SCHWEINSTEIGER! SCHNEIDERLIN! MEMPHIS! DARMIAN! How great was it that all four joined Manchester United even before they went on the ‘last few games in a Nike kit’ tour? Considering that some thought that adidas didn’t want the club signing new players before they officially became United’s kit manufacturers, this was quite a statement from Ed Woodward and his team.
It was brilliant to see that Van Gaal was actually signing players who we needed, rather than ones that were available and being pushed towards United by their agent Jorge Mendes (more of that later). So with a new German, French, Dutch and Italian internationals in tow, United made their way to America…
First stop was Seattle, where all four new additions made their debuts against Club America of Mexico. Darmian, Memphis and Schneiderlin all started, with the Frenchman even scoring what proved to be the only goal of the game after just five minutes. Schweinsteiger came on at half-time when eleven changes were made. United had the edge over the Mexicans and deservedly won 1-0 to kick-off the tour with a win.
The squad then moved on to California to face San Jose Earthquakes, where Van Gaal started the same eleven that he had in the first game. After Juan Mata put United ahead, Memphis Depay, who had been playing very well, got his first goal in a United shirt. Alashe pulled one back for the Earthquakes just before the break. With another eleven substitutions made at half-time, Andreas Pereira restored United’s two goal lead with his own first goal for the senior side on the hour mark. With no more goals being scored, United had a second deserved win under their belt.
Staying in California, United faced Spanish and European Champions Barcelona, where a sterner test than the previous two was expected. De Gea started for the first time on this tour, and was soon in action to make an excellent save off Roberto. Barcelona dominated early on, but it was United who took the lead through captain Wayne Rooney. In a frenetic first half, the crowd was kept entertained although no more goals were scored. The second half was more of the same, and when Van Gaal put a fresh eleven players on after the hour mark, United quickly scored again as Blackett found Jesse Lingard who hit the ball hard to make it 2-0. Though Rafinha pulled one back for Barcelona in the last minute, United still had time to score yet again, this time Januzaj making sure a very positive performance was capped with a goal in a convincing 3-1 win. Though just a friendly, it was heartening to see the team play so well, especially the youngsters who seemed to take their chance and make the most of it.
The last game of the tour was played a few days later against French Champions PSG, and turned out to be a disappointment for United. Two goals in the first half, both coming from defensive mistakes, proved enough for United to lose 2-0 and make sure they don’t come back to England with a 100% win record. The players hardly created any chances, especially after Luke Shaw had scored an own goal to put PSG ahead. When Phil Jones ‘fell asleep’ a little bit later, Ibrahimovich only had De Gea to beat to double their lead. Unfortunately this might have been De Gea’s last game for the club (though I do hope I’m wrong about this).
Many positives have come out of this tour; including United at last being able to field a proper midfield rather than trying to fit squares into round holes. It was also brilliant to see the new signings fit in so well, especially Darmian and Memphis. The younger players showed some hunger that will hopefully come in handy when the proper season starts, and it rubs off on a few older ones that might not seem so ‘up for it’ sometimes.
There were also a few negatives, with Angel di Maria and David de Gea making headlines that us United supporters didn’t want to see. Starting with Di Maria, most of us would have loved him to stay and show his class while helping United get back to the top. I for one was hoping that he’d be running down the Old Trafford wing week in, week out and proving that the money he cost was money well spent. We should have known better though as if FFP wasn’t in play last summer he wouldn’t even have joined United. Instead his agent Jorge Mendes found a way of making extra money by moving him to United for one season until the FFP rules were loosened enough for PSG to make their move. In my opinion Di Maria always knew that he wouldn’t be here for more than one season, hence his nonchalance when not joining up with the squad on tour. Now, I understand that his house being robbed would have pushed him further away from staying in Manchester, and caring for his wife and daughter is much more important than caring for us fans and the club, but to not turn up and honour a contract just because you’re moving elsewhere? That’s unprofessional, and it’s what made many turn against him. I won’t go as far as calling him some names that he’s been called on social media as I’d rather use my energy to support my team than to have a go at footballers that don’t want to stay and play for the club we’ve always supported.
As for De Gea, he seems that he wants to leave as well, though at least he’s continued to train and earn his wages. Who can blame him for wanting to move back home where his family are, and the weather is much better than it is in Manchester? My only gripe is that he’ll be joining Real Madrid after being brought up at Atletico, which does show how there’s not much loyalty left in football (though for the money he’ll be getting, he probably won’t care), but that will be Atletico’s fans’ problem, not ours. If (when?) he does go, it will be imperative for United to sign a top keeper to replace him.
We’ve also seen the permanent departures of Nani and Van Persie, who joined Fenerbahce in Turkey. While they both did their bit for United, Van Persie will be more fondly remembered especially as he was pivotal in the club’s twentieth league title win. Another player who has sadly left for pastures new is Rafael, who most of us will miss, mainly for the heart and passion he showed every time he played for United. Pity he hadn’t improved enough in the eight years he was at the club, though his many injuries certainly didn’t help with that. We wish all three of them good luck in their new adventures, especially our very own Scrappy Doo.
As the squad stands, I genuinely believe that although United still lag behind Chelsea, they’ll put up a bigger fight for the title and should be strong enough to finish second or a close third. If any trophy is lifted at the end of the season, so much the better.
We now look forward to the start of the new season this weekend, a day after the draw for the Champions League qualifiers is made. We hope that United get a favourable draw to hopefully make it into the group stages as we really missed the competition last season. Then United kick-off the league campaign with a home game against Tottenham (12:45pm UK time). So sit back, fasten your seatbelts, and get ready for another rollercoaster ride of a season… COME ON UNITED!!!