Man United head into the new season with Jose Mourinho clashing with the board, not enough signings made and rivals looking stronger. Sounds good, right?
When we play them: December 15 (home); February 23 (away)
Last season: Drew 0-0 (home); Lost 2-1 (away)
United were so uninspiring for almost the entirety of last season but they somehow ended up finishing second in the Premier League.
There was luck involved to an extent, while David de Gea’s freakish form earned them at least 10 points, but Mourinho still got 12 points more than he managed in 2016/17.
In any other season, they would have been title challengers.
Despite this, the football they played was unacceptably dull for their supporters, especially when rivals Liverpool and Man City were adopting such an attack-minded approach, and a trophy-less campaign was a failure.
There are signs that Mourinho is slowly on his way out of the exit door, following miserable press conferences and complaints over transfers.
United still have quality in their squad, though, and there is no reason why they cannot challenge for the title.
But Liverpool’s bitter rivals look more likely to go backwards than forwards this season.
Players in: Fred, Diogo Dalot, Lee Grant
Players out: Daley Blind, Sam Johnstone, Michael Carrick (retired), Joel Pereira (loan), Axel Tuanzebe (loan), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (loan), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (loan)
Best XI: De Gea; Dalot, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Matic, Fred, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku
We spoke to United We Stand’s Ste Armstrong (@sarm0161) to hear all about the goings on at Old Trafford and how he thinks Liverpool will do this season.
How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season, and why?
For many there’s a real lack of enthusiasm ahead of the new season. I’m old enough not to care but the despairing end to last season, a season of failure, hasn’t been lifted by anything over the summer.
Mourinho is rightly frustrated about his limitations funds-wise and he’s clearly pissed off seeing others plug big holes for big fees. He needs to sort his miserable grid out, though.
He’s still the right man but he’s started doing the wrong things and he can’t afford to start losing friends by being a moody twat.
United can now realistically pay one big fee per summer and if you need more than one, as they do, then you can’t expect to get near to a team that stuffed you by 19 points.
What are your aims for the season?
Win a trophy. I grew up with that being Liverpool’s aim—nothing less was good enough.
I then watched United aspire to that perch, knock them off it and stay for two decades. I can’t tolerate this modern-day bullshit that finishing in a place that gets you into a Champions League spot is acceptable.
Football is about trophies and moments and a season where you leave it without one is, as I say to you every season, is failure.
Winning the League Cup is better than finishing second to my generation. I understand the younger ones have been brought up on a different ‘product’ but I can’t ever adapt to that mindset.
Part of Mourinho’s frustration is that his club are now probably happy to finish in the top four and he isn’t. If that mindset doesn’t change in the boardroom after four decades of home and away it’s time up for me.
Set out to win trophies and I’ll always be there.
Who’s your man to watch?
It’s all about Paul Pogba building on a strong World Cup to take his two reasonably decent seasons to date up to the next level.
Make him captain, tell him he can wander and do whatever he likes on the pitch and let him flourish.
The defence needs to be decided on as to who the starting back four is. Average defences that play every week tend to perform well.
Great defenders that are in and out rotating never develop the understanding you need as a unit, so if that can happen that means the midfield can then start to focus more on what is ahead of them as opposed to worrying about people behind them.
Some of whom probably eat crayons and walk into doors every 10 minutes.
* All rival supporter views taken before the end of the transfer window.
Away fans’ pubs: Get some cans from a shop.
One piece of advice for visiting fan: Like when we go to Anfield, don’t expect it to reach the hype.
It’s no longer the biggest game in the country, the rivalry is sterile and will never reach the heights of the 1980s where the games were played by men in front of men, as someone famously described the ’85 semi-finals.
Go in, watch an average game that will be a draw or a goal in it either side while people make gestures about plane crashes and others make snide references to Heysel and Hillsborough and then go home despairing at the pathetic state of the modern-day supporter.
And have some more cans.
How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?
Liverpool appear to have plugged a massive hole for big money so they are rightly the favourites to get within 15 points of Man City.
Who’s going to be the Reds’ Player of the Year, and why?
Mo Salah destroyed all bar Ashley Young and Sergio Ramos last season—it will be interesting to see if he faces the difficult second album syndrome.
He’s probably going to be superb again but a 30-goal season is now expected.
The new goalkeeper probably only has to not fuck stuff up to be hailed a hero and if he has a strong season he will be the standout.
TIA’s Man United Predicted Finish: 4th (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions)
Where Ste says Man United will finish: 3rd
Where Ste says Liverpool will finish: 2nd
This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC:
Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton | Burnley | Cardiff | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Fulham | Huddersfield | Leicester | Man City | Man United | Newcastle | Southampton | Tottenham | Watford | West Ham | Wolves