Can Manchester United win the Premier League in 2018/19?
This is the question that has been on many Manchester United fans' lips ever since Jose Mourinho took over. After having endured the trauma of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal being in charge of the club, many United fans had long since been yearning for the enigmatic Portuguese to take over.
Most Utd fans think that Mourinho should have been handed the job when Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but the special one moved to Chelsea and although his spell there ultimately ended in acrimony, he did win the Premier League title there quite comfortably in his second season.
Many Utd fans might have been expecting a similar outcome when Jose eventually took over the club in 2016, but unfortunately, that has not materialised as of yet. He did win a creditable 3 trophies in his first season at the club (if you count the Community Shield as one) but frustrated the fans with his negative style of football which yielded a frustrating number of draws against the arguably inferior oppositions.
It's been more of the same this season. Though Utd are at their highest point since Sir Alex retired, currently sitting 2nd on the table, there still remain huge question marks over the team's ability to challenge for the Premier League next season.
Limp performances in away games have characterised the team's displays this season, with the defeats at Tottenham and Newcastle particularly galling for fans. Then you have to factor in the embarrassing defeats to Bristol City, Huddersfield and Basel et al.
Meanwhile, across town, Pep Guardiola has transformed Manchester City into looking near unbeatable, though recently, the cracks have started to appear. I wasn't too shocked by the defeat by Wigan in the FA Cup and people were getting carried away if they thought Man City would win the quadruple. Next season I don't think City will be as formidable as they've been this season, although that could just be wishful thinking from me.
On paper Man Utd have one of the strongest squads in the Premier League, with the world's best goalkeeper, some of the best young centre-forwards in the world (Lukaku, Rashford, Martial) and genuine world class players in Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba.
The way Sanchez set up Lukaku's second goal against Huddersfield was a stroke of genius. Pogba has not played much this season, yet still has 9 assists in the Premier League. I think Mourinho was right to bench him recently. It was the sort of thing Sir Alex would do, to remind a player that they are not bigger than the club.
There is also a supporting cast of good squad players like Sergio Romero, Juan Mata (sort of), Jesse Lingard and promising youngsters like Scott Mctominay as well as the old guard like Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ashley Young (who has enjoyed a similar renaissance under Mourinho as he did under Van Gaal) and Antonio Valencia.
On the other hand, there is a lot of deadwood that needs to be cleared out. Rojo, Blind, Darmian were all Van Gaal signings and seem to have no long-term future at the club given their lack of recent involvement. There are also question marks over the future of Ander Herrara and Fellaini, though in my opinion both still have a role to play at the club.
I think Utd can win the Premier League title next season, but first, there have to be some changes. On a tactical point of view, it's obvious Pogba thrives as an attacking midfielder rather than be shackled by defensive responsibilities. We saw what he was like at Juventus in that position and he should be able to replicate that form for United. Luke Shaw also deserves a run in the first team. It's worth remembering he's still only 22 and he looks to have sorted out his recent differences with Mourinho.
The acquisition of a world-class midfielder such as Toni Kroos to replace Michael Carrick would also pay dividends. At the moment, the best midfield combination United could have would be Carrick-Pogba-Matic, but unfortunately, Carrick retires at the end of the season. United need someone to pull the strings in midfield, rather like Paul Scholes and Roy Keane did in the past.
The final change that needs to be made is simply one of a shift in attitude. Lukaku should be praised for his performance against Huddersfield where he was clinical: he had 2 chances and buried both of them. However, the question still remains over why he cannot score against the big teams. He definitely has the ability to and with some self-belief could spearhead United's title challenge next season. There is also a question about the collective mentality of the team on occasion. Against Tottenham, after Utd went 2-0 down, the players seemed to almost give up. If Utd want to win the league, there can be no performances in big games like that next season.
So in short, all the ingredients are there for Utd to win the title next season. Though I've been a critic of Mourinho in the past, you should never write him off. He did overcome Guardiola at Barca in 2011/12, so who's to say he can't do the same next season?