Inside Track: Manchester United

By SFC Media time Wed 20 Sep Saints v Man United
Photo by Getty Images | Romelu Lukaku

With Saints preparing to host the joint leaders of the Premier League, we got the inside track on Manchester United from Stuart Mathieson of the Manchester Evening News.

Joint top of the Premier League with 16 goals scored in five games. Have you been surprised by how well United have started the new season?

I haven't overly been surprised as Jose Mourinho's first season was a slow burner but ended up with the EFL Cup (sorry to remind you of that) and the Europa League. The foundations had been built and two positions identified as being needed to be filled. Filling them is one thing but hitting the ground running with them was another and that was probably the biggest worry. But the squad spirit appears to be really sound and upbeat and that has been a major plus.

What difference have the summer signings made, and who have been the standout performers so far?

Losing influential figures like Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimović put a lot on the shoulders of Romelu Lukaku but duck to water comes to mind. The Belgian has embraced the pressure with six goals. You cannot ask for much more. He's given United a big, powerful and potent spearhead. Nemanja Matić has been impressive as a steadying, anchor man. He has given the Reds a calm stability to enable the defence to feel more secure and the attack the freedom to break at speed.

What impact do you see the loss of Paul Pogba having on the team?

Pogba was beginning to have a major say on how United played and was looking the part, but Mourinho has last season's Fans’ Player of the Year and man of the match in the Europa League final against Ajax, and someone who interested Barcelona in the summer, Ander Herrera, to come in. It won't weaken the team.

How important were last season’s EFL Cup and Europa League triumphs in laying the foundations for Jose Mourinho?

Vital. Any manager at any club needs a silverware base to breed confidence and ensure the backing of the support. To establish that winning mentality quickly meant everyone bought into the Mourinho way. A serial winner and he proved it. Obviously the targets this season will be upgraded.

What’s he changed about the style of play from what you saw under Louis Van Gaal?

Van Gaal's style was disappointingly uneasy on the eye and not the Manchester United way. It became more and more boring, to be honest. Mourinho has shown you can become hard to beat but still be entertaining.

Have you noticed a change in Mourinho’s demeanour this season?

Outwardly at press conferences he was maybe a bit dour and sometimes irritable last season. But now he has established himself as a success in winning trophies at United he has become a bit more relaxed.

How would you rate United’s title chances, and how many clubs are realistic contenders?

I'm back to the days when I would automatically say you'd have to be a very good side to finish above United and win the league. I haven't been able to view it that way for the last four seasons but can confidently do it now. Great starts can unravel but I don't think it will and the rivals will be the usual suspects with Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and maybe Arsenal as those fighting it out.

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