By Mark Weasley
Manchester United rounded up our impressive pre-season tour with a victory over Sampdoria at the Aviva stadium. Goals from Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ensured our 5th victory in 6 matches and put us in good stead for the European Super Cup in Skopje next week, and the players are now back in Manchester with two days off.
The Red Devils looked very good and fit, while new signing, Nemanja Matic impressed in just 45 minutes in what was his first piece of action in pre-season after being left out of Chelsea’s tour of the USA. We take a look at the lessons we learnt from the match in Dublin
Darmian is alright
Manchester United have been linked to Ivorian right-back, Serge Aurier, in recent days but Matteo Darmian continues to impress at Old Trafford. The Italian international, who started at left back in the clash in Dublin was impressive, continuously bombing forward in what was novel of him in the colours of the club.
He is not known for his attacking instincts, given his Italian origin, but proved that he is ready to keep the likes of Daley Blind and Luke Shaw on the bench a lot this season. Darmian provided the assist for Armenian, Mkhitaryan for the opener with a wonderful cross in the first half, as he looks to have improved on the use of his weaker left foot.
Nemanja Matic will unlock Pogba
Matic clocked up his first minutes as a Manchester United player, and as early as the 1st minute, proved his manager right that he is a Jose Mourinho player. He barked out instructions to captain, Antonio Valencia as to where he wanted his passes placed and generally looks the part.
He was match rusty though, given his lack of games in pre-season but looked very tidy in possession and was fantastic before being replaced in the 45th minute. Paul Pogba looked refreshed with Matic behind him and that could be a constant feature in the coming season. The partnership looked good with Matic spraying passes to Pogba, who maintained a position noticeably further up the field.
Jose’s tactical variations are looking good
Antonio Conte revolutionised the English football landscape last season, playing the 3-4-3 formation, which opponents struggled to grasp as Chelsea raced to the league title. It seems that Jose is ready to use the formation this season, given the options he has at his disposal.
United have 5 centre-backs and no one has been linked with an exit, meaning that the 3-4-3 will become more prominent in the coming season. United used the formation in the first half, with Victor Lindelof being flanked by Chris Smalling and Daley Blind. In the second half, he reverted to type, going back to 4-2-3-1. The three-at-the-back system worked well last season in the Europa League, as the Red Devils won the competition to qualify for next season’s Champions League.