Manchester United have made a bright start to the Premier League in 2016/17 – as good a start as they have had in the last three seasons. A comfortable win at home against Southampton, a fixture they have not won since 2013, must lift the morale in the red half of Manchester, after all the doom and gloom in the second half of last campaign.
The biggest positive from this start, besides the results and performance of course is the fact that, it did not come as a surprise. Jose Mourinho, the perfectionist that he is, made sure Ed Woodward and United got the players that he wanted well ahead of the opening weekend, that his players were able to buy into his ways at the right time to begin their season in such a convincing fashion. He said he had wanted four players – in four different positions to improve the profile of his team – which he has, by the look of the signings that he has made – Eric Bailly in central defence, Henrikh Mkitaryan in attacking midfield, Zlatan Ibrahimovic to lead the line and finally Paul Pogba – the record transfer to bolster his central midfield – the most important area of the pitch.
But it now looks like Mourinho might be after one more signing to conclude what has been a phenomenal transfer window – the best the club has had in years, probably since the 2006 January window when they signed Evra and Vidic together for a combined fee of £12 million. This one too, could be a defender as the Portuguese is said to be unhappy with the options available to him (besides Bailly and Daley Blind who have currently featured in all the three competitive games). Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo do not seem to have impressed him and that, too, is something that will not raise several eyebrows.
What Jose Mourinho needs in his new look Man United is an experienced centre-back in his late twenties or early thirties – to guide his team of young and raw centre-backs with plenty of promise but a few unavoidable errors in them. It is interesting to note that the average age of centre-halves at Mourinho’s disposal is just under 25 – and this is probably why he wants an older head to get his side through the tougher periods in the latter stages of the season when his side will likely be involved in the thick of the title race. And he is not wrong to feel that way. Having managed one of the greatest defenders the league has seen in John Terry in three title-winning seasons, Mourinho is undoubtedly the right man to put your trust in when it comes to these types of decisions.
For me, Mourinho need not look anywhere else but his own league to find the centre-back he needs to shore up his back four. In fact he need not look at anyone from a foreign country as in Fonte, his fellow Portuguese, who, in the last month has had a successful tournament with his country in France, following some incredibly fruitful years with Southampton, could be available as the Saints look to be bracing themselves for a bid from his side Manchester United and rivals Arsenal.
Fonte, is 32, with enough experience in the English top flight to make that step up to play for a big club that will challenge on all four fronts (with no disrespect to Southampton). On top of that, he’s had a productive tournament with his country which has certainly made more attractive to clubs across Europe. The Portuguese centre-back is said to be desperate for a move (not signed the offered extension yet) – a move that he thinks he deserves, in fairness to him, to a genuinely big club at this stage of his career before it’s too late. His leadership at the back is said to have particularly impressed Mourinho and a hunger that comes with playing for an elite side (be it United or Arsenal) for the first time in one’s career will be invaluable for either side he chooses to go to.
And Mourinho will do well to prise him away from Southampton who have already conceded their star player in Mane to Liverpool earlier in the window and their manager Claudio Puel is hopeful that they will manage to keep their captain away from the prying eyes of United and Arsenal. But, with only a year remaining in his contract and the opportunity to play for one of the biggest teams in England and Europe, I will be surprised to see if Fonte did not eventually push for a transfer by the end of this month.