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Sports

Man U and Leicester City kick off England's Premier League season

media Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has warned of a difficult 2018/2019 season for his team following a quiet transfer window. Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Manchester United host Leicester City on Friday night in the first game of the English Premier League season. Manchester City, last season's champions, begin the defence of their crown on Sunday at Arsenal who will be keen to make a big statement under new boss Unai Emery.

United go into the clash at Old Trafford nursing wounds from their poor returns in the transfer market.

Manager Jose Mourinho made it clear during the summer that he had an extensive wish list of players. Leicester City's Harry Maguire, Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng and Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham Hotspur were all linked with United.

However, Ed Woodward, the United executive in charge of realising those transfers, has failed to cater to Mourinho's demands.

On Thursday - a few hours before the transfer window closed in England - another target snubbed United.

Diego Godin, the Atletico Madrid defender, declined the invitation to join the club even though he was offered a 150,000 euro a week deal over two years. The 32-year-old Uruguay international said he preferred to remain in the Spanish capital and continue his work with the Atletico boss Diego Simeone.

Mourinho has warned that a difficult season lies ahead for his side as they try to make up ground on Manchester City, who finished the season 19 points ahead.

United's first visitors to Old Trafford enter the new season with the objective of another improvement. Leicester, the fairy-tale champions of 2016, have finished their subsequent campaigns in 12th and 9th.

Claude Puel took charge of the team last October and steered them into the safety of mid-table. It was redemption for the Frenchman who was sacked as Southampton boss in June 2017.

He might start the campaign without Maguire and his England teammate Jamie Vardy. The duo returned to training on Monday after three weeks holiday following their efforts during the World Cup.

"We will see if they are in the squad,” said Puel on the eve of the game. "Harry and Jamie are ready in their minds. But I don’t know if they’re ready in their body, with their fitness levels."

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