Red Thoughts: Manchester United’s 2017 US Tour – A look back at our pre-season

by Red Debate

The Red Thoughts team are back with two new signings, Dean and Ehsaan, and are discussing the preseason tour of the United States – what were the plusses and minuses, who and what impressed them and what were their concerns.

JIM : The pluses were Pereira, Lingard, Rashford, Martial and Mkhi. All of them were crucial to our attacking play throughout the tour and I’d like to see Pereira get plenty of game time next season. Pogba is also finally looking like an £89 million player.

The only real minuses for me were Blind and Lindelof; Blind doesn’t have the pace to be a LB and Lindelof is just going through that settling in phase – much like Vidic did. I was also disappointed not to see the Bailly-Lindelof partnership utilised.

COREY: Mkhitaryan looked really sharp. Last season was an adjustment season, and based on pre-season I can see him making much more of an impact this season. When he was on the field, the play seemed to flow through him.

Rashford is still the heart and soul of this club. He may not be our best player, but he and Lingard grew up at the club and represent everything we love about United. He seems to have bulked up a little, and the heart and desire is still very much there.

When fit again, Herrera will be the first name on the team sheet. The last two US games against Real Madrid and Barcelona showed just how much we missed him. I love Carrick, but he doesn’t have the legs to run around midfield anymore.

The first of my minuses was Pogba. He is clearly our best player, and if we are to win the league and compete in the Champions League, he has to lead the line. Pogba had a really quiet pre-seaon, similar to last season. We need him to make an impact this season. We can’t afford for Pogba to go quiet in games, he needs to take control of games on a consistent basis.

My second minus was our defence. It seems like at one point or another, every one of our defenders made some mistake. Lindelof has had trouble settling in it seems, but I don’t think it is fair to single him out. At times Bailly was caught flat footed, but generally recovered, thanks to his pace. Blind was beaten for pace on the left. Smalling and Jones had their mistakes. Even Valencia had his mistake that led to Neymar’s goal. I know Rojo and Shaw can maybe come in and solidify the defence, but right now, it is not working.

Another minus was taking chances. We brought in Lukaku because we needed a striker that will finish off the chances created. Lingard struggles with finishing off chances, Martial has proven too inconsistent, and Rashford has yet to develop that area of his game. It will not be enough for just Lukaku to bang in 25+ goals. We need Lingard, Rashford, Martial, Mata, Mkhitaryan, and even Pogba to score more goals. Last season we scored 54 goals, with Chelsea scoring 85.

DAN: For me you can’t really take any minuses from pre-season unless you get a serious injury. Pre-season is about getting match fit and getting to know the new lads. If you were going to pick holes, it’s the major issue of cover for Carrick. But that will be helped if we sign Matic as expected. We look a better side with a 3-man midfield – it lets Pogba go and do what he wants.

The major plus for me was how well the new lads seemed to have settled. We played nice, fast counter attacking football. You can see a real pace going forward at times, we just need to get hold of the ball more and play into feet a little more. The younger lads got the minutes to impress the manager, which can only be good for the team.

RICK: I agree with Danny about the minuses in pre-season. It’s all about getting everyone fit and some game time under their belt. However, there are concerns about our defence for the start of the season, especially with the Super Cup, with Rojo out injured and Bailly suspended. Those two are, for me, currently our two best CBs and both are out.

Our midfielders need to contribute more goals this season, which I feel that they will, especially Mkhi and Pogba. Mata is always consistent in the amount of goals he scores, but it’s the rest of the players that need to add goals to their game. We can’t afford to miss as many chances as we did last season this season or it will be another frustrating season ahead.

I’m glad some youngsters got some game time, with Fosu-Mensah and Pereira in particular impressing. I feel they both will have some game time this season – more Fosu-Mensah than Pereira though, due to competition for places.

CARL: There’s nothing wrong with selective criticisms, because of course there are areas of concern, but come on, it’s pre-season and no side has been convincing because you can’t when everyone’s fighting to get back up to pace. Nobody is fielding a settled team to be able to find some kind of rhythm and cohesion. That’s not what pre-season is about. Plus, it should be a good thing to see our weak areas being exposed now, so we can look to do something to fix it whilst there’s still time to do so.

