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Thursday 27 April 2017

Three things to look out for on Jose Mourinho's debut for Manchester United

Jose Mourinho of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on July 13, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
Jose Mourinho of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on July 13, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)

Samuel Stevens

It may only be a pre-season friendly, but it will be Jose Mourinho's first time on the Manchester United dugout when Wigan visit Old Trafford. Here are three talking points ahead of the game.

Which Mourinho will rear its head?

If you believe the fable that Jose Mourinho wept when he received the news Manchester United had elected to appoint David Moyes, not him, following Alex Ferguson’s retirement three years ago, the Portuguese could be forgiven for a wry smile this weekend.

Mourinho will grace a dug-out for the first time as United manager, following a six-month campaign in the shadows to oust Louis van Gaal from the cuckoo’s nest, when his new side travel up the M61 to Wigan tomorrow. It is common for appointments of this magnitude to pose more questions than answers.

Will the swashbuckling, Brylcreemed Mourinho of old return at Old Trafford? Or will the malevolent, fire-breathing alter-ego which was sacked at Chelsea rear its head once again? If his opening press conference at Old Trafford earlier this month was anything to go by, it’ll be the latter.

Will Mkhitaryan pose a threat to Rooney?

With Wayne Rooney’s position in flux, a midfielder for England, a striker for United, it’ll be intriguing to see how Mourinho plans to build his starting line-up in the coming weeks.

The 53-year-old has been besotted by Rooney in the past, launching bids to sign him at both Chelsea and Real Madrid, but his moves for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan pose worrying questions.

If, as we assume, Ibrahimovic will continue in the No. 9 he carried out so dutifully at Paris Saint-Germain, Mkhitaryan’s versatility could be the death knell for Rooney’s place as United’s main man. The 30-year-old is one of the many first-team players given an extended rest from Euro 2016, giving his new manager the opportunity to plan other tactical alternatives.


Armenian international Mkhitaryan is a combative but skilful operator and has proven for Borussia Dortmund in the past that he can tuck in behind the strikers in a No. 10 role.

Mourinho said this month: “Maybe he is not a striker, not a number nine any more but for me he will never be a number six, playing 50 metres from the goal.” It's not hard to imagine him beind utilised on the bench instead.

Shaw set for emotional return

It’s almost a year since Luke Shaw suffered that horrendous double fracture of his right leg during Manchester United’s 2-1 Champions League group stage defeat to PSV Eindhoven last September.

It was a fateful turn of events which cancelled his entire season out, denying him the chance to shine at the European Championship and now it carries the risk of forcing him to the back of the queue in Mourinho’s new era. Mercifully, the 21-year-old is back in full-training for United and is expected to start at the DW Stadium this weekend. Shaw has benefited from the absence of those recovering from Euro 2016, attempting to impress his new manager in a diminished squad at Carrington this week.


While the physical wounds may have been stitched up, it remains to be seen how the former Southampton left-back deals with the mental battle that lies ahead. His former boss at St Mary’s, Mauricio Pochettino, revealed last winter that Shaw called him up “crying” after the PSV match.

Should he get the chance to shine at Wigan on Saturday afternoon, expect a rousing reception from all sides of the ground.

(© Independent News Service)

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