For the first time in years, there are plenty of clubs in the English game who seem to be pleased with their progress.
Manchester City are coasting after a flawless domestic campaign in 2017/18, while Liverpool have splashed the cash to improve upon their “almost” exploits of last year. Tottenham have reached the Champions League for a surprising third consecutive season, Chelsea have once again freed themselves from the woes of their previous manager, and Arsenal have addressed their needs with thoughtful signings for the first time in a decade after replacing long-standing manager Arsène Wenger.
The positivity ends with perhaps the biggest club of all in Manchester United, though. Despite finishing in second place in the Premier League and adding promising four promising talents in 2018, while promoting a few exciting talents from the academy, the media and fans seem convinced that the Red Devils are in for a season of misery.
Circumstances are clearly not perfect at Old Trafford; manager José Mourinho seems to sour the mood with each passing press conference, as he did with poor decisions which arguably caused United’s demise at important moments last season.
United were left needing pragmatic football to win matches in the absence of Paul Pogba while struggling to maximize points against weaker sides, with questions asked as to whether Mourinho is the man he once was.
Now, in the transfer market, the clear need for younger, more vibrant fullbacks has not been addressed at all, whereas the potential needs for a centre-back and right-winger are only circulating through the rumour mill.
These factors have left plenty forgetting the fact that the Red Devils last season were worthy of 81 points, which would undoubtedly be enough for a finish in the Champions League places this season, and all before making significant improvements all over the pitch.
Combine this with the fact that United have had systematic and consistency-related problems and there are many areas for the Red Devils to improve upon an already respectable finish last season.
It is easy to forget that before José Mourinho became manager, United had missed out on the Champions League in two of the previous three years, and now the club seem to be heading towards consistency in that area. Until signs show on the pitch in competitive matches that improvements upon last year’s shortcomings will not be made, there is no reason to be negative about the club.
Pre-season has been largely dire for Manchester United, but there have been many positives to calm the storm; Brazilian duo Fred and Andreas Pereira look ready to revitalize the midfield, Alexis Sánchez is raring to go for his first full season for the club, and these three individuals add to an existing group of great players, led by a few who had career-changing tournaments at the World Cup.
The media have written United off, but they are the perfect darkhorses for the season; capable of hurting the best of opposition, not expected to perform on any front, and showing enough stability to consistently push through a campaign for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson was walking out into the Theatre of Dreams.