Manchester: Manchester United have to defy their own manager Jose Mourinho’s fears for a season of doom and gloom when they kick off the Premier League campaign against Leicester City on Friday. Mourinho has repeatedly called for more backing in the transfer market if United are to close the record 19-point gap they trailed Manchester City by last season despite finishing second in the table.

Instead, the Portuguese’s mood has been further soured by seeing another fierce rival Liverpool steal a march with a £170-million ($220 million) splurge on new signings. “If we don’t make our team better it will be a difficult season for us,” Mourinho warned earlier this week, so far to no avail ahead of Thursday’s transfer deadline.

After securing the signatures of Brazilian international midfielder Fred and Portuguese teenage full-back Diogo Dalot early in the window, strengthening his centre-back options has been Mourinho’s priority.

Yet, United could end up facing one of Mourinho’s top targets in Harry Maguire at Old Trafford, with Leicester reportedly holding out for a world-record fee for a defender to land one of England’s heroes from a run to the World Cup semi-finals.

Maguire and Leicester’s main goal threat, Jamie Vardy, may not start having just returned to pre-season training this week after their exertions in Russia.