Friday 24 March 2017

Self-appointed God of Manchester one of two notable absentees as Mourinho takes United to China

Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimović
Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimović

Tom Rooney

After beginning his tenure in the relatively modest confines of Wigan Athletic’s DW Stadium, Jose Mourinho and his squad departed Manchester today for a brief tour of China.

So far so good at Old Trafford; Jose Mourinho has said all the right things, been efficient in the transfer market thus far and picked up his first win at the helm, albeit at the expense of a side recently promoted to the Championship in a game he described as a training session.

Still, in beating Wigan 2-0, thanks to goals from youngsters Will Keane and Andreas Pereira, Mourinho and the United faithful enjoyed their first in the flesh meeting since his appointment.

Sterner tests await in China, namely in the shape of Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City. Few could have imagined that Mourinho and Pep Guardiola would be pitted against each other so soon into their new jobs.

Though it’s unlikely the pair will begin slinging mud when the stakes are so low. Zlatan Ibrahimović - benefiting from a prolonged rest- and Anthony Martial notwithstanding, Mourinho has selected a relatively strong squad for the tour, including Euro 2016 veterans Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, David De Gea, Marcus Rashford and Paddy McNair.

United will take on Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday, before meeting their crosstown rivals in Beijing the following Monday.

Of course, Mourinho will be hoping the signature of Paul Pogba can be secured before United return to home soil. It is being widely reported that they have tabled a bid in excess of £100m for the French midfielder, who is still very much a Juventus player.

With underperforming midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin not in the touring party, it will be interesting to see who the former Real coach favours in the engine room. Particularly with the likes of Daly Blind and Ander Herrera thought to be in danger of being offloaded.

Others such as Juan Mata, Memphis Depay, Marcus Rojo and Adnan Januzaj may also have to play their way into Mourinho’s plans.

Without Ibrahimović or Martial, United fans will have to wait before getting a proper view of what is likely to be their attacking foursome when the competitive season gets underway.

It is expected that the Swede will lead the line, with Rooney in the number 10 role, flanked by Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The returning Rashford will almost certainly be selected up front while in Asia.

Meanwhile, new signings Eric Bailly and Mkhitaryan can push on from their impressive debuts against Wigan.

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