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Manchester United's Shaky seven

Group of United players who need to impress Mourinho in new season

As the black-tinted sports cars carrying Manchester United's millionaire footballers rolled into the club's Carrington complex for the start of pre-season training, no one wound down any windows to discuss the start of life under Jose Mourinho.

But there was surely only one topic of conversation when the players began the hard task of proving to the new manager on the pitch that they can forge the sort of future he outlined so eloquently at his news conference on Tuesday.

Mourinho (left) made clear that only winners are welcome, which means that many of those who lifted the FA Cup in Wembley in May have reason to be seriously worried.

Yes they had secured a trophy, but not the sort that the Portuguese particularly values. He deals in titles and Champion Leagues.

The new manager's desire for specialists in each position represents a departure from his predecessor Louis van Gaal, who placed great faith in what Mourinho dismissively referred to as "multi-functional players".

"I am more a manager that likes specialists and not so much the multi-functional players," said Mourinho. "When you are in trouble, you need someone who can fill but, basically, I want specialists."

That places major question marks against the likes of Daley Blind, a key player under van Gaal, plus Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young.

All have much to prove over the next six weeks before United play their opening league game at Bournemouth on Aug 13.

Before then, United play a friendly against Wigan Athletic, a three-game tour of China and a one-off match in Sweden against Galatasaray.

Preparations are rounded off with Wayne Rooney's Old Trafford testimonial against Everton and the FA Community Shield against Premier League champions Leicester City.

Competition for places in those games will be particularly fierce with perhaps only goalkeeper David de Gea, defender Chris Smalling and forwards Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford approaching the new regime with real confidence.

Change is gathering pace at the club once famed for their stability under Alex Ferguson.

The signing of wily midfielder Henrikh Mkhityaran - the third arrival following defender Eric Bailly and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic - will probably consign Michael Carrick to the bench while Juan Mata, who Mourinho sold to United from Chelsea because he was too slow, appears on his way out, possibly to Everton.

Whether Paul Pogba comes in from Juventus remains to be seen, but Mourinho was clear he has one more piece of business to do.

"We decided four targets," the Portuguese said. "From that target we have three. Until we don't have the fourth, we are still working hard."

Mourinho is a known admirer of fullback Luke Shaw, who needs to prove he has retained his sharpness after last season's double leg break but, up front, Rashford and Rooney know they face a fight to play alongside Ibrahimovic.

Although history suggests Mourinho will have to give youth more of a chance at a club famed for the Busby Babes and Class of '92, he will still expect Rashford to hit the ground running and, most importantly, scoring.

Rooney, too, is back to being judged on his strike rate after Mourinho made clear he viewed him as a player providing the goal threat rather than the sort of midfield role he was recently asked to play for the national team.

United's latest signing, 27-year-old Mkhityaran, scored 41 goals in 140 games in a three-year spell at Borussia Dortmund and was voted Bundesliga Players' Player of the Season after netting 11 times last term.

Calm and composed under pressure, he can break open the tightest defence with his passing skills and reading of the game and Mourinho felt the Armenian would adapt seamlessly to the physicality of English football.

"Henrikh is a very talented footballer who has been in such prolific form for both his club and his country," Mourinho said.

"He is a real team player with great skill, vision and also has a good eye for goal.

"I am delighted he has chosen to sign for United. I believe he will make an impact on the team very quickly as his style of play is suited to the Premier League." - Reuters.

Marouane Fellaini.

Marcos Rojo

Daley Blind

Ashley Young

Antonio Valencia

Phil Jones

Matteo Darmian

 

 

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