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Starting XI: Manchester United vs. Perth Glory

The Reds hope to start off Tour 2019 on the right foot

Manchester United Training Session Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Manchester United kick off preseason on Saturday against Perth Glory. The result might not matter much, but every training match is important for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the boys as they prepare to right the wrongs of 2018/19 in the coming season. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s game.

  1. It hasn’t exactly been a calm summer for the Reds. Incessant media speculation over the futures of top players, a relatively slow start in the transfer market, and the sinking realization that United have a lot of ground to make up with their Premier League rivals all add up to the pessimism and unrest engulfing the club.
  2. Paul Pogba, in particular, looks destined to be the drama of preseason. After circling the globe on Adidas promotional duty over the last few weeks, Pogba has found himself in the news mostly for his increasingly-vocal desire to leave United. On Sunday morning, supporters nervously scanned the club’s tour squad list in search of the wantaway midfielder’s name. He turned up in Manchester after all, dispelling rumors of a tour boycott, but expect this story to rage on all summer.
  3. There weren’t many surprises in the 28-man tour squad, but it again shows Solskjaer’s commitment to the club’s youth. Academy boys like Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, James Garner, and Angel Gomes all made the cut and traveled with the first team to Australia. Other youngsters like Joel Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, and Andreas Pereira, too. All of the above should get a real chance to impress the boss in both training and matches.
  4. Notable names missing from the list: Alexis Sánchez, who ended a strong Copa America run with a hamstring injury; Fred and Matteo Darmian, both excused for family reasons; and younger players like Dean Henderson, Dylan Levitt, Ethan Hamilton, Matej Kovar, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Henderson, who impressed in goal for England at the U21 Euros, will likely head back to Sheffield United on another season-long loan.
  5. On the Alexis front, the early news sounds encouraging. “I don’t think Alexis’s injury is too bad,” Ole said. He doesn’t report back to training for three weeks because of Chile’s semifinal finish at Copa America and the club thinks he’ll be good to go. “I would expect him to be fit enough to play straightaway and train straightaway.”
  6. Solskjaer has not been shy in demanding better conditioning from his players. Whether heavy legs played a role in the squad’s late-season swoon or not, it’s been a particular emphasis from the coaching staff all summer. And, according to some reports, that hasn’t gone over too well. On Tuesday, ESPN relayed a rumor that the team’s foreign contingent felt Ole’s training methods are “too British,” eschewing ball work in favor of endless running. Hopefully, this proves to be nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, but United just can’t seem to get any good publicity these days.
  7. Circling back to the Pogba saga, Ed Woodward plays a dangerous game by refusing to consider any offers. Perhaps it’s all gamesmanship in an effort to extract the highest price from Real Madrid or Juventus, but there’s no guarantee that Pogba will take a failed move lying down. The popular solution is to reprise Sir Alex Ferguson’s tactic with Cristiano Ronaldo and convince the player to stick around for one more season and then part on good terms (for a big price). But don’t forget that Pogba (possibly) already downed tools once under José Mourinho. It could certainly happen again, especially with Mino Raiola egging him on.
  8. It’s not all bad news, though. Both of the club’s new signings — Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka — have impressed in their first few days of training. James linked up with the squad at Carrington last week, winning praise from Ole for his effort and attitude. Plus, he’s been leading the way in fitness tests with his game-breaking speed. AWB, meanwhile, got fans raving with an MUTV highlight that shows the aptly-nicknamed “Spider” using his long legs to poke the ball away from Juan Mata. This could be a big season for both.
  9. Mason Greenwood is another one to watch this weekend. The 17-year-old delivered a superlative performance against Cardiff City on the final day of last season and looks ready to carry that form into 2019/20. “Mason will definitely play more games,” Solskjaer said. “He has grown over the summer and I think his confidence has grown, too, after the Cardiff game, as he was our best player.”
  10. Saturday’s opposition, Perth Glory, play in the A-League and should provide a solid test for the traveling Reds. The Glory topped the A-League table last season, before falling just short of top prize in the postseason grand final. Considering Manchester United’s massive worldwide fanbase, this friendly should be a money-spinning affair for the hosts.
  11. Fun fact: It’s winter in Australia. That’s a big change from the scorching heat of Los Angeles in past years and should hopefully allow for more productive training sessions. Hey, we’ll take any excuse for a little optimism these days.