Gary Neville believes the Manchester United squad finally resembles a “Jose Mourinho team” following the additions of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, though he stressed that their Premier League title ambitions rely on their three strikers finding a way to bring goals back to Old Trafford.
United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, has already signed off more than £145m for new signings this summer, with the £75m Lukaku and £40m Matic acquisitions added to by the £30m deal to sign Victor Lindelhof.
United are still in the hunt for a marquee signing, with interest in Gareth Bale set to pivot on this evening’s Uefa Super Cup clash with Real Madrid following Mourinho’s admission that he will “fight” to sign him if he doesn’t feature in Zinedine Zidane’s plans.
Yet even if United fail to make any more signings this summer, former defender Neville believes the spine that Mourinho always looks for in his sides is beginning to take shape with the arrivals of Lukaku and Matic, given they are two players that he worked with at Chelsea and who fit his physical preference to cope with the demands of the Premier League.
“Manchester United are looking strong, powerful and more like a Jose Mourinho team. I think last season there was a movement away from how the team played under Louis van Gaal's side and I think it will become more of a Mourinho side,” Neville wrote for Sky Sports.
“You can see more of what he has normally done before with Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku coming in, making sure that the spine of the team is really powerful and strong and has that physicality to deal with the Premier League season.
"So I think they're in a real good position, the squad looks strong and I think how Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Lukaku play will determine what happens.”
Much of last season’s frustration stemmed from United’s inability to convert narrow scorelines into goals when playing at home, with Mourinho’s side drawing more games than any other in the Premier League.
It’s for this reason that Neville believes the form of Lukaku, Martial and Rashford will be the most important factor in 2017/18, while there is still the prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic being added to that strikeforce given the Swede remains without a club following his Old Trafford exit – with the 35-year-old currently working on his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury.
“In the last two or three seasons they've been defensively okay but not scoring enough goals have hurt United and I think there are goals in the side now,” Neville added. “They have to deliver and kill teams off.
“There were so many games at Old Trafford that were 0-0 or 1-1 where they had chances but weren't clinical enough and I think that's ultimately the biggest thing that has to change for Manchester United in the league.”
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