Neil Humphreys: Red tide rising in Manchester
Sign a defensive midfielder and Mourinho's men will have the backbone required for title tilt
With their sly signing of Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United look like men on a title mission.
Their EPL rivals really should sit up and take note. The Red Devils are on the road to an open-top bus parade next May.
Here's why other EPL challengers should be afraid.
1) LUKAKU IN, ROONEY OUT, JOB DONE
Jose Mourinho has never let humility get in the way of a good headline. He can't just sit back smugly. He must gloat.
Just days after completing the Romelu Lukaku transfer, the United manager revealed his earlier pursuit of Alexandre Lacazette - and why he rejected the Frenchman.
According to club sources, the new Arsenal signing has "no stamina, no physical impact and isn't a big-game player".
Love or loathe Mourinho, his latest stab at Machiavellian manipulation is really ingenious.
With one leaked story, he's reminded the world that United have signed a proven, reliable EPL goal-scorer - and Arsenal haven't.
Not for the first time, Arsene Wenger has signed an attacker with an asterisk.
Lacazette scored 100 goals in 203 league appearances, but he scored them for Lyon, a superior side in an inferior league.
It's not quite the same as scoring 25 EPL goals for an inferior side in a superior league, as Lukaku did at Everton.
Barring injury, Lukaku boasts the essentials to knock in 20 goals with little difficulty, the kind of return associated with title challengers.
At the same time, Mourinho removed the club's biggest wage with no loss of face among the parties involved.
He knows the coach (Jose Mourinho) well, and scores a lot of goals which we hope he will carry on so we can try to win the league.Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata on new signing Romelu Lukaku
Wayne Rooney had earned his legendary status years ago, about the same time he last earned his £300,000 (S$535,000)-a-week salary on a football pitch.
His reputation propped up his legacy and a potential impasse between coach and captain seemed inevitable.
Remember, Sir Alex Ferguson had struggled with Rooney's temperamental demands on at least two occasions.
In fact, Rooney has been an expensive thorn in the sides of four United managers.
But Mourinho sent him home without damaging the dressing room. He signed an established EPL striker as a replacement and even found time to remind a rival that they hadn't.
As Mourinho pointed out, Arsenal took a gamble on Lacazette. But United might just have pulled off the signing of the season.
2) UNITED HAVE YOUTH, POWER AND SPEED
Like Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season, Lukaku was bought to play every game of significance.
Mourinho's greatest sides are rarely rotated. So the speculation inevitably follows that a manager with a deep mistrust of young talent has no long-term interest in Marcus Rashford.
But the 19-year-old has often featured as wide forward, blessed with the pace and close control to cut inside from either flank.
At youth level, he was deployed as a No. 10, a position that Mourinho believes should be an artist-artisan hybrid.
He likes his mavericks to have a bit of muscle. The tall, rangy teenager has the physical attibutes to eventually fill the role.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan's vision, along with his keen eye for goal, already make him a popular choice with both Mourinho and United supporters.
He'll take the third slot up front and suddenly, a side that often felt lopsided and laboured last season now blends youth, power and speed.
There's no longer an attacking imbalance at Old Trafford. Three into one does go.
3) STRONG SPINE, BUT NEEDS TO BE STRONGER
Mourinho remains in the market for a full spine replacement. He's almost there.
After Lukaku and Victor Lindelof, United are after that elusive man in the middle.
Around £40 million appears to be the sum on offer. It wasn't enough to tempt Tottenham to release the £50m-rated Eric Dier, but the figure might match Monaco's evaluation of Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The 22-year-old Frenchman comes with the defensive midfield qualities that Mourinho typically favours.
And Chelsea are also in the market for Bakayoko, so he ticks every cheeky box for Mourinho.
With Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera, Bakayoko could complete a second triumvirate of recognised performers behind the front three.
United's most important signing, however, will still be the one that Real Madrid do not make.
Keeping David de Gea remains critical if Mourinho is to realise his silverware aspirations.
Recent speculation over the Spaniard has dissipated, a surprising development considering that he would fill the glaring weak spot in Real's line-up.
But the Bernabeu bigwigs remain the coiled cobras of the transfer market, ready to strike when their prey least expects it. They'll be back. United must spurn their advances.
Keep de Gea, sign a defensive midfielder and Mourinho's men will have the backbone required to return to the title summit.