We are now less than three weeks away from the highly-anticipated start of the 2018-19 season and now that World Cup fever has been and gone, supporters are starting to get excited about their favourite club’s prospects for the upcoming campaign.
There is exactly 12 days until the competitive domestic action gets underway when Premier League champions Manchester City face Emirates FA Cup winners Chelsea in the FA Community Shield at Wembley Stadium, but Manchester United kick off the top-flight five days after that.
United host Leicester City at Old Trafford on Friday 10 August, in the league curtain-raiser and are expected to be missing a cluster of key stars due to the number of players arriving to pre-season late from their holidays after their prolonged contribution in Russia this summer.
I make a *very* bold prediction as to who will start for The Red Devils against Leicester, to kick start José Mourinho’s third year at the helm with a hunger to improve on the trophy-less season throughout 2017-18.
GOALKEEPER: David de Gea
Joel Pereira, who will be sent out on loan this season, and new signing Lee Grant, have represented the club so far in pre-season, with first-choice and back-up De Gea and Sergio Romero on holiday and injured respectively.
The Spaniard is set to join the squad in America this week, so he will be more than ready to step in between the sticks as he aims for another fine campaign in England.
RIGHT-BACK: Antonio Valencia
Despite an injured calf scare against San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, Valencia should recover in time to get some more minutes before the competitive action gets underway.
New signing Diogo Dalot is expected to be out of action until September and Matteo Darmian is widely considered as all-but gone, so the newly-instated captain should start in defence.
CENTRE-BACK: Eric Bailly
The 2018-19 season could be the making of Bailly’s United career. His two years in England so far have been stricken with injury and substitute appearances, but now with a quiet summer and a full pre-season under his belt it could be time he breaks through as a first-team regular.
CENTRE-BACK: Harry Maguire
I think United will only make one more signing this summer, unfortunately, and that player is likely to be Leicester City defender Harry Maguire.
Even though he played a pivotal role in England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals this summer, he’ll be eager to make his debut as soon as possible after signing.
Maguire is said to be a no. 1 priority for Mourinho now, so you’d bank on a deal getting done before the transfer window slams shut.
LEFT-BACK: Luke Shaw
Ashley Young’s long break could be exactly what Shaw needs to properly get his career at Old Trafford up and running, and his manager has already confirmed that he should start the season at left-back.
The extra few weeks of pre-season training the young full-back will have been getting over the veteran will also give him a great chance of success. He just needs to take his opportunities whilst he still has them.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Nemanja Matić
The Serbia international proved to be one of Mourinho’s main men last term and started pre-season training with the squad on Monday, meaning he’ll be more than ready to start as the most defensive fixture in a midfield three.
Fred is also meant to begin pre-season training in America this week, after recovering from an injury which made his contribution towards Brazil’s World Cup very minimal.
There’s no doubt he’s been the club’s biggest signing of the summer and it will be intriguing to see how him and Paul Pogba fare together in front of Matić, but that partnership will have to wait.
CENTRE-MIDFIELD: Ander Herrera
Pogba’s key role in France’s World Cup winning side will probably see him return to club duties in August, and, therefore, will rule him out of starting opening game.
Fred’s £52m arrival will also put pressure on Herrera, so this is a huge chance to stake a claim before Pogba’s return.
RIGHT WING: Juan Mata
The midfield maestro has once again been heavily rumoured to leave this summer but it looks like he will be staying put as United have no plans to bring in a new right-sided forward.
LEFT WING: Alexis Sánchez
Alexis was the bright spark as he made his first appearance during pre-season against San Jose on Sunday, and you should expect him to look a lot better this campaign than he did last term after joining from Arsenal.
STRIKER: Anthony Martial
It is believed that Martial does want to leave United, much to the dismay of his fans, but unless he tells Mourinho that face-to-face it is unlikely he will be allowed to go anywhere.
If the Frenchman is still around, he will be starting the season as United’s striker.