The rise and rise of Marcus Rashford
Manchester United have inevitably been linked to Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe this summer, but ask yourself why would they spend in excess of £100 million on the French striker, when they can already boast a player just as good?
There is no better young striker in world football than Marcus Rashford, and he cost the club absolutely nothing.
He broke through in the 2015-16 season, made thrilling progress last season, and now deserves to be a starter, and have the attack geared around him.
There were times last season when it shocked me how good Rashford had become. Of course, I knew he was good, but he kept surprising me, kept demanding my attention, and kept proving he is a once-in-a lifetime striker.
Remember, in more than a quarter of a century Sir Alex Ferguson never managed to conjure up a striker from within the United youth system.
How did you feel in April when Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scorer of 28 goals up until that point, had his United career suddenly curtailed by a knee injury?
The truth is it didn’t feel like a crisis, more of an opportunity, because it allowed Rashford to step forward and claim his rightful place. He didn’t disappoint.
This season, just sit back and continue to enjoy the irresistible rise of Rashford.
The renaissance of Anthony Martial
In the rush to anoint Marcus Rashford as the chosen one, the equally considerable talents of Anthony Martial should not be overlooked.
After his thrilling first season, Martial struggled in the most recent campaign; his goals output was down, and his overall brio and zest for the game seemed to also evaporate.
Something wasn’t quite right with Martial; Mourinho clearly wasn’t happy with him, he expected more, and the Frenchman didn’t do enough for him.
But Mourinho prides himself on working with talent, and extracting the best from it, and he will see a challenge in Martial this season; get it right, and he knows he will have one of the very best players in the world.
Few players can boast the Frenchman’s pace, power and ability to unsettle defences when he runs at them.
We saw this on display at Turf Moor last season when Martial collected the ball in his own half and ran at the Burnley defence, before swapping passes with Ander Herrera and calmly slotting the ball home.
It was clinical, it was direct, and it was a goal very few players could score.
The rumours of his sale should be ignored this summer. This is a player designed for Old Trafford, and we have so far only seen a mere glimpse of his talent.
It is my hope and expectation that by the end of this season we will causally be referring to ‘Martial’s difficult second season’, after watching nine months of brilliance from the young Frenchman.
Jose Mourinho’s second season
Good things happen in Jose Mourinho’s second seasons.
In his first and second spell at Chelsea, he won the Premier League, while he has also claimed titles in his second seasons at Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto.
He has triumphed in his first season at clubs too, but he has proved to be more successful in the second, and United should now benefit from this unique record.
Old Trafford will now play host to a real Mourinho team, full of freshly indoctrinated players who will know exactly what he expects from them.
“His second years are [always] better than his first because the players know each other better,” the Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho has said, who played under Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid
There will be no more passengers, no more projects, no more giving players the benefit of the doubt. He will only field teams fully aware of his tactical approach.
This season, his United side will consist entirely of his signings (Pogba, Bailly, and Lindelof), or players he has given his seal of approval to (Herrera, Rashford and Valencia), to produce a potent mix of power and drive.
Second season Mourinho has always been a different beast; even more confident, for he now has his players, and his own power base.
No more excuses. The settling in period is over. Now the fun should really begin.
This article was taken from the RoM charity 2017-18 season preview. This is one of many fantastic pieces of writing in the e-book.