By John Ryan
- Manchester United host West Ham United in season opener
- Lindelof, Matic and Lukaku set for Old Trafford debuts
Three words that sounded the death knell to Manchester United’s Champions aspirations in 1992 and 1995. A team who even when there is nothing to play for will raise their game tenfold against the most successful club in England.
Is it still the bitterness over the Paul Ince transfer in 1989?
Is it that West Ham want to be as big as Manchester United?
Or is it simply about a way of life where they feel Eastenders is better than Coronation Street? One thing is for sure, they will compete.
Jose Mourinho did a fine balancing act last season between winning his way and the Manchester United way.
The season ahead allows him to do what Manchester United have been superb at for a quarter of a century; going for the domestic championship.
United arguably now have a squad capable of challenging.
Of course this is a game of opinions and there was none more startling than former Irish International Kenny Cunningham asserting on Irish TV earlier this week that Mourinho should sell Ander Herrera and buy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Manchester United’s squad has been very expensive to assemble and for many of the new age fans ‘minor’ trophies such as the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League are not enough to satisfy the cravings for success.
Thankfully, those of us who can remember the 1980’s and the prospect of our season being over the first week in January. Realise the steps forward that have been taken.
New Signings Set For Old Trafford Debuts
Mourinho is primed to pick his strongest XI for this game. New signings Lindelof, Matic and Lukaku should all start and add steel to a team that has lacked that in recent clashes against the Hammers.
With the De Gea to Madrid rumours quietened for now United can start the season with the world’s best keeper in goal.
The Manager could potentially bring in two full backs to improve his back four, but his front six promises to be one that brings pace and power to games. The question will be their finishing.
Marcus Rashford showed against Real Madrid in the European Super Cup that he needs more time to become the finished article.
A one on one with his team a goal down should have seen the ball in the net ruthlessly. Instead, he flashed his shot wide. With Anthony Martial, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard United have plenty of attacking options for this game and the season ahead.
In midfield Nemanja Matic is exactly the sort of player who wins Jose Mourinho titles. If Matic and Herrera protect the back four and allow Pogba to attack the West Ham rearguard then we are in for a treat on Sunday.
Chicharito Set For Old Trafford Return
West Ham have a number of injuries heading into this game. Lanzini, Cresswell, Feghouli, Kouyate, Sakho, Carroll and Antonio are all sidelined with various knocks.
Their 2-1 win over Manchester United in May 2015 saw them leave their Upton Park home in style, but since then life at the London Stadium has been difficult.
West Ham have taken a gamble on signing former Manchester City players Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta while former Old Trafford hero Javier Hernandez adds to the intrigue of this clash.
In Mark Noble they have an honest grafter who is blessed with a decent amount of skill. The type that every club needs. Manager Slaven Bilic has assembled a useful squad. And after re-adjusting their new home West Ham are in good position to have a very healthy season.
Need To Start Season On Front Foot
After Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ season fourteen years ago followed by Jose Mourinho’s record breaking entrance to English football,
Manchester United as a club realised that they had to start the season well. There was no room for points dropped in the season. Now more than ever United need to get out of the traps, accelerate and set the pace.
When the Champions League kicks off The Manager will have to delicately balance who plays and when.
For now the strongest team possible will need to take the field on Sunday. Sending out a message to the Premier League that Manchester United are title contenders.
Sixth is not a place Jose Mourinho, Manchester United or the fans want to be. First place is the standard that has been set.