Manchester United Tactical Analysis

As the limbo period between World Cup and Premier League looms, the anticipation grows. That’s why we’re here to tell you what you can expect from the Red Devils this season. For fans of Manchester United, we’re sure there will be many mixed feelings going into fall 2018. As for neutral and rival fans looking to get the scoop, sit back and enjoy. This is our 2018/2019 Manchester United season preview.

Putting last year behind us

Let’s be honest, last season was disappointing. Okay, granted it was the club’s best finish in the post-Ferguson era, but there was no trophy haul. No additions to Old Trafford’s lustrous trophy cabinet, and at Manchester United, that’s just not how things are done.

That said, it’s in the past. Let’s move on. If not for an incredible season from Pep Guardiola’s City, it could have been United lifting the cup in May. And yes, I can say City had an incredible season without burning up in flames. But this isn’t an excuse. The lads weren’t really good enough to win it anyway, despite racking up a record number of points since winning the league in 2012/2013.

Red Devils in Russia

If ever there was a ray of hope, the World Cup was it. Lukaku, Pogba and Lingard are just a few of the United stars who shone on the world stage. Fellaini and Lindelof also had promising campaigns, reaching the semi and quarter-finals. Ashely Young, Phil Jones and Marcus Rashford played a role in England’s run to the semis.

Marcos Rojo, and Nemanja Matic both featured in the competition, having little impact on proceedings. Well, Marcos Rojo made an impact, but not a positive one. David de Gea struggled during the competition, shaking out a fraction of the mistakes he is due. No worries there. New signing Fred travelled to the tournament, failing to make an appearance on the field.

What does this mean? Probably more positives than negatives. Rojo could be out the door while Matic and de Gea deserve nothing but our full confidence going into 2018/2019. The rest of our World Cup squad members will be happily taking their Russian form with them into the Premier League. If Pogba can maintain his star status we could look like a completely different team.

USA Tour 2018

It’s been depressing, hasn’t it? Winless and hopeless. We can’t beat an average MLS team and looked lost against Liverpool. Really, at the end of the day, none of it really matters. During a World Cup summer, everything is thrown off. Our ‘best players’ are sitting on a beach, kicking their feet up with a refreshing cucumber water in their hands. And rightly so, they’ve deserved it.

We haven’t been watching the real United so far. Jose Mourinho has been quick to remind us of this too. He’s right. This is, at most, our youth team sprinkled with a small handful of our first-team and recalled loan players. Actually, that’s exactly what it is.

A win against Real Madrid will provide some respite as Alexis Sanchez impressed with a goal and an assist. The rest of the match was relatively uninspiring, but a win against the Champions of Europe won’t go unnoticed.

Let’s not look too much into it. A poor pre-season has little effect on our title challenge except for the fact it could mean a slower start to the Premier League.

2018/2019 Manchester United Season Preview

To be honest, it’s very hard to know what we can expect from Jose Mourinho and Manchester United this season. Realistically, top-four is achievable. Actually, top-four is mandatory. We should, and can challenge for the title. When you browse over the names on United’s roster there is certainly quality available. Consistency will be key.

Here at Red Devils Report, we decided to administer a quick survey to make this season preview statistically relevant. So let’s talk key players. Who has impressed and who will impress?

There are some obvious names to look out for. Pogba, Lukaku, Sanchez and DeGea all rise to the top of the shortlist. Before we look at who this season’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year will be, let’s quickly looks at who fans think was last season’s star.

After 77 fans cast their votes, Lukaku came out on top with 39% of fans voting for Big Rom. Last year, Lukaku played in 33 league games, registering 16 goals and 7 assists. With a debut season and successful World Cup run under his belt, Lukaku should come out stronger than ever.

What can Lukaku do to make himself more threatening this year? Honestly, demand better service. If Paul Pogba comes back with Moscow madness still in his heart, the dynamic duo should link up for some important goals this year.

David de Gea took 36% of the votes after yet another stellar campaign for the Reds. Some fans may worry over the Spaniard’s poor World Cup performances, but they would be silly to do so. He has been solid for years and I don’t see that changing.

Matic nabbed 23% of fans’ votes and arguably deserves more. Alongside de Gea, Matic was one of United’s most consistent players last year. So much so that he started 35 games in the Prem, a stat only bested by de Gea with 37 starts.

