Jose, Zlatan and Paul Are United.
Jose Mourinho smiles after United win at Wembley on Sunday.
It was only a matter of time until we received the news that Paul Pogba had finally signed on the dotted line and confirmed his return to Manchester United, and in the early hours of Tuesday morning the news was made official. With a week to go until the Premier League kicks off, this story has been on the cards for what feels like the whole of pre-season and with the significant arrivals of Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimović to the Red Devils it shows a real intent by the hierarchy that anywhere outside the top four will not do any longer.
Manchester United have not been the same ever since arguably the greatest manager to ever grace the English game, Alex Ferguson, chose to retire at the end of the 2013 season. On recommendation of the Scotsman, David Moyes was appointed manager with an air of cynicism which in the end was rightly justified as the former Everton and Preston North End manager could not live up to the high expectations of the United job and was duly given his marching orders. At the time of his sacking, United were 7th in the Premier League, trailing 4th placed Arsenal by 13 points with four matches remaining, ensuring United would fail to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995 and finish outside of the top three for the first time in their Premier League history.
For a club as big as United this was unacceptable and a new manager was appointed in the form of Louis Van Gaal, an outspoken Dutchman who was not afraid to say what he thought, was brought in to blood through academy prospects and bring stability back to the side. By the end of his two year reign he left as an FA Cup winner, the club’s first success in the competition since 2004, but he failed to reach the top four and the pressure on him seemed to be evident for much of the 2015/16 season as every press conference felt like an ongoing battle between what he felt the United fans thought and wanted from him and the version the media were portraying almost every day. Van Gaal fell afoul of the British press and it cost him in the end.
Manchester United confirm the world record signing of Paul Pogba.
So who would the board chose to bring the good times back to Old Trafford? Jose Mourinho of course. After a disastrous end to his Chelsea career he was determined to stay in England and was rewarded with the job he openly said he always wanted. As he begins his maiden season in Manchester he now faces a plethora of managers in the Premier League which undoubtedly could make this his biggest season and challenge yet, especially with old rival Pep Guardiola sitting on the Blue side of his newly adopted city.
His pursuit of success, as always with any club he has managed, is heavily reliant on spending power and although he has also signed Eric Bailly (Villarreal, £30m) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund, £26.3m) it is the world record transfer of Paul Pogba and capture of Zlatan Ibrahimović which sends out a statement of intent.
Pogba was selected as part of ‘FIFA Team of the Year’ in the latest FIFA awards ceremony, he was awarded the coveted number 10 shirt from Juventus and leaves Turin as a league and cup winner (plus the other three league title and cup wins during his time there). He had a successful Euro 2016 reaching the final only to narrowly miss out on a winner’s medal thanks to an extra time goal from Eder of Portugal and now he alongside Jose and Zlatan, will be looking for more.
His £89m price tag not only causes an stir for the amount of money being spent in someone who, as Paul Scholes puts it, ‘Doesn’t score you 50 goals a season’ , but also for the fact United let him go only three years ago. Pogba, then 18, was lured by Juventus and a lucrative contract worth over €1 million a season, while the player's agent Mino Raiola is understood to have agreed a €2m commission on the deal. United received a FIFA-mandated "training compensation" totalling a few thousand Euros. Ironically United acquired Pogba in 2009 in similarly contentious circumstances, his former club Le Havre making a formal, and unsuccessful, complaint to FIFA before accepting an undisclosed fee of a few thousand Euros for the transfer of his registration.
Ibrahimovic scores the winner in the 2016 Community Shield.
Regardless if he can score 50 goals he will certainly be supplying his team mates with the kind of creative passing and vision which the side seemed to have lacked as well as popping up with the odd goal. Having Zlatan alongside him also adds to the potency of the attack and with his experience the squad can only be enriched by having at the club, players like Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will benefit and leave his mark on them once he does leave Old Trafford. His influence was clear to see durng Sunday's Community Shield 2-1 win over Champions Leicester City as the Swede scoring the winner on 82 mins.
With the likes of Pogba, Ibrahimović and Mourinho used to winning league titles on a regular basis Manchester United should be fighting for the title come May, all three are winners and have the kind of mentality to bring that to those around him, not just the squad but fans and the board alike. This could be the year the Red Devil’s return to the Premier League elite. Only time will tell if this is a short term fix or the legacy Mourinho is looking for.