Jose Mourinho has been clear about his intentions in each transfer window since being appointed Manchester United manager last May. His first summer saw four ‘specialist’ arrivals assigned to four key positions – a centre back, a central midfielder, an attacking midfielder and an out-and-out striker – and Ed Woodward seems to have been given similar orders this time round.
Do Manchester United Actually NEED to Sign a New Midfielder?
Despite the completion of deals for Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku in time for the club’s first pre-season friendly against LA Galaxy, Mourinho’s disgruntlement at the lack of further signings has been evident in press conferences.
When asked by journalists, the Portuguese manager remained tight-lipped on any potential targets and was seemingly resigned to making ‘maybe only one’ more signing in such a ‘crazy’ market. He did however state his want for at least two new players to add to his squad ahead of the new season.
While it may be nearly impossible to guess the exact personnel targeted by Mourinho, it is widely assumed that a defensive midfielder and a winger have been prioritised.
Nemanja Matic and Eric Dier have both been heavily touted to possibly be the one to add depth to an already stacked Manchester United midfield.
In their two opening pre-season games, against LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, Mourinho managed to field four separate and different midfield trios across the four halves, and opted for a two man pairing of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera for the majority of the derby victory over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in Houston.
Although of questionable quality to some critics, there is certainly an apparent depth that can be exploited across all fronts next season.
Without any arrivals, Mourinho’s first choice midfield would be expected to be of Paul Pogba alongside Ander Herrera with newly-appointed captain Michael Carrick sitting in behind, should a 433 system be utilised.
And while the 433 may be used against bigger teams where control of the midfield is vital, a 4231 seems to be the most sensible formation in killing off the smaller teams, of which was a struggle for Mourinho and his men last season.
Such a formation would also allow for soon-to-be 36 year old Carrick with much needed rest and rotation. And yes, a need for his replacement is undeniable, but for this season at least, the former West Ham and Tottenham midfielder should be able to provide the defensive knowhow and passing range that is almost irreplaceable.
With regards to depth, Maraouane Fellaini seems to has salvaged his career at Old Trafford, becoming more reliable under Mourinho, while Andreas Pereira has returned from his loan at Granada and has been given an ‘improved’ squad number of 15, signalling the intention at the club is to keep him in the first team from the upcoming season.
Both have impressed so far in pre-season, with Fellaini scoring in the opener, and Pereira providing comfortable displays as a holding midfielder.
Scott McTominay has also been used on the tour after making his debut in a two-nil defeat away at Arsenal towards the end of the last campaign, and although his physical presence is already of a suitable standard for the league, his mentality and supposed lack of composure calls for a slow introduction to the first team.
Even natural defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe are capable of performing in a midfield role. However, Mourinho’s preference of having players that are specialists in their respective roles may play against such possibilities.
There is no question of depth, but of Mourinho trusting his players, rather than whether his options are of sufficient quality.
So would the likes of Matic and Dier really be needed and pivotal to Manchester United and their season?