A worrying statistic shows only 2% of fans voting for anyone outside of the three options given. Was nobody else good enough to achieve a spot in the list? I guess not.

Moving on to this year, we ask who’s going to be our next Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year. Overwhelmingly, 54% of our 44 respondents believe Sanchez can be that player. His pre-season form has been positive and, hopefully, that only improves when surrounded by better players. A goal and assist against Real Madrid proves his threat in big games.

The question on a lot of fans’ minds, however, is where our Chilean star is going to fit in our lineup? Will he play in the middle, supporting Lukaku, or will he be sent out wide to provide an attacking threat wide? These questions should be answered early doors, as Sanchez is almost certain to start against Leicester.

Paul Pogba absorbed 35% of the votes with fans backing the World Cup winner after a fabulous campaign in Russia. Like Sanchez, his success boils down to Mourinho’s tactics. If Pogba stays on top form throughout the season, United could easily go all the way. If he isn’t, there are worrying times ahead. The acquisition of Fred might be a sign of intent that Jose is switching up the Frenchman’s role at Old Trafford.

The remaining 11% of votes were given to Lukaku and the rest of the squad.

It has been a dire transfer window. Almost depressing really. The lack of choice might explain why 70% of our 50 respondents say Fred is the new addition they are most excited for. As mentioned above, the Brazilian’s introduction into the team could mean more offensive freedom for Pogba.

Since joining Manchester United in early June, Fred has only played 90 minutes of football. He didn’t feature at the World Cup and came on late in an unfortunate defeat to Liverpool. His first solid run of minutes came in the 2-1 win against Real Madrid. Needless to say, there is a lot left unknown about this new signing.

One success story from this pre-season tour has been Andreas Pereira. The Belgian-born midfielder has been one of Mourinho’s best players on tour, and won’t be taking another trip abroad this season. If the survey wasn’t administered before the Liverpool game, he may have received more than 20% of the votes. He likely won’t start right away, but Pereira has a lot to offer this Manchester United side and has an opportunity to break into the first-team.

Depressingly, 8% of fans claimed they weren’t excited about any of the new recruits. Poor Dalot only managed to get 2% of the fans’ backing. With potentially only one more signing on the way, this transfer window has been nothing short of a disappointment.

The question on everyone’s mind. What can we achieve this year? The survey shows that 38% of fans are delusional… I mean optimistic. I sympathize with anyone who has their expectations that high, although admire their belief. It has been tough in recent years to muster up enough willpower to expect first place, but we must at least demand it.

Half of the respondents believe we can secure a Champions League spot, as a minimum, with 24% believing we finish second and 26% thinking a top-four finish is all we can hope for. On the other end of the spectrum, 12% think we will finish below top-four. Talk about negativity.

What do I think? First place is ambitious but not out of the question. A lot must change before that happens. With City still looking strong and a significantly-improved Liverpool, the competition is high. Chelsea and Arsenal are wildcards under new management and Tottenham were the most featured side at the World Cup. It’s really hard to say, but just a top-four finish could be on the table. I really, really hope I’m wrong though.

What’s a really good way to divide Manchester United fans? Talk about Mourinho of course. The Portuguese manager has far from impressed us with his style of football, but does achieving our best league finish post-Ferguson justify it?

Of 45 respondents, less than half, 44%, are happy with Mourinho, leaving a remaining 56% of fans dissatisfied. With that being said, only 16% of fans want to see Mourinho sacked in the morning.

We all know the football isn’t fantastic. Nobody could have expected it to be. But if Mourinho wins games, maybe that’s what counts? It remains to be seen whether or not winning games is going to be a regular thing this season, as the typical third season Mourinho crisis could be dwelling in the future. We have until Christmas to see how that plays out though.


So to summarize, this season is very unpredictable. The expectations are low, and there are too many variables to make a solid prediction on our league finish. The team is full of talent, but there are still areas of concern.

We need big performances from Pogba, Sanchez and Lukaku on a consistent basis before a title challenge is on the table. With shortfalls in our backline and midfield, Mourinho could turn to the reserves as an option, however, he hasn’t hidden his distrust in youth during the pre-season.

