Manchester United 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Note: As we cover more of the top teams in the Premier League – especially the “Big Six,” the individual transfer write-ups will feature a look at the overall roster (as Part 1), followed by a separate post that will contain the individual transfers to/from the team, which will be updated as appropriate (as Part 2). 
United really hasn’t been the United of old since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the longest-serving English top flight manager and the second-longest Premier League manager by virtue of Arsene Wenger serving longer in the new league (1992-current). They’ve had a very tumultuous time since his retirement going through a number of managers in relatively short succession. Since 2013 United has had David Moyes, Ryan Giggs (interim/caretaker manager), Louis Van Gaal, and now Jose Mourinho. The transfer business has pointed this out, a number of players brought in my one manager are sent out by the next. Van Gaal brought in Darmian and Blind, and now Mourinho has sought to send them both on their way.
In addition to the managerial inconsistency, United has suffered mightily from injuries, especially at centerback. This has forced them to adopt a style not well received by the fans or media in an attempt to “stem the tide” of goals allowed. This has resulted in a very “Un-United playing style” with the team scraping out results largely by defending excessively and trying to get forward on the breaks as opposed to playing the attacking football that helped them establish their brand. I think Mourinho has been making steps towards returning to attacking football but the defense has definitely provided a hindrance.
Mourinho has not been happy with the consistency that has led to feuds with a number of players including:Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (eventually traded), Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelöf among others that has had substantial impact on the consistency of the starting eleven. Eventually moves brought inAlexis Sánchez, which further complicated the rotation with Sanchez, Marcus RashfordAnthony Martial, and Jesse Lingard, even before summer transfer business. I expect that the first team will be clarified towards the start of this season — he has a mostly healthy defense and has had time to target and bring in players for his side.

Despite all of the setbacks, Mourinho has managed the best finish (2nd) since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club. His predecessor managed only 4th/5th place finishes which were just barely enough to allow continental soccer to be had at Old Trafford. Van Gaal’s side fell to a 5th place finish and a place in the Europa League (which ultimately ended up costing Van Gaal his job). Mourinho entered that season by telling the club and the fans that a return to the Champions league was extremely important and that they needed to win the Europa League to guarantee a spot, which they did over some quality teams. Although they only made the knockout round of the Champions League, Mourinho guided them to a 2nd place finish in the league. Despite the lack of aesthetics that has accompanied this side, the results are clearly there.
One area that Manchester United needs to clarify is the midfield situation, they are approaching Liverpool’s level of midfield congestion which has further been exacerbated by this season’s signings. Some of the attacking midfielders have dealt with the situation better (Rashford/Lindgard) and others have been vocal about their desires to play a bigger role or leave (Martial). Despite my personal feelings that they should me holding on to the youth players (especially of this caliber), I expect that at least one of them will depart before the end of the winter transfer window. Mourinho has also had a little bit of a reputation for misjudging character (see Romelu Lukaku for example) and allowing youth to leave cheaply to develop and then purchasing them back at a later date.
I really don’t have major concerns about United this season, their goals scored dip is more indicative of the defensive liabilities and shoddy luck than poor players. This is further indicated by the disastrous injury season for the back line and the need to play all hands on deck to keep the score within reach.
To see a breakdown of Manchester United’s individual transfers this season, please click here for Part 2, which will be updated throughout the season with the latest transfers and other notable additions to the club.

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