Liam Canning on Manchester United
Q: What are your expectation for Manchester United this season then?
A: I expect Man Utd to challenge for the Premier League but don’t expect them to win it, I think it will go Man City but I expect them to finish comfortably in the top 4. In the FA cup, I expect them to get to the quarters/semi-finals. The league cup is dependent upon the team they put out and where they are in the season. The season can’t be based around the league cup as it’s a lesser competition. I think it will be good to play the youngers players in the league cup like Axel Tuanzebe, somebody who I think should get a run out there in the league cup. In the champions league they should comfortably get out of the group stage, no matter who they draw. Minimum should be last 16/quarter finals stage and anything more would exceed my expectations.
Q: So as a follow up what is the minimum requirement for it to be a successful season for Manchester United?
A: A minimum requirement for it to be a successful season for Man Utd would be silverware, obviously in the first season under Mourinho they won 2 trophies being the league cup and Europa League. I think it needs to be stepped up now and given the money they’ve spent and players brought, plus with Mourinho being more settled and getting more or less the players he wants other than a winger which will hopefully be brought in for him. Looking at the Premier League, a minimum requirement would be winning the Premier League would be a successful season anything on top of that, either a League Cup, FA Cup or progressing through the rounds of the Champions League would supplement it very nicely. All in all, I think a successful season needs to start with winning the Premier League.
Q: There was talk in the media following the Madrid game that Utd need 2 years to return to the very top. Do you agree with this? And if so is Mourinho the right man to take them there?
Jose Mourinho won 3 trophies in his first year as United boss
A: I think it’s very difficult for someone to put a timespan on when Man Utd will return to the top, I think it depends on the squad and players they have at the time. If Man Utd failed to get into the top 4 this season why would key players like David De Gea not move when potentially they’ve got other suitors available to them such as Real Madrid. It does depend on the players, the squad on whether Ed Woodward can recruit the right players at the right time and improve on the squad. I think Mourinho is the right man for the job, I don’t think he will be a 3-year stint at United. I genuinely think he loves the club, I think he wants to stay and build a dynasty at the club and take them to top of Europe. It’s a long road and they are only really getting started clearing up the mess from David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal post Ferguson. I think it’s very difficult to say they will be back in 1-2-3 years; it does depend on a lot but they are going in the right direction. If they can win the Premier League title this season, then it’s fair to say they will be back sooner than later.
Q: How would you judge Mourinho's first season?
A: I think Mourinho did what was expected and a little bit more. I I think winning the league cup was a great achievement, gave the squad a bit of a morale boost and to win the Europa League and gain Champions League qualification was fantastic. Man Utd have never won the Europa League before, I think the domestic performance in terms of the league was disappointing and I think they should have done better considering the other teams struggles and troubles. I think Man Utd should have finished in the top 4 but whether they finished in the 4 or won it through the Europa League the end result is the same and they are in the Champions League this season. So I think he’s done a good job in his first year and I think he needs to kick on otherwise he will come under a little bit of pressure.
Q: How do you feel about United's summer transfer business?
A: I think Man Utd have had a good summer, could have gone better and could have gone a lot worse. I think the arrival of Nemanja Matic is very underrated, a lot of fans wanted AS Monaco’s Fabinho. You can see because he’s very good players but then again he’s not accustomed to the Premier League, a bit like Bakayoko at Chelsea. So, I think with Matic you are getting a seasoned professional in the Premier League a guy who has done it and won the Premier League with Chelsea. He’s been a stalwart I that midfield for them. I think what Matic allows is the license for Herrera and Pogba to go forward and get I’m amongst the goals which is badly needed as shown last season. I think Matic is a good buy, I think Lindelof is an astute purchase however that will take time. He’s only a young defender and I think it was the right move to veto the move in January and move it to summer just because he needs time to settle in properly and as shown in the preseason he’s a bit shaky. Give it a few months and you will see what a quality player this guy is and Lukaku is a fantastic purchase. It was either him, Morata or Belotti and in my opinion I think Lukaku is the best of them all. The reason for that is he’s accustomed to the Premier League, a bit like Matic, a season professional in the Premier League who has done it for a few years. Lukaku guarantees you goals in the Premier League, especially with the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Q: Enough to challenge or do they need more?
A: I don’t think it’s enough to challenge. I still think they need another midfielder, I think they need an upgrade to Herrera, that’s no disrespect to Herrera who I think is a fantastic player who is reliable. I just think we need someone who is a little bit better on the ball and quality in the midfield. As Jose Mourinho said, he wants a wide player and that should have been Ivan Perisic. You just never know what will happen over the next few weeks, how things can change in football very quickly. They should have brought in Perisic earlier in the window and that didn’t get done due to Ed Woodward stumbling at the price of £50m but I think if Man Utd can bring in a wide player it would put them in good stead. United need a crosser of the ball to play the ball into Lukaku. In summary, if they bring in two midfield players, one in the centre and one of the wing.
Q: Lukaku my call for the golden boot! We've spoken about signings but what is your take on Anthony Martial? Do United need to sign a wide player or does Martial deserve more trust?
A: As I said, I do think Man Utd need a wide player but that no disrespect to him as he’s a fantastic player. People forget how young he is and he needs competition for players but more importantly he needs game time. Jose Mourinho needs to play him more and get him on the pitch more. Get his confidence level up, when he came on in preseason he looked confident and sharp, amongst the goals and assists. I think in his first season under Van Gaal he proved can be a top player and will only get better providing he plays. It would be massive mistake if United sold Martial but I do think they need a left sided player.
Q: Would Danny Rose be a viable alternative should Utd decide to deploy wing-backs?
A: Personally, I don’t think Man Utd should sign Danny Rose. I think they have a fantastic left back in Luke Shaw. I think he needs to build up confidence and I think people who are writing him off are making a big mistake. Its not easy at all to come back from a clean leg break, which led him to being out for 8 months and immediately hit the ground running is extremely hard to do. It takes time both physically and mentally, he’s been unlucky with injuries but now he seems motivated, wanting to reach the previous form as to prove to Man Utd officials why they spent a level of money on him. He’s still young and has massive potential ahead of him. Both for club and country, there’s no need for a left back at this stage. In terms of winger or wing back, I still think Ivan Perisic is the front runner and should be the front runner. Giving Mourinho that player who can solve that problem, I don’t think it should be Danny Rose who is 4-5 years older than Shaw but carried the same traits as injuries and styles as Shaw which will stunt Shaw’s growth if Rose comes in.
Q: I see! What were your thoughts on the West Ham game? And as a final point. Who should we be on a look out for this season? Golden boot winner? Breakthrough player?
A: Manchester United very fluid – possibly their best and most cohesive game since post-Ferguson. Very compact in midfield and Matić was unbelievable. He covered every blade of grass and contributed so much going forward. A huge bonus to that midfield. Defence looked assured, but there wasn’t anything to really test them from West Ham.
Look out for: Andreas Pereira (providing he doesn’t go out on-loan)
Golden boot: for United? Lukaku.
For PL: Kane.
Breakthrough Player: Axel Tuanzebe