Manchester United have had a solid pre-season tour of Australia and Asia so far. We take a look at some of the glaring points that stood out in the matches they played.
The fan mood before the start of the pre-season tour wasn’t optimistic, with fans miffed at a lack of transfer activity and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s responses to questions addressing the issue. But, the baby-faced assassin has silenced most of his haters, for now.
Manchester United seem to be playing a particular and concrete brand of football, something which had become hard to derive under every manager after Sir Alex Ferguson, barring Louis Van Gaal. Although it is still just pre-season, the results speak for themselves.
— Simply Utd (@SimplyUtd) July 25, 2019
United have looked convincing, scoring 10 and conceding just once in the 4 games played. While we had played out a similarly successful pre-season under previous managers as well, the evident stamp of authority, playing style and swagger might have taken many by surprise, albeit a sweet one.
We look at five of the main opinions to emerge from the pre-season so far.
The new signings look on the money and worth the moolahs spent
One of the main attraction points of the United pre-season was the prospect of getting a better look at Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James and gauge their prospective role in the upcoming season. If early impressions are anything to judge by, both look worth the money splashed, in their own distinct ways.
Wan-Bissaka has earned the nickname ‘The Spider’, with no attacker able to leave his web of tackles. The Englishman is an imposing figure and has also shown that he can turn provider, with a good assist for Mason Greenwood’s first senior goal.
That United are yet to concede while Wan-Bissaka is on the field is a testament just how assured United’s problematic right-back area could look in the years to come.
Daniel James, in comparison, is more of a raw prospect. While many were not entirely impressed with his early performances, the Tottenham game has seen the Welshman win most of them over. His pace is troubling for the quickest of players and the eagerness to win the ball back is something that seems to be getting ingrained in his skillset as he continues to train under Solskjaer & co.
United fans may not be happy with a lack of impetus in the transfer market. But, the two deals are proof that Manchester United are at least going for the right profile of players, unlike before.
Manchester United should look at signing a new left-back
This might be somewhat of a stretch. But, when we say United might need a new left-back, we mean one who can be the first-choice at Old Trafford. Ashley Young has been troubled whenever he took the field, thus making him a far from ideal choice. But, Luke Shaw’s display has been disappointing.
The former Southampton man looked lethargic, often dwelled on the ball far too much and looked out of tune for much parts of the games. Shaw is a big hope for United but he just doesn’t seem to be able to get going. Whether it is mere pre-season form or something else, Manchester United should not take the gamble of going into the season with an ageing star and an underperforming prospect.
Scott McTominay should be first-choice over Nemanja Matic
McSauce has been delivering the goods since early 2019. Many though, would have chalked it down to the overall resurgence of the squad under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The pre-season performances on the other hand, suggest McTominay is good enough to start regularly for Manchester United.
Matic has become somewhat slow and cannot ideally be part of the two-man pivot, which is what Solskjaer seems to prefer as part of his 4-2-3-1 setup. McTominay is authoritative in midfield and commands the area with aplomb. He provides the same skillset that Matic does, albeit with less experience but more speed and hunger to prove himself.
With Solskjaer looking to build a new core at Manchester United, the Norwegian should look no further than McTominay as the cog to build his midfield around.
Victor Lindelof looks solid but he needs a new partner
Despite conceding just one goal in the pre-season so far and looking solid overall, the narrative is somewhat misleading. Part of the performances could be chalked down to a comparatively lower level of opposition. Also, the pressing tactic, starting right from the attackers, could also be a reason United’s defence hasn’t been tested much.
Victor Lindelof has looked commanding at the back for United. But, the likes of Jones and Smalling has proven over the years that their pre-season form should not be taken into account going into the regular season. Axel Tuanzebe looked good on the ball and in defence. But, the youngster is unlikely to be a first-choice straight away.
Manchester United have been linked with Harry Maguire for a long while now, with reports that negotiations are dragging on between the club and Leicester City over the transfer fees. Maguire or not, United need a defender of a similar mould if they are to be taken seriously this season, especially after conceding a 54 goals in the Premier League last season, a new club record in the Premier League era.
Manchester United should sell Paul Pogba before the British transfer deadline
There have been many takes on Paul Pogba. Looking at his pre-season performances, it is clear the Frenchman can be decisive when he wants to play football. But, often, he is seen dragging along and far too casual, something Solskjaer should not tolerate and cannot afford to, in his pressing tactic.
There were reports that Pogba now wants to stay. But, given the nature of the transfers, if Manchester United end the British transfer window without signing a midfielder to replace Pogba, the club will be exposed to the danger of losing Pogba and having no room to sign a replacement.
A better proposal thus, would be to sell Pogba before the British deadline and sign a replacement, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic thought to be close to a Manchester United move.
If the pre-season is anything to go by, Manchester United will need a more defensive minded player in the two-man pivot alongside Matic or McTominay. While Pogba has done that for France, he has not yet shown he can do it at the club level, with his most successful of spells coming as part of a midfield three.
This might be a controversial opinion. But, it is better to sell Pogba now, than to leave themselves exposed to going into September without a concrete midfield.