Mourinho faces at a tight spot to deliver

As Jose Mourinho prepares for a defining season as Manchester United manager, his list of frustrations is growing and he has not been afraid to share his concerns publicly.

The range of complaints include annoyances with the tour itinerary and grievances over the start date of the Premier League season. Disrupted preparation is the main reason for his agitation. With key men Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku involved in the World Cup until the final weekend, it has not been a straightforward build-up for United.

It is now over five years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired but it is not inconceivable that Mourinho could again rely on a back four comprised entirely of the Scot’s signings – Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and 33-year-old Ashley Young. Energy in the full-back areas still looks to be a key differential between United and their top-six rivals.

Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini will both be the wrong side of 30 when the season starts. Ander Herrera is only one year younger than them. Alexis Sanchez is another who turns 30 during the season, further underlining the fact that the time is now for this squad. Sanchez must surely improve on a return of three goals in 18 games last season.

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