Jose Mourinho may have ended his first season as Manchester United manager with two trophies added to his already illustrious CV, but the Portuguese coach knows the Red Devils must challenge for the Premier League title in his second campaign at Old Trafford and is aware of the consequences he could suffer should they fail to do so.

Mourinho was working with a mish-mash of players from previous regimes during his first season, but now he has the spine of his team in place. Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku have all arrived this summer and will complement last year's recruits Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly. The quintet seem to be archetypal Mourinho players - towering, physical specimens who follow the wants of their coach to the letter.

United are expected to dip their toe in the transfer water one more time this summer, but from the outset the squad looks settled and well-rounded. Two influential figures in Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are no longer around, but the former's time in Manchester had more than run its course while the latter's career may yet be prolonged.

There was cause for optimism and concern last season, but United simply must return to being title contenders this time around.

Last season

Premier League: 6th

FA Cup: Quarter-final

League Cup: Winners

Europa League: Winners

Manager - Jose Mourinho

A serial title winner throughout his career, Mourinho must prove to the doubtful that his place among Europe's coaching elite is still very much deserved. The Europa League went some way to dispelling the narrative that he is over the hill, but more, greater success is required in order to rid himself of the stigma that came with *that* season with Chelsea.

The former Real Madrid manager would also benefit from enjoying home comforts once again. His Chelsea teams used to be imperious at Stamford Bridge, but United were all too happy to share the spoils with most of their opponents at Old Trafford last season. If Mourinho has serious aspirations about winning his fourth Premier League title, he cannot allow United to be so generous at home.

Key player - Romelu Lukaku

United struggled badly against the lesser sides last season, but Lukaku's presence as the spearhead of their attack should ensure that no gimmes will be handed out in the new campaign.

Doubts may preside over the Belgian international's ability to make a consistent impact in the games that matter most but he has no trouble putting the less glamorous sides to bed, especially on home soil.

United created a lot of chances against the teams in the bottom half of the table last season but were left frustrated on a number of occasions because of their profligate nature; Lukaku, though still raw in some aspects, will inject his new sign with the ruthlessness they sorely crave.


Finishing sixth in the league last season was tempered by their Europa League success, but United can ill-afford to slump so low once again, even if other competitions eventually take priority.

United have not looked close to challenging for league glory for the last four seasons and another year without so much as a push would certainly not be acceptable for a club of such stature.

Noisy neighbours Manchester City may block their path to the summit of the Premier League, but Mourinho certainly has enough at his disposal to have United challenging, while progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League would represent a successful European campaign.

Prediction - 2nd

United will accrue the points they dropped at home last season thanks to the presence of Lukaku, while Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should substantially improve on their slightly underwhelming previous campaigns.

The settled nature and impressive depth of the squad will also prove crucial to United's chances both domestically and overseas but their surge back to the top of the table could well be disrupted by City, whose manager Pep Guardiola certainly has a point to prove after last season's showing.

Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku will be tasked with leading United's title charge on the pitch. Getty Images