It is Jose Mourinho’s second season at the biggest club in England and the Portuguese manager has built a reputation of having a superb second season at his previous managerial stints.
This usually results in a title win which Manchester United are favourites to do given their start to the season. They have accumulated 10 points out of a possible 12 and look to have the most balanced squad in the league.
It is clear, therefore, this is the best United squad and set up since the great Sir Alex Ferguson, but do they have what it takes to win the Champions League for the third time in their history?
Mourinho’s final record
English clubs have famously struggled in Europe’s elite competition for several years. In fact, the last time an English team reached the final was in 2012, where Chelsea somehow beat Bayern Munich on penalties with the legendary Didier Drogba scoring the winner.
The year before was the last time Manchester United reached the final where they lost to an extraordinary Barcelona 3-1 at Wembley in one of the worst performances in their glittering history.
However, United are a different beast to what they have been in the last four years. In Mourinho, they have a manager who has won the Champions League for two different clubs; FC Porto and Inter Milan.
|Porto||Celtic||UEFA Cup 02/03||W 3-2|
|Porto||Leiria||Taca de Portugal 02/03||W 1-0|
|Porto||Benfica||Taca de Portugal 03/04||L 1-2 (AET)|
|Porto||Monaco||UCL 03/04||W 3-0|
|Chelsea||Liverpool||League Cup 04/05||W 3-2|
|Chelsea||Arsenal||League Cup 06/07||W 2-1|
|Chelsea||Man Utd||FA Cup 06/07||W 1-0|
|Inter Milan||Roma||Coppa Italia 09/10||W 1-0|
|Inter Milan||Bayern Munich||UCL 09/10||W 2-0|
|Real Madrid||Barcelona||Copa del Rey 10/11||W 1-0|
|Real Madrid||Atletico Madrid||Copa del Rey 12/13||L 1-2 (AET)|
|Chelsea||Tottenham||League Cup 14/15||W 2-0|
|Man Utd||Southampton||League Cup 16/17||W 3-2|
|Man Utd||Ajax||Europa League 16/17||W 2-0|
To win a one-off game, no manager is better in world football and that is why United have a great chance of flying the English flag all the way to the final, perhaps even winning it overall.
Mourinho’s key final stats:
- Jose Mourinho has never lost a final in 90 minutes. His only two losses have come in extra time.
- He has won all five of his English cup finals.
- Mourinho has a perfect record in European finals, winning four from four.
Time and time again, Mourinho has proven himself to be a winner at all costs. He is exceptional at setting his side up to counter opposition strengths and now he has a United team able to carry out his instructions on a more consistent basis.
Crucially, these are players he now knows well and trusts, hence the signing of midfield enforcer Nemanja Matic this summer, a player he has won a title with.
The complete United squad
David de Gea is arguably the best keeper in the world, whilst, despite struggling against Stoke City on Saturday, they also have an extremely well organised and drilled defence.
The signing of Nemanja Matic looks to be the missing piece of the puzzle with his intelligence and composure freeing the reigns from Paul Pogba.
Ander Herrera has the doggedness and tactical discipline to play against some of Europe’s finest, shown by his remarkable man-marking job on Eden Hazard in the 2-0 victory against Chelsea last season.
Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are two of the finest playmakers in Europe, whilst in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford they have two exciting wide forwards who provide the balance on the flanks.
The signing of Romelu Lukaku has so far proved just, with five goals in his first five games and to round it all off, the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic brings a world-class winning mentality.
United have one of the most well-rounded squads in European football and a manager who has been there and done it.
Does the best team always win?
Other sides may possess more talent. For instance, Real Madrid have an extraordinary attack, midfield and defence that has seen them win three of the last four Champions Leagues.
Barcelona still arguably have the best first XI in the world despite a tumultuous summer, whilst PSG have assembled the most exciting forward line in Europe comprising Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
You also have the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus who will have something to say. Perhaps even some of the English sides believe they have a real shot at winning the competition.
However, we have seen that it is not necessarily the best team who wins the best completion, as Mourinho’s two previous success with FC Porto and Inter Milan are living proof of that.
In that 2-0 victory against champions Chelsea last season, United only had 46% of the ball yet still limited the Blues to only five shots on goal, with zero hitting the target.
When leading Inter Milan to the trophy in 2010, they beat Barcelona 3-1 at home in the first leg of the semi-final, despite only having 29% and four shots on target. This was during the era in which the Catalan club were recognised as one of the greatest sides of all time.
This ability from Mourinho to set his team up against some of the best sides in Europe and come out victorious is what gives United such a great chance of winning the competition.
RealSport verdict: Luck, discipline and desire
What United need, therefore, is a certain amount of luck, quality, but also the desire, tactical discipline and organisation to compensate for the greater talents of some of the top sides in Europe.
If United progress all the way to the final, they will face sides who will dominate the ball and have the ability to carve them open.
They have been given a fortunate group including Basel, whom they face today, Benfica and CSKA Moscow. They should top the group, and it then comes down to knockout football.
Mourinho’s bread and butter.
Don’t bet against the Portuguese leading United to his third personal Champions League triumph with his third different side.
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