The new season is just hours away. Who will be Manchester United’s most important player? Who will be the most improved? How successful will the team be? Well, those questions are boring. We’ve got our own, alternative predictions. Check them out, and give us your thoughts in the comments below.
Player most likely to be targeted by Mourinho for humiliation
JS: It has to be Luke Shaw, doesn’t it? Mourinho’s already taken a few swipes, and unless Shaw manages to recover something like his best form after a disappointing couple of seasons, he could be on the receiving end of some more public mortification.
AT: This is the season in which Mourinho’s barely-stifled loathing of Juan Mata comes sizzling back to the surface. Is it because he’s short? Yes. Is it because he’s nice, and niceness is a sign of inherent weakness? Also yes.
BM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has to be a dark horse candidate for facing the wrath of Mou. The signs are all there. Mourinho already benched him for two months for having one bad half, and even though he played him regularly after that, he still had time to criticize him for only turning up for the Europa League. Mkhitaryan is far less effective out wide in a 4-3-3, and Mourinho’s patience is going to run out. He’ll be training with the reserves by Christmas.
Player most likely to replace Wayne Rooney as scapegoat
JS: Mourinho’s propensity for playing Jesse Lingard in the big games may result in the Warrington Dabber falling foul of sections of the United support — he’s already come in for some heavy criticism in the wake of the Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid. However, we’re issuing an official Busby Babe warning: anyone who picks on him, prepare for a fight.
AT: Along the same lines as Lingard, I’m going for Marouane Fellaini. Both players work hard and do what their manager tells them, which ensures them their places in the squad.
But both have two things going against them that add up to scapegoatishness. First, they’re probably not quite good enough for a proper, fully-powered Manchester United team competing for everything. (Which the team isn’t, at the moment.)
Secondly, and far importantly, they don’t satisfy the idea of what a Manchester United player should be: some giddy cocktail of flinty hardness, thrilling ambition, unorthodox defiance, and vivacious sexiness. They’re a bit awkward, and occasionally a bit rubbish, and their very presence on the pitch acts as a reminder that United aren’t United at the moment. And that grates.
But unlike Lingard, Fellaini’s definitely going to elbow somebody in the head at exactly the wrong moment, and cost United a game.
BM: Victor Lindelöf. We’re just weeks away from making the transition from “He just turned 23, and he’s playing for a new team in a new league” to “Just a shitter Chris Smalling.”
Month during which defensive injury crisis will result in Carrick playing in a back 3
AT: January. It’s going to be a hard Christmas.
BM: February. Champions League Round of 16. Away at the Bernabéu.
Month in which the title dream reaches a calamitous halt
AT: April is the cruelest month, playing City away — the dead land — mixing with Pulis and Howe, stirring Arsenal with spring rain.
BM: Seven league games in December, including City and Arsenal. Prime muscular-injuries-to-key-players-lead-to-costly-dropped-points territory.