Manchester United have fallen short again under Jose Mourinho, meaning this summer is crucial to his own future at Old Trafford and the Red Devils’ hopes of wrestling control in the city back from the Blues.
The 3-2 win at the Etihad is a solid foundation to build on and a message of intent that they will come again stronger after being beaten easily to this year’s title.
Mourinho will shape his squad some more this summer, with Alexis Sanchez also bound to be more settled having only joined in January.
The exits, too, will be fascinating, with Mourinho yet to bring the best out of Paul Pogba – here, David McDonnell breaks down what needs to happen for United to overtake City next season:
Who they have to keep?
David De Gea, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
Who they need to lose?
Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini
What they have to address?
Greater consistency and a more adventurous approach. Defeats to Huddersfield, Newcastle, West Brom, and draws against Leicester, Burnley and Southampton cost them 15 points and undermined any chance they had of keeping pace with City.
Who they need to target?
A specialist left-back and right-back, holding midfielder, creative midfielder and an attacking forward, effectively a new spine of the team. Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, Juventus’s Alex Sandro, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, Nice’s Jean-Michael Seri, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann are on their radar.
Is the current manager the man to win the title?
Given Mourinho’s track record of winning the title wherever he has managed, you would say yes, but it is going to be hard for any manager to overhaul City, given their current quality and the fact they, too, will strengthen.
Manchester United’s humiliating 1-0 defeat at home to the Premier League’s bottom club West Brom, which confirmed local rivals City as champions, showed the scale of the task facing Jose Mourinho in restoring the Reds to the status of title-winners.
Mourinho may have won the title wherever he has managed, but the odds are against him maintaining that proud record at United, with Pep Guardiola’s formidable City looking uncatchable as a domestic force.
Mourinho needs at least five new signings this summer to have any chance of pushing City next season, and the calibre of players he needs to do that means an overall spend of up to £300million.
Players that need to be moved on include Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw, while Juan Mata and Ander Herrera are under threat, Michael Carrick is retiring and Marouane Fellaini is set to leave as a free agent.
Mourinho needs to find a way of getting the best out of club record £89million signing Paul Pogba on a consistent basis, but he certainly needs to bring in a holding midfielder and a creative midfielder to give United greater strength and variety there.
Ultimately, United need to be less pragmatic under Mourinho and play with more attacking verve throughout the season, in keeping with the club’s heritage and tradition.
With City having redefined the way the game is played in England this season, high-pressing and attacking in every game, Mourinho’s favoured policy of containment and caution in certain games belongs to a bygone era and he must move and adapt to the changing times if he – and United – are not to be left behind.
Who will be Manchester City’s biggest rivals for the title next season?
3000+ VOTES SO FAR