Jose Mourinho expects his Manchester United squad to remain unchanged after Thursday’s transfer deadline.
It is understood that the Old Trafford manager plans to retain all his senior players and does not think the club will be able to secure an appropriate signing at full back or for the second line of his attack.
Ideally, Mourinho would like to have strengthened in both positions, adding a player comfortable playing at left or wing back and an “attacking player, especially that can play through the wings” to increase the English Premier League leaders’ tactical options. A difficult and unprecedentedly expensive transfer market, however, has hindered United’s ability to complete deals.
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Although United pursued and were prepared to spend heavily to secure Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale from Real Madrid neither transfer has come to fruition, with the FIFA World Player of the Year forced to remain in Spanish football and Bale refusing to get on board with the European champions’ efforts to place him on the market.
An approach to take Willian from Chelsea was blocked by Roman Abramovich, while Mourinho’s late-summer interest in AS Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar has been complicated by Liverpool bidding the France international’s price up as they seek a replacement for Philippe Coutinho.
While Ivan Perisic was included on Mourinho’s long list of attacking recruits, Internazionale first priced the Croatia international at an inflated level then proposed an improved contract to remain in Serie A. According to a source close to the manager, there is “no chance” of United recruiting Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City.
United’s unbalanced performance in the 3-1-4-2 formation Mourinho started against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup led the manager to explore options to recruit at left back.
Although the position has been a particular point of weakness in his United’s line-ups – with duties shifted between Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Macros Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young depending on match strategy and form – there is a shortfall of available defenders on the market.
Mourinho has resisted attempts from Valencia to sign Andreas Pereira on loan, holding to his decision to retain the Brazil under-23 international in his senior squad. Pereira’s ability to play a range of positions in midfield and across the second line of attack is valued by the Portuguese, as is his 1st January 1996 birthdate, the exact cut-off date to be included in both Premier and Champions League squads as an under-21 player.
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Axel Tuanzebe will also continue working with the first team.
The 19-year-old made four Premier League starts last season as a right back or holding midfielder when Mourinho required cover for injuries or sought to rest players ahead of the club’s Europa League Final win. The rest of United’s academy graduates, including Scott McTominay, Demetri Mitchell and James Wilson, are training with the under-23 squad.
United have made three senior signings this summer in central defender Victor Lindelof, centre-forward Romelu Lukaku and central midfielder Nemanja Matic.
They have also released then re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is continuing his rehabilitation from a double cruciate ligament rupture.
Just two players with significant Premier League experience have been moved on from the dysfunctional squad Mourinho inherited from his predecessor Louis van Gaal.
Adnan Januzaj has been sold to Real Sociedad, while club captain Wayne Rooney joined Everton. Young defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson are at Crystal Palace and Leeds United on season loans.