Manchester United’s pre-season tour in Asia came to an impressive halt with a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. By maintaining a perfect 100% record and winning every single game down under, the atmosphere’s drastically changed since that dreadful final day nightmare in May.
Now, it’s not like everything’s suddenly fixed with a slew of pre-season victories. There are still persisting issues which demand some fixes, but some positives encourage promising signs. Here are four things we learned from the pre-season tour.
1. Mason Greenwood will get more chances to impress
A refreshing positive from the pre-season tour has been how the youngsters have shone through in exhausting conditions. Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes were both delightful to watch, but Mason Greenwood, I’m looking at you.
After having made his debut for United last season, he looks much sharper and stronger. The 17-year-old netted his debut senior goal in a smart tap-in against Leeds United but also showcased Van Persie like style with an emphatic winner against Inter Milan.
With Greenwood, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the option to shuffle around his tactics. While most people struggle to decide what to do in their lives at his age, Greenwood’s scoring goals for fun. He was quick going forward, while also clinical in front of goal. He also didn’t shy away from displaying his swagger (just look below how he bamboozled Inter’s Milan Skriniar).
17 year old Mason Greenwood making a fool of Skriniar…Deluded Interisti have the nerve to say this guy is the best defender in Serie A. pic.twitter.com/p98efS84Zw— Don Totti (@petrachi_fan) July 20, 2019
As Romelu Lukaku’s on the verge of leaving and no proper right-winger brought in, deputizing Greenwood as a make-shift right-back or super-sub centre-forward will diversify the effectiveness of United’s attack.
2. Paul Pogba still the man to build around
So Paul Pogba’s summer was an eventful one. First, he went to China to boost his brand image, but also reiterated the need for a “new challenge” after being slagged off by fans. Exit rumours came aplenty, but Solskjaer’s remained firm on wanting to influence his attacking movement through him.
To his credit, Pogba’s actually looked sharper than usual in the pre-season tour. He was energetic, vocal and packed with positive creativity in the hunt for goals. Sure, there were a few boos occasionally, but the Frenchman thrilled the fans by bossing the midfield game during the tour.
He’s taken new-boy Aaron Wan-Bissaka into his wing, superbly linking with him on the right. Pogba also influenced the new signings’ assist against Leeds United. Moreover, he played deeper, helped control possession more and also contributed defensively.
Yeah, he’s a problem child, but Pogba’s still the world-class star to build around to get the sparks flying again.
3. Manchester United need a leader in defence
So one thing which is obvious despite the glorious pre-season tour is United still need better defenders.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka displayed some strong defensive-work, a much-needed upgrade over the erroneous Ashley Young. Victor Lindelof– amidst a knock- was also assertive, while Luke Shaw solidified his spot for the regular season.
However, a world-class defender is still needed. Granted, United only conceded one goal in the Asia tour but looked shaky on numerous opportunities. Perth Glory, Leeds, Inter all fielded their weaker attackers, but still Marcos Rojo, as well as Phil Jones, looked uneasy. Tottenham Hotspur almost exposed the defensive frailties, but pre-season blues restricted them from handing out a thrashing.
Be it the heavily-linked Harry Maguire or anyone else, United need a stronger leader to hold the defensive line. They need someone to bully strikers, lung into clearances to make life easier for David de Gea. Inflated fees be damned, a top defender must be prioritized above anything else in this transfer window.
4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s positivity is a good thing
There’s a clear parallel to Manchester United’s pre-season tour this year than the gloomy atmosphere under Jose Mourinho last season. The difference is Solskjaer.
Now, I don’t regard him as good tactically as his recent predecessors. However, there’s something addictive about his irresistible positivity. OGS got dealt with persistent hard-hitting questions regarding incoming or outgoing transfers, despite him promising a rebuild last season.
However, he never lost his cool, answering every question without compromising anyone in his squad. As a result, he’s made Pogba a happy chap again by entrusting all his resources upon him. Unlike Mourinho, the players actually love giving their 100% for him, which was displayed in some tireless, energetic performances.
His upbeat attitude is why OGS will always have the fans backing him and even though he’s unlikely to win a big trophy anytime soon, he’s the man to usher United on the road back to the top.