LONDON • Manchester United have to defy their own manager Jose Mourinho's fears for a season of doom and gloom when they kick off the Premier League campaign against Leicester City today.
The Portuguese has selection problems due to the quick turnaround between the World Cup and the start of the new season.
Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Diogo Dalot are ruled out because of injuries while Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini are not considered fully fit after being given extra time off to recover from the Cup.
The worst fears of United fans were realised yesterday when the club failed to reinforce their squad on transfer deadline day.
Mourinho, who has cut a disgruntled figure due to the club's underwhelming transfer activity, took another swipe at the media yesterday, pointing out that his United side were closest to runaway leaders Manchester City last season, even if they finished 19 points adrift.
"My view is that, first of all, it is difficult for me to believe we finished second," he said. "When I listen, when I read, not much but sometimes I do, it is difficult to believe that we finished second, because you are capable of making people that finish second look like they were relegated, and people who win nothing, finish below us, you make them look like serial winners.
"It is difficult for me to understand, to feel, to believe we finish second. I won eight championships and three Premier Leagues, but I keep feeling the second last season was one of my biggest achievements in the game."
MOAN-RINHO AT IT AGAIN
In football, you need time to work and players on the pitch to work, and we didn't have that until now... Pre-season is difficult when you don't have your players to work with, as simple as that.
JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, explaining that an ill-prepared pre-season is likely to affect his side's start to the campaign.
United's close-season transfer business has been restricted to the arrivals of Fred for £52 million (S$93.5 million), the injured Dalot and Lee Grant, signed from Stoke City as a third-choice goalkeeper.
"I'm not confident," Mourinho said, when asked if there would be signings on deadline day.
"The market closes today so it is time, at least for me, to stop thinking about the market so I will have to focus on the players I have."
The 55-year-old had identified a new centre-back as the top priority but he failed to get any of his targets - Leicester's Harry Maguire, Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng and Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld.
Atletico Madrid captain Diego Godin emerged as a shock target yesterday, with British media reports indicating an approach had been made, only for the LaLiga club to rebuff the possibility of a move.
Leicester manager Claude Puel also poked fun at the speculation surrounding Maguire, saying: "I'm confident he's going to United, but only for a couple of hours with us."
Mourinho bemoaned the lack of preparation time, saying: "The target is the Leicester match and the tactics to be changed, in Championship Manager, you can just press a button," he said. "In football, you need time to work and players on the pitch to work, and we didn't have that until now.
"I was told that during pre-season, it looked like I was saying something absolutely out of order, something crazy, I repeat and maybe tomorrow the reaction is the same: Pre-season is difficult when you don't have your players to work with, as simple as that."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
MAN UNITED V LEICESTER
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