Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho won three trophies in his debut season at Old Trafford but he wants nothing less than to claim the Premier League title in his second. We may only be two games into the new campaign but here are five reasons why United’s title rivals should look away now…
1. Jose Mourinho’s title winning teams are quick out of the blocks
This is Manchester United’s best start to a season since 1907. The bad news for the rest of the Premier League is that Mourinho’s title winning teams always start well and never look back.
In his first season at Chelsea in 2004/5, his side started with four straight wins and didn’t lose a game until mid-October. The following year they racked up nine consecutive wins. Then, in 2014/15, the Blues began with five back-to-back victories and didn’t taste defeat until a trip to Newcastle in December. In each of those seasons, they built up such a strong early lead that the title race turned into a procession.
2. Romelu Lukaku is netting goals for fun
When Mourinho signed Didier Drogba at Chelsea in 2004 and Diego Costa in 2014, their impact was immediate. Drogba scored five goals in his opening nine games and weighed in with his fair share of assists; Diego Costa netted seven times in his first four Premier League outings.
This time around Romelu Lukaku has scored three in two (four in three if you include the UEFA Super Cup) since his arrival at Manchester United in the summer. Mourinho’s most successful English teams have been built around a centre-forward with a strong physical presence who can bully defenders and the bruising Belgian ticks all of the boxes.
3. United had a ‘wonderful’ pre-season experience in Los Angeles
Speaking after United’s 4-0 win over Swansea earlier this month, Mourinho claimed the team’s productive pre-season spell will give his side an important advantage this term. And he might be right. He said: “We had a good pre-season. We work well and we are ready to play in different systems. We had a wonderful Los Angeles period.”
Compare this to Chelsea’s 2015 campaign, where they experienced a truly abysmal pre-season which ultimately set the tone for the remainder of Mourinho’s tenure at Stamford Bridge. He gave the players an extra week off before they returned to training in July and ultimately he paid the price. Chelsea looked off the pace throughout their US tour and were jet-lagged when they returned just four days before losing to Arsenal in the Community Shield. The die was cast in that opening day 2-2 draw at home to Swansea.
4. Paul Pogba has finally arrived
When Paul Pogba signed for Manchester United in August last year he was thrust into the first team without even so much as a proper pre-season. Plus, he had come in off the back of a long and gruelling 2015/16 campaign which didn’t finish until the European Championship Final on July 10.
This was coupled with the fact that Mourinho struggled with how to get the best out of his world-record signing. Pogba, who has scored in both of United’s Premier League games so far this season, is no longer burdened with the £89m price tag and has been given more license to roam into advanced positions – all of which suggests we will see Pogba truly hit his stride in this campaign.
5. Nemanja Matic joining Manchester United was a Mourinho ‘masterstroke’
Currently, this ranks as the strangest deal of the summer. On the one hand, Nemanja Matic is 29 years old, so the argument goes that £40m was over the odds for a player with little sell-on value. But the biggest clubs don’t spend money because of what a player might be worth two or three years down the line.
They spend to improve the team, win trophies and reap the commercial benefits that come with success. If you need proof look no further than Robin van Persie, who was also 29 years old when he moved to Old Trafford from Arsenal in 2012 for £24m. He scored 26 league goals as United went on to win the title that season. The ends justified the means.