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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Mourinho pleased with Manchester United's pre-season form as Matic impresses in Sampdoria win

Mkhitaryan and Mata on the scoresheet in 2-1 triumph in Dublin as manager admits he wants more recruitment before the start of the season.

Jose Mourinho admitted he still has things to think about ahead of the new season but was encouraged by what he saw as Manchester United beat Sampdoria 2-1 in Dublin. Ian Walton / Getty Images
Jose Mourinho admitted he still has things to think about ahead of the new season but was encouraged by what he saw as Manchester United beat Sampdoria 2-1 in Dublin. Ian Walton / Getty Images

Manchester United made it six wins from seven pre-season matches with a 2-1 victory over Italian side Sampdoria in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – following a rapid counter attack - and Juan Mata scored in each half in front of a near sell out 54,000 crowd, with midfielder Nemanja Matic making his United debut alongside Paul Pogba after his £40 million (Dh194.1m) move from Chelsea.

“Matic is a genius in the way he thinks,” said a satisfied Mourinho. “He thinks football. We will help him be ready sooner rather than later and that’s why he coped with the 45 minutes well.”

The United manager also hopes the team are not finished in the transfer market.

“I was hoping for four players to improve the squad and the club did a fantastic job by getting three of them which is difficult in the crazy market where we are now.

"To get three out of four I thank the club for that. I would be happier if they give me the four.”

As would United fans. The English giants are hugely popular in Ireland and demand was strong when tickets went on sale. Despite expensive ticket prices, most fans were under the impression that the game was a sell out – only to see a large block of empty seats when they watched the game on television.

The Football Association of Ireland admitted to the organisers Relevant that the tickets in the empty section were originally a buffer zone between rival fans. They then forgot to put them back on sale when they realised they did not need a buffer zone.

United, who were inundated with complaints from fans, were irritated that hundreds of fans missed out of the team’s first trip to the Irish capital in five years.

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Posters around the Irish capital billed the tour as ‘Unmissable’, just as they did Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Houston, Santa Clara, Washington DC and Oslo, the other cities where United have played pre-season.

As with any pre-season matches, large swathes of the games were missable, but Mourinho is right to feel satisfied with how the last month has gone since his team flew to Los Angeles.

“Pre-season was good,” said the Portuguese. “I never tired to repeat how well organised it was.

"We had small injuries so everybody is ready. The boys have two days off and next week we have the serious stuff, with the Super Cup and the Premier League.”

Mourinho has also experimented tactically, again starting with three players at the back in a 3-5-2 formation of Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Daley Blind, plus two wing backs in Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian.

United’s defence has not convinced pre-season but Mourinho stuck with that formation for an hour.

Would he have done that if he did not plan to use it in the European Super Cup against Real Madrid in Skopje next week?

Mourinho has large squad to choose from with the futures of several players under question, including Anthony Martial, who showed more glimpses of his talent against the Italians and set up Mata’s goal with a clever pass after a run down the left side.

“The plan is to have a good squad, not a good team,” said Mourinho when asked about Martial, who has been linked with a loan move after a mediocre second season in England.

“A good squad with different options as we have important players injured for a long time. They’re going to be back just by the end of the year so our squad is (currently) not so big and we need options and different players.

"Lingard, Martial and Rashford are all different and we need everybody. It’s going to be fun to choose the team for every match.”

United fans are hoping the football will be more fun than last season, too.

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