Early Signs Look Good For Manchester United, But They Are Still A Work In Progress
Of course, it’s the first match of the preseason and Manchester United were lined up against a fourth place MLS squad that have been struggling of late.
Arguably the LA Galaxy’s best player, Landon Donovan, was benched at the start of the friendly because his manager felt the former Everton-loanee had been “sub-par” in his past few league matches. And the club’s major scoring threat is 34-year-old Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, whose last appearance in a major European league was in 2012 when he left the Galaxy to go on loan at Aston Villa for six matches.
At times last night, the former MLS champions were abysmal. Poor passing and defensive miscues cost the club early and the match was never in question after Danny Welbeck’s opening goal.
But regardless of the competition, the early signs were good for Manchester United.
Louis Van Gaal proved what many already knew about the 62-year-old Dutch manager, that it doesn’t take much time for him to impose his will and philosophy on a group of players.
Manchester United showcased the formation that Van Gaal used to so much success during this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
They lined up 5-3-2, with Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw acting as wing-backs in the attacking formation. The team also switched to a 4-3-3.
From the opening seconds of the match, United were dominating the ball and fighting to win it back when they did lose possession. There was a new attitude from every player on the pitch.
Of course, most teams are excited to play in the first match of the season. And Manchester United players also know they have to impress their new manager or risk finding a spot on the bench, or even worse, find themselves out the Old Trafford door.
But this was clearly a completely different side than the one under the leadership of David Moyes at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Newly-signed Ander Herrera took no time proving that he can be United’s “little engine” in the midfield, the same way he was for Athletic Bilbao last season as he directed the Spanish side to Champions League qualification.
And fellow newcomer Luke Shaw continued to show the aggression and maturity that marked his time at Southampton.
Van Gaal gave United’s younger players a full forty-five minutes in the second half and a few of them really impressed. None more so than Reece James who flourished in his role as wing-back, scoring two goals in debut match for the club.
Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane were also solid in the back of the team’s defense (albeit, against a toothless Galaxy attack).
Following the match, United’s new manager was positive, but he also pointed out that it is early and there are still issues to be resolved.
“We introduced a new system and played twice on the training pitch, 11 v 11. It is not very much, but the boys are willing to pick up the information. When I see my team playing a new system, it is better to win 7-0 than to lose because the players will then doubt the system.
“But now I don’t have that problem. When you want to change a system, you must start at once. We don’t have time to prepare for other things.”
“With the quality of the players we have, I can play 4-3-3 with three strikers on the bench, but I want to play with two strikers. We have four number 10s, so the selection is not balanced in my eyes. I have decided to play this system because of the quality of the players. But if we lose, I can change back to another system.”
It only took Van Gaal a short amount of time to figure out how to line up and utilize his Netherlands side after Kevin Strootman went down with an injury. What followed was a tremendous World Cup run which culminated with the Dutch finishing a surprising third place in the tournament.
The new United boss has had significantly less time to adapt to his newest squad. But the early returns are good.
Maybe the LA Galaxy were the perfect first match for Van Gaal and Manchester United.
But, next up will be three significant pre-season tests, starting with AS Roma, who finished second place to Juventus in Serie A last season.
United will then face Inter Milan and Real Madrid, before possibly facing: Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan or Olympiacos in the final of the International Champions Cup.
Let’s see how much further the players can progress under Louis Van Gaal in the coming days.
Watch highlights of LA Galaxy 0-7 Manchester United: