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Three things I want to see during Manchester United’s preseason campaign

A fitter team, important new signings, and tactical adjustments

Manchester United Pre-Season Tour - Day 4 Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Manchester United fans will get their first glimpse of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s summer signings on Saturday when the Red Devils face off against Perth Glory in their first of five preseason contests. Coming off a dismal 2018/2019 campaign that resulted in zero hardware and considerable turnover, all eyes will be on the Norwegian boss in his first full year leading this squad.

While preseason has little bearing on how the upcoming campaign will turn out, Solskjaer’s presser earlier this week suggested United are looking to make an early statement prior to August 9’s Premier League kick-off. With that being said, let’s discuss three things we expect to see from Manchester United’s first preseason match against Perth Glory.

Playing time for summer signings

At the conclusion of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign, the majority of United fans agreed that amongst other concerns, the defense lacked serious potential. Solskjaer slightly rectified that issue last month with the 5-year, £50million signing of right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace. At just 21 years of age, the Englishman is expected to play his prime years at Old Trafford. Wan-Bissaka had quite the breakthrough year at Crystal Palace, making 35 appearances and earning his former side’s player of the year honor. The eagerness to play the rising star will be felt from both sides as Solskjaer looks to show off his newly improved back line and ready Wan-Bissaka for a challenging season ahead.

As for Solskjaer’s first summer signing, Daniel James substantially boosts United’s already energetic offense and could play a key role in the Red Devils’ counterattacking strategy Saturday.

Commitment to fitness

There’s no denying that fitness became a burden for United last year, with a fair amount of the roster sidelined at various points throughout the season. These setbacks consequently contributed to a dip in confidence for several first-team athletes. Solskjaer voiced his discontent with the club’s inability to adapt to his vigorous and dynamic style of play, promising to bring that high-pressure style back to Old Trafford. The 46-year-old already appears pleased with the improvement made from his men in preparation for the tour, adding that his new signing James has exceeded early fitness expectations.

The unidentified source continued: “He came out top in the sprints, even the short ones, by a good margin of five or so yards. He did one fifty metre sprint that left team-mates five metres behind him and also maxing out the bleep test.”

Restoring the confidence within the senior players will take time, but Saturday’s match will allow the team’s form to be assessed outside of a training environment and before the season’s first match against Chelsea.

Tactical improvements and diversity in formation

In order to compete with the talents of Liverpool and challenge cross-town rivals Manchester City for the title, United must figure out how to perform under a formation outside of the 4-3-3 arrangement. The lineup became too predictable and it didn’t help their chances against clubs who easily detected their strategy after kick-off. Given that he inherited an arguably outdated system, the preseason tour is the perfect opportunity for Solskjaer to run a trial and error against different lineups and make changes as the matches continue. Whether he reverts to a conventional approach or goes rogue with another ploy, Manchester United have five inconsequential matches to ultimately resolve any issues that could hinder them from being serious Premier League contenders.