As 2016 draws to a close, Manchester United are in their best form of the year, they’re unbeaten in eleven and now have four wins on the trot.
The next twelve months are crucial for the Reds with Champions League qualification, the transfer window and the beginning of the next season all on the horizon.
How long can the run go on?
With a relatively straightforward run of games ahead, this newfound form could stretch well into the new year. Of the next seven league games, running as far as mid-February, only the visit of Liverpool should worry Jose Mourinho. If maximum points, or close to it, could be secured, a top-three finish would be well and truly on the cards.
A far cry from the horrors of Turkey and Stamford Bridge.
Will Mourinho even attempt to develop his young players?
It was the question on everybody’s lips as The Special One strode through the front door of Old Trafford, not long after being kicked out Chelsea’s back.
Will he play youth?
The simple answer, no. Marcus Rashford has been forced to play out of position to accommodate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, severely damaging his development. Timothy Fosu-Mensah has played less than a half hour in his best spot despite Marouane Fellaini’s obvious shortcomings. Several players, meanwhile, have been bizarrely loaned out in spite of the fact they are simply better players than those that remained.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was jettisoned to the Wolves while the often hapless Matteo Darmian retained his spot. The famously talented Andreas Pereira is plying his trade with Granada while Wayne Rooney steals a living. Axel Tuanzebe dominates every week for the reserves but will never get a look in. The list goes on.
Failure to change will inevitably cost Jose in the end. Question is, is he too devoted to his philosophy to adjust it?
What will the summer bring?
It’s become the norm in recent years that Manchester United splash serious cash in the summer transfer window. Right now, there’s one name on everyone’s lips – Antoine Griezmann. The diminutive Frenchman is almost certainly leaving Atletico Madrid this summer, his destination, is anyone’s guess. United are favourites to land the forward with his love for the club well publicised as well as his close relationship with Paul Pogba.
Other than that, it’s hard to foresee where else the Reds could invest. The addition of Griezmann would instantly transform them into title favourites and Champions League contenders.
Will Wayne Rooney leave?
In truth, Wayne Rooney should have left United many moons ago. He’s been on the decline for years and Alex Ferguson knew it. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal couldn’t see it and he inexplicably stayed. Jose Mourinho is slowly coming to the terms with the fact that he has to leave.
He’ll break the record in 2017 and, with any luck, be speaking scouse Chinese by the end of the year.
Where will they stand a year from now?
It’s only December and United are unquestionably out of the title race. In 365 days time, if Mourinho’s charges aren’t leading the way, considering the quality of the squad, the year will have been a disappointment. The more pertinent question is, will Jose do a Jose?
His early months are remarkably similar to that of his time at Chelsea in his second spell. Early struggles followed by finding the right team and a good run but no chance of chasing the title. In his second year, as he did at most clubs he coached, he won the league.
It remains to be seen if he can follow suit at the Theatre of Dreams.
Rory Murphy, Pundit Arena