Manchester United are two wins from two on their pre-season tour of the United States following victories over LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.
The Reds now travel to Houston to face Manchester City before tests against Barcelona and Real Madrid next week. The team will then head back to Europe for games against Valerenga and Sampdoria. It’s been an intriguing tour so far and here we’ve reviewed what we’ve learned already from the two games.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan Looks Ready To Kick On
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was, it must be noted, the primary reason Manchester United won the Europa League in May but his form was largely inconsistent in his debut season. He showed flashes of brilliance from time to time but just didn’t make the difference in enough games.
It’s hoped the Armenian will produce his best stuff more often next season and, if the opening two games of the tour are any indication, he’s definitely ready to. Two goals, one assist and countless mazy runs mean Mkhi has been the player of the preseason so far.
Mourinho Is Determined To Be Flexible
Last season, particularly in home fixtures, Jose Mourinho struggled to adapt his side mid-game to offer a different threat to conservative opposition. The Portuguese seems hell-bent on changing that this summer having played two very different formations and even more contrasting styles. The Galaxy faced up against a 3-5-2 with aggressive wing-backs and a phenomenal counter-press while Real Salt Lake had to deal with a 4-3-3 setup with creative inside forwards and a compact midfield.
Preseason is precisely the time to engage in such experimenting and he’s expected to continue to do so in the coming games.
The Contrast Between Rashford And Lukaku Is Already Clear
Marcus Rashford has definitely bulked up these past two months (a lá Cristiano Ronaldo circa 2006) but Romelu Lukaku still looks like a different species. And despite never being on the field together, the difference between United’s two remaining strikers could not have been more stark in this week’s victories. When the Belgian was leading the line for Mourinho, he held up the ball well and allowed those around him, namely Paul Pogba, to get forward easier but the team did seem somewhat static.
During Rashford’s spells, he was constantly making excellent runs in behind that Juan Mata and others have more than enough ability to find. While he could stretch the defence of LA Galaxy, Salt Lake were too well organised to get caught and United struggled to get forward.
Neither approach is necessarily right and it’s encouraging the Special One can choose from either as the season progresses.
Andreas Pereira Is Getting His Chance
Twenty-one-year-old Andreas Pereira has been highly thought of by fans for a number of years but his attitude and competition has, for the most part, kept him out of the first team. He appears to be finally getting a chance in the US and has thrived in his new role. The Brazilian arrived at the club in 2011 as a holding midfielder but he was slowly pushed further upfield due to his supreme abilty on the ball. It is in that pivot position that he is now seeing some game time and has impressed all with his showings.
While he may not boast the defensive capabilities of a Radja Naingolan or a Nemanja Matic, neither does Michael Carrick and if the youngster can continue his strong performances, he could deter his boss from looking for new recruits.
Old Habits Die Hard
United may have put five past their first opponents but, in truth, it could have been ten had they been more ruthless in front of goal. Similarly, against RSL, two should have been several more but Mourinho’s men again failed to convert sustained dominance into goals.
Missing chances made what could have been a brilliant debut season for Mourinho into a rather underwhelming one and the Reds need to find their scoring touch before the start of the campaign if they harbour any hopes of competing for the Premier League title.