Seven-nil, hey? Not bad. Not bad at all. The results of pre-season friendlies are things of very little consequence, but still, there's no way last night's performance can be considering anything other than encouraging. Particularly where a squad are being asked to play football in a shape to which they are thoroughly unaccustomed. And Louis van Gaal was certainly pleased:
We introduced a new system that we have only played two times on the training pitch 11 v 11. But the boys are willing to pick up the information. It is fantastic how they have performed today. Last week, 10 players who played tonight were not even in our training complex.
It certainly seems that this new-fangled three-at-the-back will be the plan for the moment (more on this here), a plan dictated by as much the make-up of United's squad as by any particular preference on the part of the manager:
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 No 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 [4-3-3].
Those four No 10s: Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj? Ashley Young? Nani? The determination to play two strikers certainly suggests that Rooney will be starting up top, alongside teacher's pet Robin van Persie. Anyway, Van Gaal was delighted to see everything working so well:
When you see us train, you can expect something but not 7-0. It was a surprise, but they were also beautiful goals. It was not just the goals, but the beautiful attacks. I never go back, I always want to see the future. 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.
"It is better to win 7-0 than to lose." Can't argue with that.