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What to make of United’s pre-season with LvG

The pre-season is an opportunity for players to get back in the swing of things before the games that matter begin.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United have travelled the globe, winning and losing against a whole host of teams we’d never heard of before.

Following the 2006 World Cup, United travelled to South Africa and were fairly average in all of their games. Against the Kaizer Chiefs we required a late goal from Dong to wrap up a 1-0 win, before losing the final game on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Still, United went on to win the league that season.

Following the 2010 World Cup, United went to the States. They picked up some good results, but relied upon Obertan for a late goal to beat Philadelphia Union, before we lost to the Kansas City Wizards. Still, United went on to win the league that season.

This pre-season though, it’s hard to find any fault. United have played against top quality sides and they have beaten all of them. Real Madrid are the European champions and United beat them 3-1, with their only goal coming from the penalty spot. Liverpool finished 2nd last season and, again, we beat them 3-1 with their only goal a penalty. We also beat Roma and Inter, who finished 2nd and 5th respectively in Serie A, as well as LA Galaxy.

Of course, beating teams in the pre-season isn’t the same as beating them when it counts, but it would be foolish to dismiss all of these victories as meaningless.

“This will be a big game and a big test, though, and it is important to go and win this one,” Jordan Henderson said ahead of Liverpool’s defeat against us. “They still have a lot of good players and I am sure they will want to challenge for the title, but we will concentrate on ourselves and focus on building on last season.”

Brendan Rodgers emphasised the same point, insisting this wasn’t just a friendly, but a competitive game because of the rivalry between the two clubs.

“It’s more than football. It’s life,” he said, in his usual cringey way. “It is two cities, not very far apart, but historically they have always been huge rivals. It’s arguably the biggest game in the world and for it to be here in the United States is wonderful for the supporters and the organisers. They are the two biggest clubs in Britain and two of the biggest in the world so it will be a fantastic game and we are looking forward to it. Not many of these games are friendly. You saw the Manchester City game was competitive. Top players see every game as a competition. There are never too many friendlies playing for Liverpool.”

So in hindsight, people can say the result meant nothing, but both camps were saying something quite different ahead of kick-off.

We all know that if United had lost all of these games the media and rival fans would have plenty to say about our chances next season, so it would be unfair to dismiss the results now that we’ve won.

But it is about much more than the results. Of course we want them to win and get back to full fitness, but the most exciting thing about this tour is watching them play. In just a few weeks, Louis van Gaal has implemented his 3-5-2 formation and it is working brilliantly well. Even Ashley Young looks good! To see United playing with such a clear purpose is great to watch.

Last season, the football we played was dismal, and time and again you wondered what it was David Moyes was trying to do. We are seeing the opposite with Van Gaal’s tactics.

Importantly, the players get it too, with us often fielding a different XI in the second half but this has had little impact on the performance. They all have their set role and even when that position doesn’t come naturally to them, they are getting on with it and playing well.

There’s no point getting giddy though. If United can maintain this style of football, finish top four and, if I’m being greedy, win a trophy, I’ll be made up. But after such a depressing season with Moyes, it’s great to watch United and feel excited again.

As far as pre-seasons go, this has been a resounding success. Let’s hope we can carry it through to when it matters.

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About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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10 Comments

  1. FBr David Lee says:

    1 word to describe united”s pre season with lvg = believe

  2. evered7 says:

    Yes, it is exciting and after last season I would have never dreamt of these results in the pre-season. I know it is only the friendlies but like it is mentioned in the article, no matter what players are on the pitch, they seem to know their role.

    Personally I wouldn’t want any of our players to leave. Kagawa and Hernandez in particular. His celebrations after the goal against RM said a few things. Him and Kagawa are in the fringes and I am hoping these performances help them get retained in the team.

    I also hope he gives chances to the youngsters. Moyes did with Januzaj and I believe (like most of us) that Blackett could be in the team as well.

    We don’t have the CL this season, that should motivate us to go get the domestic treble. We have the team, we have the coach. Let us get the results.

    Cannot wait for the new season to start. Hope we stuff Everton home and away just to restore the universal order.

  3. Mirainashe says:

    I concur. Yes it’s preseason but it has been a success. And it is a positive thing. Do we still need more signings? I’m beginning to have doubts about that. We have no CL games so going for a big squad seems ill advised. We have to sell a bunch of fringe players too,but I think it could be dangerous to bring in superstars right now with so few games to compete in this season. If we do well with this squad this coming season,then it means the next season we don’t look too desperate and we will buy a few quality additions. Right now we look desperate because everyone is on about Vidal etc,but at the very least we have a squad good enough to make top 3 but I’m betting we can even win the title with these guys given our rivals. We are only concentrating on the league,whilst Arsenal,Liverpool,Chelsea and City have to do important things in the CL. Everton and Spurs are also in Europe. Liverpool nearly won the league last time with a worse off squad,so why can’t we do it with a better squad?

  4. WilliamAR says:

    The fact that it was pre-season is irrelevant as all the teams we played with exception to LA Galaxy were in pre-season making each game a level playing field. We won our games because we were the better team. Every team tried to win whether it wad Real Madrid or Liverpool. It’s instinctive to try to win and nobody wants to lose friendly or not. City, Chelsea, arsenal and Liverpool all are in pre-season like us and they are no way near to clicking yet. We are clicking quicker because of the methods of LVG that has given our team purpose again. Given that we have an easier start to the league and are gaining confidence match by match I would say the preassure is on our rivals to start gelling as they definitely have good cause to be worried by what they are seeing from our team. It’s one, if not the best pre-season I’ve seen from a United team.

  5. Mark Reid says:

    @William I agree I think we can gent off to a great start putting some distance between us and our rivals making t,hem catch up and feel pressure.

  6. WilliamAR says:

    Mark Reid

    Yeah definitely, the first 6 games for us will be playing teams who have not played the calibre of teams we’ve been playing for their pre-season and are simply not as good. If we play anywhere close to how we have so far I can only see maximum points from our first 6 games with a sizeable goal difference.

  7. lecho says:

    Mark my words fellow Reds: the league is ours by 8+ points margin :)

  8. Tommy says:

    Its been a very impressive pre season for United, not just the results but the performances and exciting football, The liverpool game WAS NOT a friendly, no game against the scouse scum is ever a friendly whilst its not the be all and end all pre season games, if we had lost the press would have had kittens, @Mirehenshe, LVG wont be tricked into thinking we dont need players, if we play 3 at the back we need atleast 6CBs for those 3 positions especially with poor injury records to all 3 first team defenders. He said Blackett and Keane can come in for the odd game but not play all the time, which means he wants defenders, if 2 were to be out for a month we are screwed, its that simple defenders are a must

  9. Gazzer says:

    Yes, who would ever have thought we’d have Ashley Young looking good? It’s a miracle!!
    I can’t wait for the season to start this time. I don’t even care if we don’t sign any new players.

    By the way, Blackett looked fantastic against Liverpool – he was never flustered, and looked for a telling pass out of trouble.

  10. FBr David Lee says:

    @Gazzer,

    next season will be equally uncertain yet exciting! hope we can get a comeback title!

    here an interesting observation:
    we usually lose the league titles during world cup seasons, eg: 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010. and we usually won it after the world cup, eg: 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011…

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