Jose Mourinho attributed his first defeat since taking charge of Manchester United to a lack of match sharpness, after Borussia Dortmund ran out 4-1 winners over his charges during their International Champions Cup tie in Shanghai.
This was only United’s second pre-season friendly of the summer, following last weekend’s 2-0 victory at Wigan Athletic, while their opponents were playing their fourth.
The difference told, and the sweltering conditions in the Shanghai Stadium did not help, but it would not have been such an emphatic scoreline if Mourinho’s men had prevented basic errors.
“My thoughts are simple. I know that in pre-season the team that is at an advanced stage of preparation looks far better than the other team,” the former Chelsea manager said after the game.
“It happens year after year. Some good teams lose to a big result. I think it’s too obvious.
“After 10 minutes we know that one team started training 10 days ago and played one match, and the other team started one month ago and played already four games. It’s so easy to see the difference of intensity and sharpness. For us it was very difficult.
“I think 3-2 would be more natural than 4-1 but they (Dortmund) showed the good quality they had, individually and collectively. They showed that they are in a much advanced stage.
Manchester United summer transfer targets
Paul Pogba, Juventus
Despite letting him go on Sir Alex Ferguson’s watch in 2012, United are desperate to land Juventus star Paul Pogba. It may yet take a world record fee of £100m to lure the 23-year-old away from Turin, however, but Jose Mourinho has made his intentions to sign world-class players known this summer. The Portuguese will hope Pogba can replicate the sort of form which has helped him scored 23 goals in 124 appearances in Serie A.
Blaise Matuidi, Paris Saint-Germain
There have been conflicting reports over United’s interest in Matuidi. Initially, it was thought he was a back-up option should United fail in their attempt to sign Pogba, though some have since suggested that Mourinho is keen on bringing both players to the club.
Hirving Lozano, Pachuca
Young Pachuca forward Hirving Lozano might not sell a mass of shirts immediately, if indeed he does sign, the 20-year-old is considered one of the most exciting talents in world football. Nicknamed ‘Chunky’, Lozano is capped seven times for Mexico despite his tender age, having scored 21 goals in 91 senior appearances for Pachuca.
Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid
Having signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic in June, United remain on the lookout for cover in attacking positions with a move for Alvaro Morata seeming likely. The Spaniard was in fine form for his country at Euro 2016 this summer before it was announced that Real Madrid had utilised a buy-back clause in his Juventus contract. That isn’t the end of matters, though, with the Spanish giants planning to sell Morata on immediately for profit.
James Rodriguez, Real Madrid
After seeing little game time under Zinedine Zidane at Madrid, another name to be thrown into the Old Traffor mix is that of James Rodriguez. The Columbian superstar was even relegated to the La Liga B side on occasions as he fell quite spectacularly down the pecking order in the Spanish capital. While Paris Saint-Germain remains his most likely destination, with reports suggesting a fee has been agreed, don’t rule out a late counter offer from United.
N’Golo Kante, Leicester City
It seems everyone has been linked with Leicester City’s midfield maestro N’Golo Kante this summer. The Frenchman made a name for himself during the Foxes’ remarkable march to the Premier League title in 2016 following a low-key £5.6m transfer from Caen the previous summer. Kante is both combative and industrious, refusing to let up until possession is won back. While the champions may be keen to keep their little midfield star, the presence of a release clause in his contract at the King Power Stadium means a move away remains entirely possible.
Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal
In a surprise rumour, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey was linked with a switch to the North West. The 25-year-old has been in scintillating form for Wales at Euro 2016 this summer but it remains to be seen if the Gunners would be willing to entertain an approach from one of their main titles for the Premier League throne. Ramsey is reportedly frustrated at the levels of competition in the centre at the Emirates but it is unlikely United would be able to offer a firmer guarantee of first-team football.
Will Hughes, Derby County
Many thought Hughes may have missed his chance to make a big-money move away from the iPro Stadium when he rejected the chance to sign for Liverpool last summer. The young Englishman remains one of the most promising players outside the top flight despite being unable to inspire Derby to promotion from the Championship. The East Midlands outfit are likely to demand an inflated transfer fee for their midfield wizard too but United have shown in the past that money is usually no object.
Mourinho refused to cast judgement on players, despite Sam Johnstone, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo all making individual errors which led to Dortmund goals.
“To be fair I don’t think I can analyse them with this difference of power. At the moment the engines are completely different. Formula 1 against Formula 3.
“At the moment they are much sharper and you can see that easily, so it’s difficult to judge my players.
“Even in these circumstances it’s quite easy to get three or four or five of them that you can see under difficult circumstances that the quality is there. The mentality and personality is there. It’s easy for me,” he added.
“But, no, 10 days of work, people are really tired, the match is against high quality opposition and in a much advanced stage of their preparation.”
Mourinho went on to reiterate his desire to make one more ‘fundamental’ addition to his squad in central midfield – widely expected to be Paul Pogba, the Juventus midfielder – with supplementary signings possibly following afterwards.
“I said in the first press conference at Old Trafford that our market has a fundamental part, and that part is four players – one central defender, one midfielder, one striker and one creative player. When we finish that fundamental market we are balanced.
“Maybe today you don’t feel it but no Ibrahimovic, no Fellaini, no Martial, no Schneiderlin. Lots of them that are not here yet.
“Then the market will be open until August 31. Sometimes things happen that you are not expecting and we have to react.
“But our fundamental market is 75 per cent done and when we sign one midfield player that crucial work will be done.”