How will Jose assess his striking options?
The doom and gloom scenario amongst the consensus of Manchester United’s support seems to be lifting after former Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho was swiftly appointed to take over from Louis van Gaal as Old Trafford’s new manager.
After two seasons of sub-standard, ineffective, possession-based football with only rare forays of attacking intent that the United faithful crave, van Gaal was given the boot in favour of his Portuguese counterpart, despite winning the FA Cup, as United look to bring the Premier League title back to the Theatre of Dreams.
Mourinho has already moved swiftly to strengthen his rear guard options with the acquisition of 22 year-old defender Eric Bailly from Villarreal. Veteran midfielder, Michael Carrick is also retained for another campaign, and it seems very likely that United will enter the transfer market to bolster further areas of the team as Mourinho will look to redress the recent imbalance against United’s title rivals.
United are currently 9/2 second favourites to return as being England’s best team at the end of the upcoming campaign, and Jose will be expecting a much better goal return ratio from his forward players than under van Gaal. In this article, we will look at United’s attackers in more depth as Mourinho is assessing some of his options at the ongoing European Championships.
One of the most intriguing issues that Mourinho will face in his early tenure is how he will decide to employ United and England captain, Wayne Rooney within the team dynamic. It is no secret that Rooney has lost a yard or two of pace in recent times, and has been deployed in a more reserved role in midfield for club and country in recent months. The 30 year-old returned his worst Premier League goal return last season since his move from Everton as a teenager with just eight top-flight goals, although his all-round game is still very effective, and it would be surprising to see Rooney being used as the focal point of United’s attack in Mourinho’s reign.
One of the highlights of United under LVG was the rise to prominence of youthful strikers, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. Martial was brought in on summer deadline day from Monaco for a huge transfer fee, but the 20 year-old striker has taken to the Premier League and his Old Trafford surroundings with consummate ease. Martial hit 17 goals in 49 total appearances for United in his debut season, and the pacey French forward will be hoping to kick on under his new manager next season.
Rashford’s meteoric climb up the United forwards’ pecking order has been nothing short of incredible. On Thursday 25th February 2016, Rashford made his first team debut – due to a warm-up injury to Martial as the 18 year-old took his opportunity with both hands by bagging two goals as United saw off Midtjylland in the Europa League. Another double on Premier League debut against Arsenal did little to stop the hysteria surrounding United’s new star. After scoring eight goals from 18 appearances, Rashford sneaked into Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad with another debut goal at International level. Mourinho is often portrayed as a manager who doesn’t give youth a chance, so it will be interesting to see if the teenager can maintain a starting role in the months ahead.
Memphis Depay endured a tough debut season at Old Trafford, but with a new manager, offers new opportunity and the Dutchman has the talent to succeed at Old Trafford if he can command a regular role under Mourinho. Depay lost form and confidence with van Gaal, although it remains to be seen if he has the necessary fight for the battle ahead. Rashford’s debut against Midtjylland might not have occurred had it not been for another injury to United reserve striker, Will Keane – who at that time - was next in line behind Martial. At 23, Keane’s days could be numbered though. Loanees, James Wilson and Ashley Fletcher return from Brighton and Barnsley respectively, and both will be hoping to make an impression on their new boss in pre-season.
United have some excellent options in attacking areas, but Mourinho is likely to bring in at least one new striker to add to the mix. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been heavily linked with the red half of Manchester in recent weeks, and that potential transfer could be a masterstroke with a highly experienced forward offering his vast experience to the younger generation. Whatever United and Mourinho decide to do regarding transfer plans, things have got far more interesting for the Old Trafford faithful in recent weeks.