For the second time in less than a week, one of the Premier League title favourites has flattered to deceive under new management in a high-profile friendly.
Following Manchester City’s 1-0 reverse to Bayern Munich, Jose Mourinho’s debut in the Manchester United hotseat ended in a more emphatic 4-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund.
It’s easy to conclude the Red Devils are bad bets to win the Premier League title at 7/2 as a result, but reasonable excuses can be made for their performance in the Shanghai Stadium.
Firstly, with temperatures touching 39 degrees Celsius, such heat would have certainly fatigued Mourinho’s men, who are still adapting to a new set up and building up match fitness.
Dortmund are much further into their pre-season schedule, having played five matches more than United.
Furthermore, although Mourinho’s team selection could hardly be classified as weak, there were a handful of players not available for selection.
The Special One said afterwards: “At the moment, I’m not even creating a team. So many players are not here. We’re creating individuals’ form and trying to bring these players to a good condition.”
Here are three players that have the capacity to make the biggest impact when returning:
Summer signing Eric Bailly performed admirably at the heart of the defence, with Phil Jones his partner in the first half and then Marcos Rojo after the break. The latter must take the majority of the blame for Dortmund’s final two goals.
Only five Premier League defenders made more interceptions than Smalling last term, only two were successful in more aerial duels and he was also on the brink of the top 10 for ball recoveries.
Smalling’s superior leadership skills at the back will be additionally vital alongside a number of talented, but youthful, defensive partners on the assumption that Bailly, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe will be in contention for starts.
One of the biggest notable issues for the Red Devils against Dortmund came in terms of retaining possession in the final third.
Memphis Depay did his case more harm than good in the opening period, lacking awareness and misplacing passes. Juan Mata also started centrally and could have done more to help his team counter attack.
Marcus Rashford appeared in the second half and posed different problems, with his desire to run in behind causing the Dortmund defence to drop deeper.
Ibrahimovic will almost certainly fare much better at providing a focal point of an attack, especially against superior opposition who will be prepared to commit numbers forward against United.
Daley Blind was given a rare run out in midfield against Dortmund and did produce some probing forward passes, most notably in the build up to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal when a simple square ball was on.
But in partnership with Ander Herrera in the heart of the midfield, the onus would have been on the Dutchman to provide the better protection in front of the back four.
All Mourinho teams have an enforcer-type figure in this role and Schneiderlin was a prominent ball winner at Southampton, breaking up play and nullifying opposing attacks.
Schneiderlin’s time at Old Trafford has been largely disappointing to date and the speculation is that he may be allowed to leave. But he could easily prove the answer to any midfield defensive needs if allowed to rediscover his best form.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.