You could be forgiven for thinking the Premier League race is over already the way some pundits are falling over themselves to lavish praise on Pep Guardiola. The received wisdom suggests that Pep’s lot have already sewn up the title and Liverpool are even talked of as being their sole challengers.
All of that might not be a bad thing for United fans. Let them all have their moment in the sun and build themselves up for a fall. In fact, there’s every reason to think that we can actually leave a few eggs on faces this season and mount a challenge after all.
Don’t believe us? Here are seven reasons to suggest that the title could be coming home to Old Trafford. If we’re right, the current odds quoted by mainstream bookmakers such as Betway – the longest for United to win a title since 1991 – could well look like a bargain come May.
Sanchez on song
Much has been made of the Red Devils’ apparent failure in the transfer market – and this has contributed to the tendency to write off the chances of a title win. However, it’s important not to forget about the potential impact of Alexis Sanchez.
Mourinho spoke a lot last season about the fact that the ex Arsenal man will properly shine in a United shirt this year, after making the switch in the January transfer window.
The 29-year-old Chilean is fresh and raring to go after his nation failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia and has looked sharp in pre-season. There are certainly promising signs that he could return to the form that saw him net 30 goals for the Gunners in 2016/17 and be a real matchwinner for Mourinho.
Mourinho is a winner
There’s a constant whirlwind of media attention surrounding Jose Mourinho – and the press love to feed off him for stories. Their latest fascination is his relationship with Paul Pogba and whether or not they are at loggerheads.
It’s a great story to fill a few red top back pages and attract a few clicks and shares online, but amid the drama people often forget just how good a manager the Portuguese boss is. With eight league titles in a glittering career, Mourinho will be hungry to add to that total and prove a point to the press and his great rival Guardiola.
They weren’t actually that far off
It’s easy to look at the final league table last season and conclude that United were a giant leap away from making a title challenge, but is that really the case?
The club’s point tally after 34 games was the club’s tenth best of the Premier League era – and better than it was in six of the campaigns in which the title was secured. On top of that, the points per game rate at that point would’ve been enough to win the Premier League in nine seasons.
United might have failed to sign a new defender, but last season’s squad conceded just 28 times – only one goal more than the champions (a record that was better, say, that the 2000 champions who conceded 45).
The stats show that the title was won by an out-of-the-ordinary campaign from City, rather than lost by a poor United.
The same pundits who laud Spurs and say they’ll benefit from a consistent team might do well to consider that United are looking to evolve a solid side rather than tear up the team and start again.
Back to back challenge
That brings us to the next point – it’s very hard to win back-to-back Premier League titles. No-one has achieved this feat since United in 2009 and City will need to guard against complacency and a lack of focus, especially if Pep wants to win the Champions League.
The injury to Kevin De Bruyne makes that challenge a little tougher – and City will need to keep their attacking talent all happy after adding Riyad Mahrez to the ranks.
Can they keep their spirit, focus, form and motivation up? If just one of those falls away, then they’ll be in trouble.
It’s easy to forget just how good Luke Shaw was when he made his £30 million move to Old Trafford. The full back’s injury and fitness woes are well documented, but there’s every chance he can put that behind him now and restart his United career, with a promising start to the campaign capped off with an opening day goal against Leicester.
Saying that he’d ‘be like a new signing’ is perhaps a cliché, but an on-form Shaw would add another dimension to Mourinho’s side.
Fred The Red
Amid the doom and gloom it’s easy to forget that United did make a big signing this summer, and a very good one at that. Brazilian international Fred checked in from Shakhtar Donetsk and arrives with a burgeoning reputation.
The 25-year-old is an athletic, technically gifted deep-lying midfielder who should improve the starting XI and might well free up Paul Pogba to have a greater influence in the attacking third of the pitch too. If he finds his feet in English football, there’s every chance that he can be one of the best Premier League signings of the summer.
Money for January
Finally, while shopping in the January transfer window might not be ideal – with fees inflated and players having little time to bed in – United do still have the ability to do some mid season shopping if they feel they need one or two additions to help them over the line. Rivals who have blown their budget early might not be so well placed to strengthen should they suffer injuries or need to plug gaps in their squads.
Having disappointed the boss with their summer dealings, the club might well be starting early on their winter targets too.