José Mourinho has been sacked as manager of Manchester United, and on the surface of it, the squad he has left behind looks second rate.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that any new manager would need to spend upwards of £250 million to build a side capable of challenging for the Premier League and Champions League. But is Mourinho’s legacy as poor as it would seem? What if a coach was appointed who could bring the best out of the players we already have? If every player was playing to their ability, and United’s younger players fulfilled the potential fans have seen in them, how many world class players might United have out there?
GK: David De Gea: World class.
Despite a few mistakes recently and some nervous performances for Spain, few would argue that De Gea is a world class keeper, and probably the best shot stopper in the world.
RB: Diogo Dalot: Potentially world class.
This season might be too early for the young Portuguese right back to reach his full potential, but he has already shown signs that he can become a world class right back in the very near future. With positional sense that belies his 19 years, strength, skill on the ball and a vicious cross, Dalot has all the attributes to become among the world’s elite defenders.
CB: Eric Bailly: Potentially world class.
The day Eric Bailly walked into the Manchester United defence he was already head and shoulders above the other centre backs in the squad. Mourinho’s lack of confidence in Bailly has been baffling and has affected the player’s confidence, but recent performances have see Bailly start to regain his form of old. Put in a steady defence, his commanding presence and reading of the game can elevate Bailly to become a world class centre back, if he is not already.
CB: Axel Tuanzebe: Potentially world class.
Aston Villa fans have been drooling over the loanee this season and with good reason. At only 21 years of age, Tuanzebe is already looking like the best defender in the Championship and a recall in January to partner Bailly at the back could signal the start of a world class pairing that could dominate the Premier League for a decade.
LB: Luke Shaw: Potentially world class.
Shaw’s dedication to fitness training over the Summer led to a fantastic start to the season and to displays that demonstrated he is finally ready to overcome the setbacks and fulfil his undisputed potential to be a world class left back.
CM: Fred: Potentially world class.
Fred’s performances at Shakhtar Donetsk last season earned him interest from Europe’s elite and it is easy to see why when compared to United’s other midfielders in the same season, second only to Pogba in attacking stats and ahead of the likes of Matic in defensive stats. The box-to-box midfielder can count himself very unlucky that Mourinho has not allowed him time to establish himself in United’s midfield and it is more than possible that alongside Pogba, the Brazilian can establish himself as one of the top midfielders in the world.
CM: Paul Pogba: world class.
Whilst many doubt his attitude and consistency, nobody can doubt the world class talent of Pogba. Still only 25, under a coach that can bring out the best in him, Pogba has the ability to become a Ballon d’Or winner in the coming seasons.
RW: Alexis Sanchez: World class.
Another world class player who simply has not gelled with José Mourinho, whether it is in terms of personality, tactics or motivation. If a new coach can bring Alexis back to his best, at age 29, he could reach even greater heights alongside players who are a step up on the Arsenal and Chile teams he’s played in before.
No. 10. Andreas Pereira: Potentially world class.
Even playing out of position on the right and left flanks, Andreas was one of the bright sparks of Valencia’s exceptional 2017-18 campaign before a bad injury interrupted his progress. Back at United, the player was arguably the star of the pre-season tour, but was picked out of position as a defensive midfielder in the absence of Matic at the start of the season, only to be pulled off at half time in the second game against Brighton and given only 21 minutes of Premier League football since. Many believe that Pereira’s deft skills would make him the ideal number 10 for the club and a run in the team could see him reach his obvious world class potential.
LW: Anthony Martial: Potentially world class.
Mourinho’s defensive tactics and coaching style have not brought the best out of Anthony Martial, who has failed to better his performances under Van Gaal since the arrival of the Portuguese coach. At just turned 23, though, the player has yet to reach his full potential and if the right coaching can harness his immense talent, Martial can become one of the best in the world.
CF: Mason Greenwood: Potentially world class.
With 17 goals in 16 appearances this season, 17-year old Greenwood is looking like the real deal. He’s physically developed ahead of his years and, as Sir Matt Busby said, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough”. This season might be a little too soon, but this prestigious talent should not be held back for long and could become the best striker to ever play for Manchester United.
No doubt Mr Mourinho will claim the credit if this team of players do reach their potential and bring Manchester United back into the world’s elite. And with half of the side having been brought in by him, history might to some extent agree with him.