Manchester United flew to Los Angeles in mid-July for the start of their pre-season tour. United beat LA Galaxy 5-2 in the 1st game, then they beat Real Salt Lake 2 days later. On the 21st Manchester United played an overseas derby against Manchester City in Houston where they beat the Citizens 2-0. They recently played the El Clasico rivals, Real Madrid and Barcelona within 4 days. Man United were able to beat Real on penalties but lost to Barcelona 1-0 to end the Manchester United’s stay in the US.
Overall, Manchester United’s stay in the States was a pleasant one with them winning all their games except one. Here are the 5 most important things we learnt from United’s tour of United States.
1. Lukaku and Rashford partnership
Romelu Lukaku is settling well into the United team and has looked at ease with his United team-mates and his partnership with Marcus Rashford upfront is going to be crucial for Manchester United’s title pursuit.
With a paltry 54 goals in 38 Premier League matches last season, it is clear where United need to improve next term and Mourinho will hope Rashford and Lukaku can consistently demonstrate the sort of goal scoring ability shown by the two forwards.
Jose Mourinho had already hinted that he could use Lukaku and Rashford as strike partners and he began testing the waters for the first time in Houston. The pair looked sharp and combined effectively, on a number of occasions. They scored five goals between them since arriving in the States, and if Mourinho’s post-match musings are anything to go by, we may see them play together up front.
2. David de Gea: The key to the title
David de Gea proved it again that he is the key for Manchester United if United are to win the league. Last season Man United managed only 51 goals in the league and won only 18 games but lost only 5, proving to be the 2nd best defensive team in the league. de Gea was the rock behind his defenders and looked almost impossible to beat.
He has continued his form into the new season as United lost only 1 game in the United States. The Spaniard was in goal against Real during the shootout and also made excellent saves against Barcelona to keep the scoreline only to 1-0.
It is evident that David de Gea is going to be the key for United in their campaign with Mourinho already having confirmed about him staying at the club.
3. Lindelof struggles as United defensive woes continue
When Manchester United paid £30m for Victor Lindelof, the Red Devils had hoped for the “Iceman” to bring stability to the backline of Manchester United. But he has been average in the pre-season and looks far from comfortable till now.
Lindelof has looked vulnerable on tour, making a couple of mistakes late on which led to two goals in United’s 5-2 win over LA Galaxy, and against Real Madrid, taking out Theo Hernandez to concede a penalty from which Casemiro scored. Against Barcelona, he looked far from composed and couldn’t close down the space to keep the Catalans quiet. It was all due to David de Gea that the score was only 1-0.
He was playing against top teams and a couple of rusty pre-season games shouldn’t prompt United fans to go all-out against him. Games like these are exactly what preseason is for: to make mistakes, to feel stretched and ultimately improve as a result. Jose Mourinho will look to improve upon his defenders as there is a little time before the start of the season.
4. Martial’s Resurgence
The Frenchman is linked with an Old Trafford exit this summer with Inter Milan, Wolfsburg, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain interested in acquiring his services. However, Man United have been unwilling to negotiate a deal.
Amidst speculations of him leaving this summer, he has once again showcased why he is rated so highly. Martial created a moment of absolute magic, dribbling through Real’s defence and putting the ball on a plate for Jesse Lingard to find the side’s opening goal of the game.
He was absolutely spectacular against Real. He will be hoping to keep his form consistent to keep his place in the side. Perisic has been the top target for Mourinho after signing Lukaku. If Perisic arrives, Martial’s game time may well be limited again this season. With WC at the end of the season, he would like to be a regular starter if he is to make it to the French national team.
5. Pogba taking control of the midfield
The Frenchman, more or less single handedly took the fight to Ernesto Valverde’s men in the first half as the Catalans ran riot with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez on the pitch. He then smoothly took hold of proceedings in the second period. Pogba was comfortable muscling players off the ball and bursting forward whenever he received the chance.
Pogba was acting as the only meaningful threat in return to Barcelona’s quality. He was bursting through the lines and looking to generate threads of attacking play at every opportunity. Jose Mourinho has heaped praises on him comparing him to the like of Modric and Iniesta.
It is only pre-season but Manchester United fans would be hoping for more of the same from Paul Pogba when they will be competing against top notch oppositions in the Champions League.