Pre-season tours are always a time of the year to get excited about. It is the first chance for many fans to see the club’s new signings in action and a signal that the new football season is upon us. Of course, one cannot always use the results of such tours as a barometer for the following months, due to the fact the current squad may not have been able to dust off the cobwebs after a break and also because often such tours consist of opposition believed to be inferior. However, with the MLS season already in full flow, fans may have expected a stern test from sides in the States believed to be improving in quality, particularly when the side faced has gone undefeated for nearly two months. Unfortunately it was not to be, as United ran out 7-0 winners, including a second half hat-trick from Wayne Rooney. Despite the extremely one-sided result, the game did have it’s competitive moments and as such here are five things one may take away from the game.
1) The main choice for goalkeeper is not necessarily cemented
Naturally, it must be acknowledged that if Sir Alex Ferguson was willing to spend enough money as to make David De Gea the second most expensive goalkeeper in transfer history, then it would be that he was favoured and the most likely successor to the retired Edwin Van Der Sar. However, with Ferguson himself being quoted as saying “De Gea will play on Saturday against Chicago but they will all get their fair share of games and the decision on who starts the season will depend on how De Gea settles…” then it may be fair to assume that there is an open door for both Lindegaard and Ben Amos to make an impression before the start of the season. The game provided an opportunity for both ‘keepers to impress, with Lindegaard making a fine double save in the first half and Amos also being called upon in the second, both giving Ferguson reason not to forget them, despite the significant outlay on De Gea.
2) Michael Owen still has a contribution to make
One point that could be made about both games is that Michael Owen still has a worthwhile contribution to make to the squad as a whole and continues to justify the one year contract extension awarded to him at the end of last season. He has scored the opening goals in both games so far and he will undoubtedly be keen to prove and give reason for Ferguson to give him more game time in the coming months. After good work from Patrice Evra and new-boy Ashley Young down the left, Owen was able to meet Evra’s low cross and poke home a typical poachers effort to open the floodgates so to speak. However, Owen may well have been disappointed not to have scored another as he spurned two chances before making way for Diouf at half time. Although Owen himself would probably acknowledge he is unlikely to be a regular starter next season, it will be encouraging that he has been in amongst the goals, showing that he believes he can still make an impact for the team.
3) The wings could provide Ferguson with a selection headache
United fans will have been glad to see Nani and Ashley Young putting in impressive displays with both being involved in the build up to some of the goals, with the former having a couple of assists to his name, notably after the break with a through ball for Diouf to drill home as well as being involved in Rooney’s opening effort. With Valencia, Park and even, dare I say it, Gabriel Obertan vying for places, the wings could be a problem area for Ferguson in the new season, particularly given Nani’s excellent performances on the right last year only to then struggle on the left on Valencia’s return late on.
4) Sir Alex stuck to his word on the latecomers
With five latecomers to the United tour, fans may have been hoping to see some of them in action, particularly newcomers Phil Jones and David De Gea. Unfortunately it was not to be as they were left on the bench, although likely to have parts to play in the upcoming game against Chicago where it is hoped the side from the Windy City will provide a sterner challenge than those provided in New England and Seattle so far. Oe point of interest may well be how United utilise Jones this year, with some suggestions that the young English defender may see opportunities in defensive midfield as a replacement for Owen Hargreaves. Regardless, if he impresses he is bound to see many chances to contribute to the squad next season, much like the debut season of Chris Smalling who impressed so much that he made 33 appearances on his way to a title-winning year.
5) Despite the opposition, there is plenty to be optimistic about
Of course when a side makes such an average showing as to provide easy pickings for a United side only just getting back into the swing of things, it would be understandable for people to be sceptical about what such matches actually prove about the quality of the squad or what it shows about things to come. However, these matches are not necessarily about the challenge provided, but more about giving all involved some time to bring themselves back to full fitness levels and allow them to be fresh for the Community Shield and Premier League Season opener in August. Indeed, so far from the tour it could be argued there are plus points to the performances even if the opposition have been poor at times. The game at Chicago should provide even more of an opportunity to witness this.