Manchester United touched down in Los Angeles yesterday for the first leg of an extensive pre-season tour that takes in seven matches across three countries.
LA Galaxy are first up for the Reds on Saturday in the StubHub Centre before they face Real Salt Lake on Monday. The serious tests begin then as they come up against Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the space of six days. The Europa League champions then head for Oslo to take on Valerenga before the tour finishes in Dublin against Sampdoria.
It’s an important few weeks for Mourinho and his side as they look to nail their preparations for the upcoming season. Here are just some of the talking points for United as they begin the tour.
Jose Mourinho was determined to have Romelu Lukaku for the start of the tour and he just about got his wish. The Belgian’s arrival was confirmed at 5 PM GMT and he took part in the squad’s first training session at 6. Paul Pogba didn’t have the privilege of a good summer before he made his competitive return last summer and it was often cited as a factor when the midfielder produced some of his less impressive performances.
It’s important both Lukaku and Victor Lindelof make the most of their time in the US.
Mourinho may not be too eager to introduce academy players into the first team but the performances of some of the young players at his disposal last season may have forced him too. Axel Tuanzebe was lauded for his showings at the tail end of the campaign while Demi Mitchell put in a mightily impressive display on the final day of 2016/17 against Crystal Palace. The reports back on Andreas Pereira’s loan at Granada were overwhelmingly positive and Mourinho has previously indicated he’s a fan of the Brazilian. It’s also time Timothy Fosu-Mensah showed the world what he’s capable of.
All this means the Special One could well give those on the fringes of the squad a real shot at breaking into the team before he opens the club’s sizeable wallet once more.
Last Chance For Some
Despite his brilliant performances in his debut season and a largely decent second term, Anthony Martial does not seem to be in his boss’ good books. Some reports in recent days have even claimed the Frenchman could leave the club very soon. Regardless of the supposed lack of meaning in the games, it’s important Martial impress Mourinho with his work rate this month. The same very much applies to Luke Shaw.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Ashley Young are all also not far from the chopping block.
How Far Have They Come?
You can’t really put any stock in pre-season games (just watch United’s comprehensive victory over Barcelona in 2015 for evidence) but Mourinho will want a good run of results before they start the season in earnest in Skopje on August 8th against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
They’re testing themselves against the best and the performances will give some pointers as to what to expect from the Old Trafford club this season.
Tactics And Setup
We saw everything from a 4-3-3 to a 6-3-1 to a lopsided 4-4-2 from Mourinho last season and while it’s unlikely he’s ever going to settle on one system for the whole season, he needs to at least get some idea what his best team looks like.
The arrival of Lukaku means Marcus Rashford will likely be once again shunted out to the wing unless the Portuguese can design a formation with both players up front. The question of how to best utilise Pogba remains possibly the most important issue at the club and one he needs to find the right answer to sooner rather than later. Now is the time Jose solve these problems and more.