New recruit Fred could make an impact on the first-team if given the chances, but Dalot may be worked into the team more methodically. Pereira is back and could become a familiar face, as is Fosu-Mensah who provides Mourinho with another option at the back.

For now, we must wait it out until Leicester, where our Red Devils will provide us with a clearer picture of what 2018/2019 holds. Cross your fingers.

Writers’ Opinions

What do our writers think? We’ve asked our team of highly intelligent United experts to share their thoughts heading into our first game against Leicester. Here are their additions to the Manchester United 2018/2019 season preview.

Andrew Flint

“Two years ago, I was warned by a long-term Chelsea fan about the perils of Jose Mourinho. I brushed off his comments as I saw a born winner who could instill some street-fighting mentality in an insipid outfit, but now I can appreciate how right my friend was. I cannot stand how cancerous his poisonous attitude and disconnection with the club is dragging us down.

“It is clear the club directors are far behind those of our rivals, and Ed Woodward, in particular, is also out of his depth. The fact that Anthony Martial is not bursting with desire, Marcus Rashford is not an automatic first-teamer and players as a whole look sluggish all point to a man who is wrong for the position. Long story short, I would be amazed if anything other than a tedious season of treading water at best follows unless he goes.”

Rodney McCain

“I can’t remember feeling so unenthusiastic about our chances of putting a worthwhile challenge up to City for the Premier League title. Mourinho has cut a cheerless character so far like a spoiled child denied a sticky bun at the bakery. Perhaps it’s because he recognises that we simply aren’t where we need to be. City have strengthened even though arguably they didn’t need to, Liverpool have spent a fortune “righting their wrongs,” Arsenal have a new manager and some new players.

“We have Fred (to fill the gap left by Carrick) and an untested 19-year-old full-back, so far. I think we can make top-four again, but that’s no longer what it’s about for the fans. Can the same be said for the owners?

“There are lots of unanswered questions; will Sanchez finally find a position and become a good partner for Lukaku? Will we sign another centre-back, and if so, who? Do we need another or will Lindelöf and Bailly finally fulfill their huge promise?

Interesting times ahead.”

Bob Priestly

“Prior to pre-season, I would have been quietly optimistic. We made some early signings and a lot of our players had good a World Cup. Since then, there has been a disconnect between the manager and the board while a general sense of doom and gloom surrounds the club. They’ll either be galvanised by the hardship or we’ll have a terrible autumn. Overall, not confident at all.”

Simon Doyle

“This is the least optimistic I’ve been since Mourinho took over. The board have not got the players in that we need, and we haven’t covered enough deficiencies to catch City. Added to that, Liverpool are probably stronger than us now given their transfer dealings this summer. I think we’ll finish top-four which suits the board but not the fans and Jose will try to engineer his own sacking as he doesn’t want to go three seasons without a title win at any club. The football won’t be much better either so, all-in-all, it looks quite dower right now.”

Vivek Menon

“It seems like just a couple of weeks back that the last season ended in disappointment at Wembley again, but here we are again, in August and eagerly-awaiting the start of a brand new season of football. Like every other fan, I have certain expectations going into the season. While I am not the happiest person seeing the way in which United have gone about handling their business in the transfer market, I pray that we get a couple of fresh faces in through the doors at Carrington before the window shuts next week.

“All the teams around us have strengthened and it will take one hell of a season to be champions of England once again. The only thing I can hope for is a much closer race to the title than it was last season and, hopefully, we remain good enough to secure Champions League football despite the evident strengthening of sides like Chelsea and Liverpool.

“I’d also like to see United get the best out of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial collectively. Going up till the business end and winning one of the domestic cups and avoiding a repeat of the Champions League exit from last season is something I look forward to seeing.

“There is immense excitement at the prospect of seeing new signings Fred and Diogo Dalot pull on the famous Red of Manchester. I hope for our sake, the club does the fans proud. We’re Manchester United, bring on the football!”

Harshal Patel

“Manchester United have had a disrupted pre-season, with key players still recovering after the World Cup and Jose Mourinho in full third-season meltdown mode. In my opinion, it will be almost impossible to overhaul City, and Liverpool may just sneak ahead of us as well. A top-four spot is what we’re going to end up with at the end of the season, with Mourinho’s inevitable subsequent departure (hopefully) paving the way for some joined-up thinking at the club.”