I think this tour was as positive as we could expect on the whole. Everyone looks happy and positive, they’ve all had their share of minutes, only a couple of short-term injury woes and a handful of encouraging individual performances, particularly from the likes of Pereira, Rashford, Mkhi and Lukaku. People need to enjoy the excitement of the build-up and the prospect of hopefully a sustained title chase, as well as the fact we have UCL football ahead again, instead of overreacting and just calling for big name signings just for the sake of spending. It gets on my nerves and sucks the enjoyment out of the pre-season build up.

DAN: The way I see it, based on pre-season, De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Herrera, Pogba and Lukaku are all starters. The rest of the places are up for grabs, depending on formation.

BETS: My number 1 plus was Martial … he looks even better than we have ever seen him. I think something has clicked in him and I think he’s going to set the world on fire this season. I think he suffered having to play around a target man like Zlatan, whereas Lukaku’s mobility will allow him to express himself more. My second plus was A. Pereira – he looks like the finished article now, and our best option to go alongside Herrera and Pogba. The boy is class and I really hope he gets regular games early in the season. No. 3 – Rashford – as Corey says, he’s bulked up and I really think if he gets chances up front, he’ll be 75% better than last season. No. 4 – team spirit – it seems so much better, a happy camp, and that can make a big difference to a season. And No. 5 – Lukaku – looks hungry, mean, and ready to go on to the next level.

I’m really disappointed that Tuanzebe didn’t get more game time in the USA. I think he’s going to be world class and right now (at least until Lindelof settles in) I think I’d take a chance and put him in my starting line-up alongside Bailly.

DEAN: Pointing out an obvious one here, but United clearly and desperately need a CDM (now we’ve signed Nemanja Matic). With the absence Herrera, United’s midfield still showed that they have a huge weakness in that area of the pitch.  Left back is also another concern for me, with Shaw still out until September, and with Blind’s lack of pace, it could cause Mourinho a few problems again later into the season, especially if Shaw gets another bad injury again. But Dan was pretty much spot on with everything he mentioned. Mourinho needs to experiment with the team, find out what is working and what is not. Build up confidence between the players and match fitness. Rashford is looking sharp, it looks like Zlatan’s influence is rubbing off well on him.

The defence issues could be the result of not having a quality CDM in front of them to protect the back four. I believe signing a player like Matic would give the defence a huge confidence boost.

Marcus Rashford of Manchester United runs with the ball during their International Champions Cup (ICC) football match on July 26, 2017 at the FedExField, in Landover, Maryland. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

RICK: I’m still not convinced by Martial. He has moments but doesn’t sustain his performances. He could potentially go down the Nani route of being amazing one week and totally average the next if he’s not careful. He needs consistency.

As for Pereira, I’m not convinced he can play in a three-man midfield with Herrera and Pogba. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I still think against better opposition we need a proper CDM. As for Tuanzebe I was extremely disappointed he didn’t get more game time as he’s better than some of our more senior defenders. Hopefully he will as the season progresses. Fosu-Mensah was quite good and will be direct backup to Valencia this season, I imagine. But Carrick is getting past it and will probably only come on in games to kill them off or play League Cup games, etc.

EHSAAN: Positives: there were moments of brilliance from all the players. Pereira has been brilliant consistently, Pogba has shown us what he can do throughout the season. Fosu Mensah has been pretty good, apart for that one game where he caused a goal. Bailly has been brilliant apart from the slip in the Barca game. And Lukaku has showed us that he can bring goals. But for me, Rashford has been the best player of the tour… the guy has been absolutely brilliant. Last but not least, the players are gluing together well. They seem to have good chemistry.

Negatives: Lindelof has not adapted to our system and club yet. But that’s not too much of a worry as even Vidic had a similar start and it was the making of him. I still think we’ll make one or two more signings but they won’t get a run in preseason to adapt, so that’s a minor issue right there.

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