While his rivals scramble around in the final desperate days of the transfer window, Jose Mourinho is happy to sit back and reap the rewards of the business already done at Old Trafford. Although a record-breaking deal for Paul Pogba perhaps unsurprisingly dragged on, Manchester United completed the bulk of its transfer activity early in the summer, playing a big part in helping the club to start the Premier League season with two impressive victories.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been the star so far, netting in a 3-1 opening win at Bournemouth before scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over Southampton last time out. But fellow new arrival Eric Bailly has fitted in seamlessly to the center of defense, while Pogba impressed on his second debut for the club last Friday. The other new arrival, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has been limited to substitute appearances to date, but has still been able to bed into the squad.
Several younger players have also left, mostly on loan, including Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who this week joined Championship side Wolves for the season. And, while United has been linked with another center back, Mourinho is content with the work that has already been done as United prepare for the trip to take on Hull City on Saturday.
“I have 23 players in the squad and, in principle, there is nobody leaving and nobody is coming," he said at his pre-match press conference. “It's more than enough and if you have a problem or an opportunity then I have a few young players in the Academy that I will be more than happy to give them an acceleration in their process.
“I think we are going to have a very quiet week. Not surrounded by helicopters waiting for someone to arrive or leave – I am more than happy with the squad I have.”
If Manchester United’s perfect start to the season was perhaps anticipated, Hull City joining Mourinho’s men on six points was something that nobody, even if Hull, would have predicted. After all, the club could not have gone into the season in much worse shape.
After promotion back to the Premier League in May, Hull had seen its manager, Steve Bruce, walk away just weeks before the new campaign, having also lost one of its better players in Mohamed Diame. On the opening day of the season, with not a single player signed, the club could name a squad of just 13 senior players. And, with no replacement for Bruce yet appointed, former assistant coach Mike Phelan was taking temporary charge.
And yet Hull beat Premier League title holder Leicester City before following it up with a 2-0 win at Swansea City. It means, as Phelan, a long-time coach under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, said, Hull is now “34 points short of safety.” And the Yorkshire club has received another boost ahead of the visit of Manchester United, with center back Harry Maguire has now returned to fitness, giving Phelan 14 fit senior players.
There is yet no sign of reinforcements arriving, however, despite the summer transfer window closing next Wednesday.
“It is the same old, same old,” Phelan said. “Nobody has yet come into the building, we have not yet signed any new players. We are in talks with two or three new players and have set our stall out and are pursuing those interests. But at the moment, nothing has been delivered. We need as many as we possibly can get. We talked a few weeks ago about maybe six. Now that may be more or less. We have to pursue what we are interested.”
Hull, which beat Exeter City in the Football League Cup in midweek, is likely to be unchanged from the team that won at Swansea. Mourinho, meanwhile, could hand a first start of the season to Chris Smalling after the defender came off the bench on his return from injury against Southampton.
Prediction: Hull’s start to the season has been magnificent, showing that the squad has both fight and some quality. But the team’s success will surely not continue unless it gets some help from the club sorting itself out off the pitch. The winning run should come to an end on Saturday against a Manchester United side that is still a work in progress, but, with Ibrahimovic up front, already has a winning efficiency and swagger about it.
Predicted score: Hull 0-2 Manchester United
Kickoff Time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: NBC
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra