Manchester United pre-season: What have we learnt?
By Liam Canning
LvG and his men took to the USA, from coast-to-coast, they played teams varying from LA Galaxy, to Real Madrid. Everyone knows it is *only* pre-season, but it’s a good eye-opener to see how well the players are adjusting under the new management staff and playing style.
The order of games were as follows: LA Galaxy, Roma, Inter-Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool (because MUFC reached the final of the ICC).
Opening game: LA Galaxy, LvG’s first game in charge as Manchester United manager, with 86,000 fans bearing down his neck, it was a glimpse of what is to come in the future.
It was a steady opening 30 minutes with neither team looking stronger. But then, the deadlock broke, Danny Welbeck scores the first goal under Louis van Gaal’s reign, a great goal from outside the area, nicely placed.
As the game went on, MUFC grew with confidence, playing more fluid, tiki-taka type football, a real pleasure to watch. For each game, LvG rotated the team over every half, so essentially – he had two teams in one game.
The match finished 7-0 to Man United and LvG’s delight, a great starter for the new boss and the fans got to see a great attacking display from the team they love – something David Moyes couldn’t do.
Next came the International Champions Cup, a tournament in the USA, where there were two groups consisting of four teams in each pool. Pool A: Real Madrid, AS Roma, Inter Milan and Manchester United. Pool B: Manchester City, AC Milan, Liverpool and Olympiacos.
First game of the tournament: AS Roma. A very tough opposition indeed, having battled their way through Serie A last season, they fell short of lifting Scudetto to eventual winners, Juventus. However, they showed their passion, grit and hard-working philosophy which was ought to be of a threat to Manchester United.
In the first half, it was rather steady like the LA Galaxy game, but a piece of magic from Wayne Rooney broke the deadlock as he made space for himself and unleashed a rocket into the top corner of Łukasz Skorupski’s net.
Things changed drastically after that, when a delightfully orchestrated goal found it’s way in AS Roma’s net after Rooney, sitting deeper in midfield, dinked a ball over Roma’s defence and into the on-going path of Juan Mata, who cleverly chipped the ball over the goalkeeper and before you knew it, Man United were 2-0 to the good.
The game escalated from there, as a handful of goals went in from either team and at full-time, the game finished 3-2 to Manchester United. You may say that it was a good result for Manchester United? That’s not what newly-crowned boss, Louis van Gaal thought of the game.
“I think we don’t play a good match because I don’t know, maybe the height of the stadium, the air... All my good passers failed today.”
Sometimes deemed as a perfectionist, Louis van Gaal definitely seemed irritated by something, after all, the height of the stadium was just, too high.
Nevertheless, United were sitting on top of Pool A with 3 points, comfortably in the lead after Real Madrid had lost to Inter Milan.
Next up on the tour, was Inter Milan, and what an occasion it was, with Man United’s former-captain, Nemanja Vidić starting his new adventure and playing against MUFC.
The game was bitty, unadventurous and lacked purpose. It finished 0-0 from 90 minutes, and because it’s the ICC, it went straight to penalties. I’m sure all United fans can remember when their team last took to penalties, against Sunderland in the Capitol One Cup Semi-Final, where they bowed out to the Black Cats.
That most definitely wouldn’t have filled them with hope, but surprisingly, the Red Devils pulled through on penalties to win 5-3, where all of their penalties were scored graciously. LvG and his staff have obviously been practicing in detail with the players!
On Saturday 2nd August, Manchester United embraced their final game of the ICC group matches, against the 10-time-Champions-League-winners, Real Madrid.
Another enthralling, attacking display from MUFC, as they brushed Real Madrid past by 3 goals to 1. I was incredibly impressed by Tyler Blackett, when he came on, for a 20-year-old, with little caps to his name, thought he handled the pressure of defending against superstars extremely well.
3 out of 3 wins in the tournament for LvG’s side, and the final awaited Manchester United. Their opponents? Their arch-rivals, Liverpool. The staff and the manager couldn’t send out a clearer signal if they tried than beating Liverpool in the final to show that this year will be different.
And they did just that, beating Liverpool 3-1, with goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard, Manchester United were crowned ICC winners for the first time! It has to be said, the game against Liverpool, in the first-half, United look lacklustre, with no real purpose or integrity. But, they came out in the second-half and found their identity, that’s for sure.
With fantastic fast-flowing, fluid style of play, the Red Devils dismantled Liverpool’s spirit and defence and in the end proved to be the stronger side on the night. A great team performance, and a great tour for not only the players, but also the management staff.
Now, United fans must not get too excited and start blabbing about how they’re going to win the League after those victories, but it does fill them with a positive aura, and so it should.
Players that impressed on the tour: Tyler Blackett, Reece James, Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney, Wifried Zaha, Darren Fletcher, Ashley Young and David de Gea.
Players that didn’t impress: Luis Nani and Tom Cleverley.
In particular, I thought that Ashley Young surpassed anyone’s opinion of him this tour, with mesmerising performances, especially against Real Madrid where he picked up a brace. He seems revolutionised by Louis van Gaal’s new 3-4-1-2 formation, and has really adopted it well, forcing his way into the manager’s plans for next season – that’s for sure.
Overall, a thoroughly prodigious tour from Manchester United and everyone involved, as they head back to Manchester to begin training, they can hold their heads up high, as they showed; class, identity and style whilst touring America.