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Takeaways from Manchester United’s pre-season opener

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Some thoughts on United’s win against Perth Glory

Perth Glory v Manchester United Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images

Manchester United 2-0 Perth Glory

The Red Devils kicked off their pre-season tour with a win that seemed to check most boxes for what one would want from a pre-season win. The squad was rotated, the kids got a chance, and most of the squad looked fairly sharp and fit. Marcus Rashford opened the scoring in the second half after a fairly parked Perth bus kept the first lineup rotation at bay for 45. Then, James Garner, who came on for a seemingly injured Luke Shaw, finished the Aussies off late in the match with a well taken strike off of a high press interception.

The scoreline is rarely a concern for tour matches, with the overall squad chemistry and sharpness being the main concern. That was certainly the case in this 2-0 victory, with plenty to look forward too and work on. Here are the biggest takeaways from the Reds’ first match of the 2019/20 calendar.

The new signings look ready for the step up

Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka made their first appearances for Manchester United against Perth, and they did not disappoint.

James, already known for his speed and dribbling, showed us why he was worthy of becoming Ole’s first signing so quickly into the offseason. He got involved early and often on the left hand side of the attack, and looks to have made chemistry with his teammates already. His decisive passing and movement made him one of the more watchable players in the first half. We also saw that he is likely to draw some physical defending, take some hits, and win some fouls on the wing for United. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapt to the physicality of the Premier League, but he’s definitely got the tools to become a special player.

While James looked like a player making the step up, Wan-Bissaka looked like a veteran addition. He was never truly challenged by Perth, but when an attack did come his way he was clinical in shutting it down. Going forward isn’t his biggest strength, but even then he never looked uncomfortable on the ball or finding teammates with passes. Fans are excited about what he brings, and will be looking forward seeing him in competitive action.

Play. The. Kids.

Axel Tuanzebe, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood, and James Garner all got run-outs in the match. Though James and Chong were members of the first unit, which struggled at times getting chances at goal, they were able to display just how dangerous they are in wide areas. Greenwood and Gomes too were active from the wings, and all four were given the freedom to drift across the attacking line. They looked raw at times, and didn’t always finish their dribbles by maintaining possession, but their confidence and creativity is something United’s attack has been lacking for the better part of the last decade.

Garner was only on the pitch a short time, but scored a really good goal to finish off Perth. He’s been touted as a midfielder for the future, but if the inactivity in the transfer market continues he may very well be called into action.

Axel Tuanzebe, another youth player in a position group that lacks talent, made the most of his time on the pitch. There wasn’t a lot for United to do defensively, but Tuanzebe still found a few chances to get the ball back quickly before Perth could do anything. His strong tackling and eye for closing in on opposing forwards could be useful this season.

If Ole doesn’t get what he’s requested in this transfer window, he will need to look to the academy for squad depth. This group of youngsters have shown loads of potential, and will most likely continue playing regularly on the tour. They’ll be watched closely, especially once United start playing against more formidable opponents. Should they continue to impress, they should absolutely play a role for United this season.

The intent is to attack

Something that has been lacking in United’s attack the last few years is the confidence and ability to run at the opposition. Rashford and Martial provided a few nice take-ons in that time, but for the most part dribbles from the wing have stalled out. In this match, United’s players at just about every position pressed high, passed quickly, and got the ball moving forward at a high tempo. The wingers and full backs were all involved, with the wingers often interchanging, and the forwards did not stay isolated (well done, Tony, now do that all the time). The high press and willingness to take players on kept Perth under constant pressure, and clearly wore them down fairly quickly.

The groundwork is being laid for Ole’s system. He’s made it clear he wants to utilize his players’ creativity in attack, and we saw plenty of that creativity on display in Perth. This is just one pre-season game against an A-League side, but the clinical ability is there. in Marcus Rashford’s goal we saw just how quickly and decisively the team can act to get on the scoresheet.

Rashford in particular is carrying a lot of expectation this season, but will almost certainly benefit from playing this style of football. The players are looking to go forward whenever they get the ball now, a very welcome sight to everyone who has witnessed the last few years of stale football.

Defensive cover needs to be addressed

United’s attacking style meant that the ball was given away several times. There were a few instances in the first half where Perth were able to break, but only briefly. Jones and Tuanzebe pressed quickly to win the ball back, successfully, but likely wouldn’t have been given as strong a chance against quicker, more technically gifted forwards. United’s midfield already needs reinforcements after the departure of Ander Herrera, someone who was a specialist in shutting down the most creative opponents.

Ole’s high press means more chances on goal, but it also means a midfield that is more vulnerable to counter attacks. Aside from the obvious need for another centre back, a midfielder with closedown and intercepting abilities would go a long way in locking down the midfield and preventing a repeat of the catastrophic defensive display last season. Matic didn’t play poorly, and did well promptly getting the ball out to attackers, but we’ve seen enough from him to know he doesn’t have the pace to keep up with Premier League teams. United need someone who is better suited for Ole’s style.