How happy are you now that Louis Van Gaal has left?
“Oddly, I was one of the few Manchester United fans who defended Van Gaal. That was until, however, the latter stages of the season where, with the 3-2 loss against West Ham United, it came clear he had to go, particularly with Jose Mourinho waiting on the wings. A few months on from Van Gaal’s departure, there is a positivity surrounding the club. Having just been at Wembley, the Mourinho songs are building into quite a collection while the imminent arrival of Paul Pogba had people celebrating greatly. It’s certainly exciting already, and that’s because Van Gaal has left, so we’re happy.“
One question that everybody is asking and I myself have done an article on is whether Jose Mourinho can bring instant success to Old Trafford, what do you think?
“I think the second season will be Jose Mourinho’s better season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba have been brought in, as well as Eric Bailly, but the Portugese needs time to build this team into his own and give back the freedom that Louis Van Gaal took away. Similarly, I think Pep Guardiola’s second season will be better than his first at Manchester City, making the 2017/18 season an enthralling prospect. Mourinho’s began with the Community Shield, the hope is that United will now challenge for the Premier League title, I think we’ll finish third.”
The Pogba transfer has been rolling over all summer, would you be pleased to see him at Old Trafford or do you see him as overpriced?
“He’s coming home, he’s coming home, he’s coming, Pogba’s coming home” was the chant before the Community Shield. It’s exciting, certainly. He’s not yet the best midfielder in the world but in my opinion, he’s in the bracket just below Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. It appears the transfer is less than £100m. Should he be the most expensive player in the world? Probably not, is it worth it for the club in the current situation, yes. “
Who has impressed you the most from pre-season?
“We’ve has a relatively short pre-season after the cancellation of the match against Manchester City but Henrikh Mkhitaryan, our new signing, has been thoroughly impressive. It remains to be seen whether he will be used in a central position or on the right flank of a 4-2-3-1.”
“David De Gea is the most important player. In terms of outfield players, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be our key player, whether on the right or in the middle. Paul Pogba, when the transfer goes through, will take that mantle. The Pogba transfer provides Man United with a midfielder who will play every game which, given the inconsistency of United’s midfield duo without the Frenchman, will be very useful to providing a spine for the team.”
What one improvement would you like to see from United going into the new season?
“Movement, improvisation, freedom. Van Gaal stifled that, hopefully that will change.”
Lastly, where do you think United will finish this season?
“3rd, but in the title race for the majority of the season. Chelsea’s squad is well accustomed to each other and Antonio Conte will use this as an advantage against his counterparts.“
Thanks to Harry Robinson (@HarryRobinson64)
It’s a big step from Championship to Premier League; do Boro have what it takes to survive?
“Yes. Karanka has built his success at Boro on having a resilient defence and I believe it will also hold its own in the Premier league. We might not score the most, but we will get enough to make sure we’re 17th or better. We’ve made a number of Premier League quality signings and there is a genuine togetherness at the club.
The manager is also lucky in having one of the best chairmen in world football (Steve Gibson OBE). He personally intervened in the Negredo deal to make sure it got over the finishing line and last season he managed to solve a fragile and emotional situation which looked as if it could only end with the manager going his separate ways.
And to this a passionate vocal home support (which has been described by Karanka as Boro’s 12th man), and I believe we have everything in place to survive in this most competitive of leagues.“
You have been very busy in the transfer window, who do you think is the most important player you’ve bought?
“Gaston Ramirez. Even though he was here last season it was only a loan and it genuinely looked like he wouldn’t be signing for the club as he’d agreed a pre-contract with Uruguayan side Penerol in January. However work behind the scenes has meant he’s come back to the club and he’s looked one of the best players in pre-season.
The reason Ramirez is so important is because he plays the vital No.10 role so well and in a side that plays two deep lying central midfielders it is probably the most important position on the pitch. He is one of those players- if he plays well: the whole team plays well. “
What do you think you need to improve on from last season to have a prosperous season in the premier league?
“Goals. We’ve always had the best defence in the Championship under Karanka, but our top- league scorer last season was David Nugent with 8 goals. Even though it’s good to spread the goals around a team; we’ll need a player to better that tally this season if we’re going to beat the drop.”
Who do you think is the key player this season?
“Alvaro Negredo, The last few seasons haven’t been prolific for him but he still has an overall goal to game ratio of 2.3 and he’s shown in the past that he’s a strong, powerful No.9 with an eye for goal. Most Boro fans expect him to be the first choice striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, so if he can once again get close to his best; he could be the key to scoring the all-important goals that keep us up.”
Where do you see Boro finishing this season?
“14th. Like most fans though I would take 17th, but I have a feeling we will do better than that. I can see us upsetting a few of the so-called bigger teams and have a Watford-like surprise season back in the Premier League.”
Thanks to Gibgod (@gibgod)
What do you think of your new manager and how disappointed are you that you’ve lost another top manager?
“I think that Puel is going to reignite the youth academy we have and the ethos around the club of bringing up youth players. Obviously, at first I was very disappointed at Ronald Koeman leaving but we are used to it and have to believe in Puel. I’m over it now honestly.”
Do you think you’ll suffer from the selling of Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama?
