Jose Mourinho’s introduction to life as Manchester United manager is about to start rapidly gaining pace. It is now just over a month until the start of the Premier League season and only 26 days until the Community Shield at Wembley against Premier League champions Leicester City. But before all that comes what will be a key pre-season schedule. Next week, Manchester United leave for a tour of China, where it will face an early matchup against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The action on the pitch for Mourinho starts this Saturday with a friendly against Wigan Athletic.
Each training session and each game promises to be vital to Mourinho as he tries to assess the players he has inherited, ingrain his ideas and bed in his new signings.
“I hope to see a group, from an emotional point of view, coming together and getting to know each other better and understanding each other better. It’s important from a football point of view, but also from a human qualities point of view, that’s very important," he said in an interview for adidas' Front Row.
The disappointment for Mourinho is that several of his new squad will be unavailable for much of his preseason. With players set to be handed a three-week break, those whose countries went to the latter stages at Euro 2016 – Anthony Martial, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger – may not play until Wayne Rooney’s testimonial against Everton on Aug. 3.
Mourinho has already confirmed that while the England players who made the Round of 16 in France – Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling – will travel for the two matches in China, they will not play. Like Italy international Matteo Darmian, they may not feature until the final overseas match against Galatasatay in Sweden.
It remains to be seen whether that will also be a homecoming debut for summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has not yet joined up with training and remains on vacation following Sweden’s group-stage exit from Euro 2016. Defender Marcos Rojo is also still on break after going to the Copa America Centenario final.
"The fact that we won’t travel with every player, from a tactical point of view, breaks a little bit the objective of a preseason tour, but that’s the way it is,” Mourinho said. “We cannot make miracles and the players cannot go directly from the Euros to pre-season. They need their break and we need them for the next 10 months.
"It will be a bit strange, especially for a new manager that needs to know the players and to work with the players, but I think the pre-season tours are also for the club dimension, the club projection and club connection which, in this case, is the Asian market, commercially and for the fan-base, it’s a lot about that.”
Mourinho will at least get to work with two of his new signings. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a 26 million pounds ($34.5 million) capture from Borussia Dortmund, and defender Erica Bailly, who was Mourinho’s first capture when arriving from Villarreal for 30 million pounds ($39.8 million), are already training with their new teammates.
Manchester United Preseason Schedule
July 16: vs. Wigan Athletic (DW Stadium, 8.30 a.m.)
July 22: vs. Borussia Dortmund (Shanghai, 8 a.m.)
July 25: vs. Manchester City (Beijing, 7.30 a.m.)
July 30: vs. Galatasaray (Gothenburg, 1.30 p.m.)
August 3: vs. Everton (Old Trafford, 3 p.m.)