What to look out for during the pre-season tour…

Photo by: Manchester United

With the amount of talking points surrounding Manchester United this summer so far, it really feels like the season never ended. 

The constant speculation regarding who might leave and who might come in has been exhausting, especially because the amount of business actually being done has been minimal. 

Having waved goodbye to a few players, United reinforced the squad with two promising signings in English right back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Welsh wide man, Daniel James. But despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanting to have his business done before his side jetted off on the pre-season tour beginning in Australia, the new United gaffer will not have the luxury of having his full preferred squad at his disposal for United’s first preparation game against Perth Glory this coming Saturday. 

So, as the United board continue to work on more signings to strengthen the squad ahead of what is shaping up to be an unpredictable season — let’s take a look at what we should pay particular attention to in our current squad during the pre-season tour games. 

The right side of the defence 

With the addition of Wan-Bissaka, and the return of Axel Tuanzebe after an impressive loan spell in the Championship, one of the biggest questions to be answered in pre-season is going to be about how United’s back four will look come the first game of the season. 

United’s struggles at the right back position over the last few years need no introduction, and the signing of a young, already established defender in Wan-Bissaka has all United fans hopeful that those struggles are set to end this off season. 

It is also no secret that United have not been able to put together a consistently solid centre back partnership for quite some time now. And with the emergence of Victor Lindelof last season, United now have a real chance to develop a solid partnership between the Swede and either Tuanzebe or Eric Bailly, especially if no signings for the position are made this summer.

This pre-season will be Tuanzebe’s first real audition for the starting centre back role, with Mourinho opting to play the young Englishman at either right back or in defensive midfield in the past. The tour will also be a chance for Bailly, who has been stalked by injuries ever since signing for United, to have a solid preparation period, and show that he might be the missing piece to United’s defensive puzzle.  

Who steps in to fill the gap left by Herrera’s departure 

Players with the kind of commitment, energy, and dedication as shown by Ander Herrera every time he steps on the pitch don’t come around very often anymore. Despite not being the most creative or technical, all the other things he brings to the table can quickly become indispensable for a team, particularly in the big games. 

Now, as Herrera has landed in Paris, and with United not having made any midfield signings thus far, it is time to have a look whether the Spaniard’s replacement is already in the United ranks.

The players that come to mind right away are Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira. Both already carrying a lot of first team experience, but now set to be given a real chance to try out for a regular first team role. 

McTominay has shown glimpses of what he can do last season, especially in the big games with his energy and physicality. It is evident that he has come leaps and bounds since his first team debut, and while still having lots of room for improvement, his work rate in particular has shown that he can be a valuable asset for United moving forward. 

Pereira is a player of similar build to Herrera, and a midfielder who covers a similar amount of ground, while also boasting superior technical abilities. Looking at the Brazilian as a whole, his potential is undeniable. And at times, he has been able to show moments of magic that make him look like a United player. But now, having just been given a new long-term contract, it is time for Pereira to put all of his chips forward, and prove that he is a legitimate United player, good enough for a regular first team role. 

The body languages of Pogba and Lukaku

While us fans all thought this summer would be all about getting rid of the “deadwood,” the two most talked about players rumoured to be itching for a move away from United have turned out to be two of United’s best, in Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

Despite all that turmoil, both players made the trip down under with the squad, and are set to feature in the upcoming pre-season games, meaning that their body language will be something worth looking out for. 

A club in United’s current position, aiming to return back to its glory days, can’t afford to be losing its best players. It’s just that simple. And with United getting a fresh start under Ole this summer, it is crucial that at least one of those players stays (Pogba should be prioritised for me), and is a key part of the rebuild.  

Which of the youth players stake their claim for regular football?

Lastly, as per the tradition, United took a number of academy products on tour this summer. The promising part about this year’s group is that all of them have had some experience within the first team last season (all of them made their debuts). So, as the team is set to kick-off their first game of the pre-season tour on Saturday, it will be interesting to see which of the youth players are able to stake a real claim for regular minutes next season. 

What’s worth noting at this point is that the squad numbers of Mason Greenwood (now no. 26) and Angel Gomes (now no. 28) have changed, perhaps suggesting that they are the two who feature in Ole’s plans the most, as of right now at least. 

When it comes to last season, Tahith Chong was the one who got the most first-team minutes in his preferred position, setting him up for an important pre-season in terms of auditioning for a more regular role at what has been a depleted right wing for United in recent years. 

Greenwood, Chong, Gomes, and Garner showed promising signs on the fringes of Manchester United last season, and with the lack of business being done at United so far, this pre-season could be a real chance for all of them to become first team regulars ahead of next season.

Author: TUD Author