“Sadio Mane and Wanyana are the two that will make the difference now they’ve left. We’ve obviously lost the rock in our midfield in Wanyama and our creative spark in Mane. The two replacements however I think are both brilliant signings, Redmond and Højbjerg.“
What one thing would you like to improve on from the last season?
“I think youth has to be implemented into the first team more, how it was with Pochettino than with Koeman. Koeman haunted the pipeline of academy players that we had. I hope to see Puel, as a huge promoter of youth at Nice and Lille, to bring that back at Saints.“
How do you feel about the signings Southampton have made?
“I’m very happy with the more expensive signings, Højbjerg and Redmond both looking like direct replacements fro Mane and Wanyama. McCarthy and Pied I’m slightly unsure about, Pied is looking good from his performance against Athletico Bilbao and it looks like he will cause Cuco Martina to leave. Overall I’m happy so far but I believe we will need maybe one or two more signings. An attacking midfielder and a back-up centre-back. Being the priority“
Who do you see as your key player going into the new season?
“The key player I can’t identify as one individual yet, with a new system under Puel. Tadic is going to have to step up as an attacking midfielder at the top of a diamond which means he will be our creative player. Also we will be very dependable on Shane Long and Charlie Austin if we don’t bring in another striker. Virgil Van Dijk is also huge for our season, almost taking over from Fonte as the rock in the defence.“
Lastly, where do you think you will finish this season?
“8th. I think after seasons of progression we will slide down the table a little after the loss of key players and Koeman. Europa League group stages will also take a toll on us. It is dependable on how quickly Puel adapts to the league and how much he gets the players working with his system.“
Thanks to Sam (@Tadicology)
What’s the feeling like around the club now with a new ‘sexy” style of football?
“I think the fans have embraced the new style of football. When we are on song like the home games vs. the two Manchester clubs last season it’s an absolute joy to watch. Some fans get frustrated when we play square passes at the back but it’s hard not to enjoy some of the football.”
I was reading 442’s latest magazine and one of the main questions they were answering was “Is it Time Shaqiri justified the hype”. What’s your view on him, do you think this is the season for him to shine?
“I don’t think Shaqiri did anything wrong. He created more chances for us than any other player. He also hadn’t played much or had a full pre-season prior to joining. It would be nicer to see him given a freer role this year as some times he was stuck on the wing. He can be even more effective with a more central role as we saw in the euros.”
You have quite a few striking options (Diouf, Crouch, Walter, Bojan and Joselu) all posing different styles. Who do you think suits the role best?
“Out of the strikers we currently have I would say Diouf is the best suited. Especially away from home as he is the quickest which suits counter attacks. Sometimes last year when we were struggling creating chances. I feel he should have played crouch & told Arnautovic & Shaqiri to fire balls in from wide areas. Walters is also a great option as his work rate is a nightmare for defenders.”
What one improvement do Stoke need to make to improve upon last seasons 9th place finish in the league?
“To be able to break teams down who turn up to defend. We have no problems against the more attacking teams as there is more space for our flair players to shine but against the more stubborn teams we often failed to break them down and got frustrated. A plan B for these teams is required.”
Who do you see as Stoke’s key player this season?
“I think Bojan could be a massive player this year. He was showing his best form in the 14/15 season before his terrible injury. That kept him out until a few weeks into last season meaning he missed pre-season. He started to show glimpses again of what he can do. This year though he’s had that pre-season and is looking sharp and has been probably our best player in pre-season. He is a wonderful talent.”
Lastly, where do you think they will finish in the league this season?
“I think with more luck on the injury front (last season was outrageous) and we come up with the plan B I mentioned earlier then maybe 7th is achievable but realistically with other teams also looking strong then I would imagine 8th or 9th again.”
Thanks to John Mothershaw (@pottersjohn)
Most Sunderland fan are annoyed at the FA’s conduct in appointing Allardyce. Do you share the same feeling or do you think Moyes will do a good job?
“I’m annoyed at the FA for leaving their decision so late and not giving us much time to get a manager and give him a full pre-season and transfer window. However I’m very happy with Moyes as he brings stability and consistency.”
Sunderland have been lingering around the bottom for a few seasons now, have you got what it takes to push higher up the table this season?
“With Moyes as manager I can see us pushing for a mid table finish, but due to a lack of signings it will be difficult unless he can bring some players in such as M’Vila and Januzaj.”
What is the main improvement you would like to see at Sunderland this season?
“I would like to see us fight for something else rather than a relegation battle, that could be a cup run like with Poyet, or even a mid table push to bring consistency.”
Who do you believe to be your key player going into the new season?
“Kone is definitely a key player as he brings calmness to the defence and rarely makes a mistake. With Djilobodji next to him, we have pace at the back and I can see us conceding less goals than last season.”
Are you happy with the signings Sunderland have made so far and what other player would you like to see at the stadium of light next season?
“I’m happy with the Djilobodji signing as he played very well for Bremen last season and wasn’t given a chance at Chelsea, however a lack of business may cost us because other teams around us have spent money whereas we haven’t. I’d like to see M’Vila and Yedlin on permanent deals and players the like of Bony, Januzaj or Fellaini added.”
Lastly, where do you think Sunderland will finish this season, any improvement on last season?
“Depending on the transfers we make, I think we will finish 14th or above, however transfers are a must.”
Thanks to George Watts (@George7Watts)