Jose Mourinho has pointed towards Manchester United’s excellent pre-season as an important springboard for a meaningful title challenge over the next nine months.
Man United’s pre-season unfolded smoothly and successfully, with Mourinho’s men – based in excellent facilities in Los Angeles – playing games against LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sampdoria.
The tour contrasted heavily with the trip to China last year during which United suffered a hammering at the hands of a much fitter Borrussia Dortmund and saw their clash with Manchester City in Beijing called off due to bad weather.
And Mourinho, speaking after United’s 4-0 win over Swansea, has noted that the productive pre-season spell this time around gives his side an important advantage this term.
“We had a good pre-season. We work well and we are ready to play in different systems,” he said.
“When we saw them with five at the back, we thought, ‘Let’s try to explore the advantage of playing with three up [front]’.
“But we are ready at any moment if we were in difficult we were ready at any moment to change and also play with three at the back.
“So we are confident with the work we had. We had a wonderful Los Angeles period.”
United played more games than most top sides over the summer. Chelsea, for example, only had three games. Manchester City played four.
Mourinho has had plenty of time to experiment and consolidate. We saw the Portuguese use a 4-3-3 set-up primarily, whilst also seeing how his side fared with three at the back and in a 4-2-3-1 set-up.
And this, as Mourinho notes, could be vital during a long, gruelling season which demands the occasional change of tact against different sides. Antonio Conte’s decision to switch to three at the back in September last year altered the entire complexion of their season, after all.
When that time comes, United will be prepared, whilst others could be stuck with a doomed-to-fail plan A.