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Opinion: Manchester United's chances of winning the Premier League this season

Sam Curran
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
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1.02K   //    10 Aug 2018, 21:26 IST

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League
The Special One - Jose Mourinho

As the new season kicks off tonight with Manchester United playing their opening game against Leicester, it seems pertinent to ask the question of whether they can finally break their 5 year drought of not winning the Premier League title.

Although Mourinho bored fans and pundits alike with his defensive and often negative footballing tactics last season, there was some improvement at least in numerical terms. United ended up on 81 points, the most they have had since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and also finished in 2nd place, the highest position they have reached since his retirement.

If you boil down the argument to pure numbers, the answer is yes United have a slim chance of winning the league, surprisingly thanks to Mourinho's defensive tactics. Indeed the key statistic that could prove the difference in this year's race for the title is that United only conceded 28 goals, just one more than neighbours City.

So Mourinho clearly got something right in the defensive department, even if the modest goals conceded tally is largely thanks to David De Gea's heroics in goal. It's hard to imagine just how much worse United would be without the brilliant Spaniard - without him in goal they may not have even finished in the top 4, even if Sergio Romero is an extremely able deputy.

AC Milan v Manchester United - International Champions Cup 2018
Alexis Sanchez - hoping to have a great first full season as a United player

Realistically, Mourinho is seemingly fixated on keeping the opposition out, and that could actually provide a blueprint for successfully winning the Premier League. It served Mourinho well whilst he was at Chelsea (particularly during the first spell), and whilst it is not pretty to watch, it can be extremely effective.

Indeed, if United had shown a little more bite in front of goal, they would have finished a lot closer to City last season, instead of the mammoth 19 point margin as City reached a century of points. If United had not dropped points in draws against teams like Burnley, Leicester City and Southampton - then it would have been a much closer outcome. A hat-trick of defeats away to newly promoted sides was unheard of in the Sir Alex Ferguson era, and even David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal did not suffer such a fate.

Although Lukaku had a relatively good debut season for the Reds, he often lacked service and creativity from a solid, but barren midfield. Furthermore, when the big Belgian was injured, United looked desperately short of ideas and goals, with Alexis Sanchez so far not fulfilling his potential. This was no more evident than in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, where all it took was a solitary Eden Hazard penalty to defeat The Red Devils.

The Chelsea game really did showcase everything that is lacking in this United side. As soon as they went a goal behind, despite having the majority of possession and chances, they still couldn't find an equaliser.

Leicester City v Manchester United - The FA Community Shield
DDG - safe hands

Of course, United played the majority of the game without Lukaku as he was injured (more skeptical United fans would grumble he was saving himself for the World Cup). United need to seriously improve their goal tally this season - even Arsenal scored more goals in the league last season.

Aside Lukaku, Lingard was the next high scorer, with 13 in all competitions - he wasn't even a regular starter. He has to be central to Jose's plans this season.

The signing of Fred was a good, if not spectacular one, and no attacking signing has been made, this has added to the unrest among United fans. United do look short in the attacking department, not particularly in personnel but more in their approach.

In Sanchez, Lingard, Lukaku, Rashford and Martial, United definitely have the required firepower to blow teams away. All Mourinho needs to do is drop his defensive ideology and set United's strikers free.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Paul Pogba - will be looking to silence his doubters

For a brief period at the start of last season, we saw what United were capable of offensively, as they regularly scored 4 goals against admittedly inferior opposition such as Everton, West Ham and Swansea.

As soon as United played a 'big 6' side for the first time (Liverpool), Mourinho reverted to his preferred system, parking the bus at Anfield to earn a credible goalless draw. However, in the next game United suffered a shocking loss to Huddersfield and never quite regained the early momentum.

Even with several players out injured, you would probably still expect United to beat Leicester, particularly as the game is at Old Trafford. Last season, they only conceded 9 goals in 19 Premier League games at home. They collected 47 points at home, with Man City only just ahead on 50.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Eric Bailly - rock solid

They already have an excellent defence and goalkeeper, if Mourinho finally adopts an attacking philosophy of football, they have a realistic chance of winning the league this season.

However, if they don't win the league, it is highly likely Mourinho will be sacked. If that happens, United have to hire a manager with attacking principles. It's not just a matter of ensuring success, it's a matter of respecting the club's tradition of playing entertaining, attacking football.

All stats via transfermarkt

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Sam Curran
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Huge Manchester United fan hoping the club will return to their former glory. I write a variety of articles about football including historical articles, my take on current football issues and lists (i.e. 5 players who regretted leaving Manchester United).
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