By, Kyle Gibson
It isn’t official at the time of writing, but Jose Mourinho has all but been appointed the next manager at Manchester United, replacing the much maligned Louis van Gaal just days after the Dutchman helped United lift the FA Cup.
Mourinho has been tabbed as the next United manager since his firing from Chelsea in December, so he’s had some free time to plan his strategy for a club he’s always dreamed of coaching.
Here are three things Mourinho should do right away to help ensure a steady start at Old Trafford.
1. Sign a World-Class Striker
Wayne Rooney now sees himself as a central midfielder, while Anthony Martial has looked like one of the Premier League’s best wide players, not strikers. That leaves 18-year old Marcus Rashford, who did have a great first season with eight goals. However, Mourinho isn’t a big fan of youth. James Wilson does return from loan with Brighton, but only fired-in five goals in the second division.
There plenty of chatter about United signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which might just be a great match. The fiery Zlatan is by most standards old, at 34. However, he still managed 31 goals and 13 assists in 38 games for PSG in France. Ligue 1 is not as strong as the Premier League, but if Zlatan can bring United even 20 league goals, he’s worth the signing.
2. Patch-up the back line
Items No. 1 and 2 have been tops of United’s improvement list since Sir Alex Ferguson was still giving United players the hairdryer treatment. It’s baffling that United still has not fixed its defense. Chris Smalling had a big improvement at center-half this season, but his partner, Daley Blind, struggled with defending athletic and tall players. Can Mourinho replace Blind with someone like Phil Jones, who has always struggled with injuries at United? He should probably dip into the transfer market instead to buy some insurance.
The full-back positions are just as much a toss-up, but I don’t know if transfers are necessary yet. Matteo Darmian was the defender of the year in Serie A, which is either an indictment on Serie A, or Darmian’s first season in Manchester. He was either injured, or a liability. Hopefully Mournho can provide more stability for Darmian and left back Marcos Rojo. He also has Antonio Valencia, who looked impressive in the FA Cup Final on Saturday after returning from injury.
It goes against everything Mourinho does, but he should also continue to develop young backs Luke Shaw, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
3. Make Europa League a big priority
Some clubs and managers thumb their nose at Europa League, but United can’t afford to next season. The club demands Champions League soccer and it’s harder than ever to qualify via league play. With only four (potentially five) spots up for grabs, that means clubs like United, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester City, Southampton and West Ham are all fighting for those spots. Winning the Europa League secures automatic Champions League qualification. If Jose and United treat the Europa League like small potatoes, the club’s arrogance could cost it Champions League for a second consecutive season.
Follow Kyle Gibson on Twitter, @KyleIsGibson.