Manchester United begin their pre-season plans and preparation for the new season with a second consecutive trip to the United States for their 2015 tour presented by Aon.
Last year’s tour saw Louis van Gaal’s side win all five of their matches stateside, beating LA Galaxy, AS Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and rivals Liverpool on their way to winning the International Champions Cup.
A similar feat would be welcome this time around, although the results aren’t everything, as we found out once the season began, with just 13 points gained from our opening 10 games, alongside a shock early Capital One Cup exit after a 4-0 mauling away at MK Dons.
Nonetheless it is important for the players to build up their match fitness and momentum heading into the new campaign, which begins at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday August 8, with a 12:45 BST kick-off time at Old Trafford.
United’s fixtures for the upcoming tour are as followed:
United vs. Club America
Saturday 18 July, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, KO 04:00 BST (Local time: Friday 17 July, KO 20:00)
United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Wednesday 22 July, Avaya Stadium, San Jose, KO 04:00 BST (Local time: Tuesday 21 July, KO 20:00)
United vs. FC Barcelona
Saturday 25 July, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, KO 21:00 BST (Local time: Saturday 25 July, KO 13:00)
United vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Thursday 30 July, Soldier Field, Chicago, KO 02:00 BST (Local time: Wednesday 29 July, KO 20:00)
Flying out on Monday, United named a 26-man squad, featuring new signings Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.
The younger and less experienced players that will also be present include the likes of Tyler Blackett, Sean Goss, Sam Johnstone, Jesse Lingard, Paddy McNair, Andreas Pereira and James Wilson.
Looking at those younger players from back to front, we begin with Sam Johnstone, a goalkeeper who signed a new three-and-a-half year deal under David Moyes in January 2014, before spending loan spells at Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End respectively, with the latter gaining promotion to the Championship from League One via the play-offs back in May with Johnstone as their first choice.
Johnstone turned 22 in March and has featured for England at every age group up until U20s level, and played in the first half of United’s pre-season game against AS Roma last year, a game that was won 3-2, with Johnstone keeping a clean sheet, as Ben Amos conceding both goals after the interval.
Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett both signed long-term deals back in February. Rewind the clock back 12 months and this author would have expected Michael Keane and Tom Thorpe to be next in line to make the breakthrough at centre-half, but this wasn’t the case, with both moving on in recent times.
Both McNair and Blackett played their parts last season, featuring in 21 games between them, a respectable amount in a season without Europe.
The pair can play at full-back if necessary, with Blackett one of only two left-footed centre-backs within the ranks, alongside Marcos Rojo, who is scheduled to arrive on 25 July due to his recent involvement with Argentina in the Copa America.
McNair certainly looked a calm and composed presence on the ball, whilst bringing the ball out from the back as often as possible.
Both would benefit from playing alongside an experienced centre-half, so expect that to happen throughout the tour.
Sean Goss will be the least known amongst the travelling party. Having signed from Exeter City in the summer of 2012, the left-footed central midfielder will turn 20 in October, and has seen his stock rise at U18 level, with comparisons to Michael Carrick being made along the way.
An injury-plagued campaign last season led to minimal participation, but he still reached double figures in terms of appearances, scoring his first U21 goal in a 1-1 draw away at Leicester City, as United went on to lift the title.
With Daley Blind potentially rotating with Luke Shaw at left-back, Goss would be the number one left-footed player in the central midfield area, with Juan Mata likely to be utilised wide right or in the number 10 role.
With players like Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin to learn off, Goss will hope to impress on tour and catch Louis van Gaal’s eye.
Two more players who committed their futures to the club in the second half of last season were Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard.
The Pereira situation was becoming increasingly like the Paul Pogba saga, with the Frenchman leaving on a free in the summer of 2012 after rejecting a new deal. Pereira’s contract was up this summer, but despite the potential lure of big money abroad, the Brazilian extended his stay at Old Trafford until 2018 at the beginning of May.
Having made his debut off the bench in the 3-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur in March, Pereira can expect more game time in the upcoming campaign, as squad rotation will be necessary.
A number 10 by trade, Pereira can certainly play slightly deeper, in a similar role that Ander Herrera played last season, with the potential of playing out wide also. One thing is for sure: he can score goals and his dead ball and set piece taking are exemplary.
Pereira featured for Brazil in the U20 World Cup this summer, as they finished runners-up after a 2-1 defeat to Serbia in the final, where he scored a stunning solo goal. Add to that his group game penalty against Hungary to seal a 2-1 win in the 86th minute, as well as converting his spot-kicks in shootout wins over Uruguay and Portugal in the Round of 16 and Quarter-Finals respectively; valuable experience would have certainly been gained.
Lingard also played tournament football this summer, scoring a sublime volley to secure England a late win over Sweden in their only win at the U21 European Championships as they exited at the group stage.
He made his United bow on the opening day of last season against Swansea City, but suffered a serious injury in the first half, one that saw him sidelined until the new year.
But his rehabilitation went well, and he moved to Derby County on a short-term loan in order to rebuild his match fitness in February.
Another number 10 by trade, Lingard is also capable of playing out wide and now hopes to win over the manager’s faith in him once more, 12 months on from a successful tour that saw him score in United’s 3-1 over Liverpool.
James Wilson broke onto the scene with a brace in United’s 3-1 home win over Hull City in the penultimate game of the 2013/14 season. Despite the summer arrival of Radamel Falcao to add to Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie last summer, Wilson was kept at the club rather than being shipped out on loan.
A winger in his early days, his goalscoring record at youth was fantastic, and he scored all four goals in last year’s Manchester Senior Cup final win over neighbours City.
The manager altered his shirt number from 47 to 49 at the beginning of last season so that he had a number 9 in there, indicating the fact that the Dutchman sees him as an out-and-out striker.
He has blistering pace, great agility and a steady balance, and starting ahead of Falcao in the 3-0 home win over Liverpool last December showed how highly he is regarded at the club.
A composed finish to seal the victory away at Queens Park Rangers in January followed by a fine strike from outside the box in the FA Cup replay against Cambridge United a couple of weeks later, his four goals and 18 appearances at such an early age bode well for the future.
With Rooney the only other recognised striker on tour, Wilson will see game time aplenty, and it is up to him to rubberstamp his place in Van Gaal’s plans ahead of the new season.
It is not just the youngsters who have to impress. Every member of the squad will have to showcase their talents in order to give the manager a selection headache come August 8.
United’s tour squad in full:
Tyler Blackett, Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Matteo Darmian, David De Gea, Memphis Depay, Jonny Evans, Marouane Fellaini, Sean Goss, Ander Herrera, Adnan Januzaj, Sam Johnstone, Phil Jones, Anders Lindegaard, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Paddy McNair, Andreas Pereira, Wayne Rooney, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, James Wilson, Ashley Young.