should be treated as a must win and the team depth will come in handy. Mourinho knows what is in front of him, hopefully, he will be able to tackle it with his experience and tactical mindset. Every Mourinho team that has won the Premier League got off to a great start and kept building on the momentum. United have done the first part, can they do the other half; let’s hope so. So far so good!