Jose Mourinho enjoyed a relatively successful season during his first year in charge of Manchester United. Sure, the league finish wasn’t great but he won two trophies (not including the Community Shield, which let’s not kid ourselves isn’t a trophy), and also had a chance at winning the UEFA Super Cup.
Personally, I was happy with last season. Despite finishing sixth, a Europa League victory ensured Champions League qualification, which is where United should be. The European Super Cup was also a good test for the squad and Mourinho, and whilst I don’t expect United to win the competition, I think it’s important we at least make the quarter-finals.
However, what would make this season better? Would fans be happy with exactly the same outcome – an EFL Cup (now Carabao Cup) and Europa League double? I doubt it. In my opinion, a successful season would be to finish top three in the league and reaching the quarter finals in the Champions League. A cup win would be nice but even if there wasn’t any silverware, I think those two objectives would show real progress compared to how recent seasons have been since Sir Alex Ferguson left.
Obviously, after a terrific start, the hype train is well and truly out for United at the minute and every pundit and his dog seem to be pointing out that Mourinho always wins the title during his second season at a club. Whilst that is true, it isn’t a guarantee. What if United were to finish second or, even worse outside the top four? All good things come to an end, as they say.
However, Mourinho seems to have bought well in the transfer market. Romelu Lukaku is off to a flyer, with three goals in two games, and will score against the ‘lesser’ teams where United let themselves down last season. Nemanja Matic looks like a quality signing to unleash Paul Pogba further forward. Victor Lindelof will take some time to settle into the league but look how that worked out for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He has started the league brilliantly this season after a rough campaign last year and looks like he will be United’s magician for the foreseeable future.
It feels as though Mourinho is putting the final pieces into the puzzle to take this United team to the next level. The core group of players are still relatively young; Lukaku, Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly, and David De Gea, are all 26 and under, and if United can keep that group together, that will surely only lead to good things. Add to that some experience in Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata, and it’s a recipe for success (hopefully). If Zlatan Ibrahimovic resigns like he’s rumoured to do so, then that winner’s mentality could prove vital in the dressing room. No one will want to win another league title more than the Swede.
Mourinho can’t afford to suffer from ‘second season syndrome’ he needs to deliver this season. If United finished outside of the top four and trophy-less, then it wouldn’t look promising for Mourinho. Ideally, a league title and a Champions League quarter-final would be how United finish the season, but the Premier League is more competitive than ever. United have started strongly though, and need to keep up that momentum for as long as possible.