Manchester United 1-1 Ajax Cape Town: 10 Things Learned About Red Devils
Manchester United ended the South African leg of their preseason tour with an interesting 1-1 draw against Ajax Cape Town.
Bebe was the unlikely hero for the Red Devils, rescuing a point for the Premier League giants in stoppage time after Alcardo Van Graan gave Ajax a surprise lead four minutes before the end.
The game was an entertaining affair despite the relative lack of goalmouth action, and Sir Alex Ferguson will no doubt have learned some new information about his team this season.
Here are ten things learned about United following the game in Cape Town.
1-1 Fair Result
A 1-1 draw was a fair result in the end for both teams.
Manchester United dominated possession for the most part and made Ajax chase the game a bit, but for all their link-up play they failed to create any real chances of note for the first 75 minutes.
The hosts, on the other hand, made more of their time on the ball, creating more openings in the final third.
However, they too were slack in attack and failed to trouble Ben Amos in the United goal.
Manchester United Lacked Sharpness
Pre-season friendlies are all about finding rhythm, experimenting with new tactical ideas and gaining match fitness.
And it was completely evident in the Ajax Cape Town match that Manchester United are still finding their feet ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
Most of the players weren't at 100 percent fitness, and will need a number of matches before being ready to start the new competitive season—most evident in the lack of concentration which led to Ajax's opener on 86 minutes.
A lot of the intricate link-up plays and general attacking movements will also need to be worked on by United, as they find a way to blend the styles of the wingers like Shinji Kagawa and strikers like Javier Hernandez.
Paul Scholes Will Play Quarterback
His natural attacking instincts aside, Paul Scholes looks set to play the "quarterback role" for Manchester United in what should be his final season for the club.
Almost like Andrea Pirlo for Italy, Scholes will resume his deep-lying playmaker role, and will create play from a position merely a few yards ahead of the centre-backs.
It seems as if Michael Carrick will be the one to facilitate play in the middle with shorter passes, while Scholes will dictate the tempo by being the player to spray long balls across the pitch.
Or at least that's how it'll work in theory—Carrick will still end up doing more defensive work as Scholes goes for the box-to-box glory runs.
Attack Will Be Flexible
Manchester United's attacking line next season looks set to be more flexible thanks to the arrival of Shinji Kagawa.
In the first-half against Ajax Cape Town, Kagawa started the game behind Javier Hernandez, but as the game progressed would often over-lap Chicharito or take up the central role as the Mexican moved wide.
In essence, the former Borussia Dortmund star will almost stay exclusively between the defensive and midfield opposition lines and wait for the ball, before orchestrating play in the final third with his strike partner.
As the season begins, this could give the likes of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck more discipline to stay forward, giving the team more options when on the attack.
Shinji Kagawa Will Be a Success
Shinji Kagawa will be a success at Manchester United—even after just one game it's clear for all to see.
The Japanese star was United's best player against Ajax Cape Town and was their main attacking threat.
Despite being at the club for less than a month, Kagawa already seems to have settled in with his new teammates, linking up well with the wingers and strikers and understanding their movements perfectly.
And against a physical Ajax side, his creativity and composure on the ball despite consistent pressure is a good sign ahead of the new Premier League season.
If he can add a few goals in pre-season, then the new campaign is sure to be a good one for Kagawa.
Nick Powell Is a Good Signing
It's hard to tell how Nick Powell will adapt to play for a club as big as Manchester United, but if the Ajax Cape Town match is anything to go by, so far so good.
Coming on for Paul Scholes in the centre of the United midfield, Powell impressed with his movement, accurate and inventive passing, good link-up skill and quick feet.
Defensively, he could've done better in the minutes he played, but overall the former Crewe Alexandra midfielder looks like he could turn out to be a good acquisition by the Red Devils.
Tyler Blackett Has Manchester United Future
Out of all the academy youngsters on show in preseason, left-back Tyler Blackett could be the one with the most potential of making it on the Manchester United first-team.
Composed with the ball, accurate with his passing, strong but clean in the tackle, rarely beaten for pace and all-round rather reliable, Blackett was everything on the left that Marnick Vermijl wasn't on the right.
Blackett still has a lot to learn, not least of all the right times to get forward, but nonetheless has as much potential in the game as Ezekiel Fryers, if not more.
And with Fryers and Fabio gone, and an increasingly unconvincing Patrice Evra the only senior left-back in the squad, Blackett could be in line for a decent number of first-team matches this season—regardless of whether or not the club sign Leighton Baines.
One player who looks like he could leave Manchester United in the near future is Anderson.
Chucked out on the left-side of midfield against Ajax Cape Town—presumably because Sir Alex had nowhere else to play him—Anderson failed to exert any influence on the match and was quiet throughout.
With Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick established options in the centre, with Tom Cleverley, Nick Powell, Ryan Giggs and possibly Darren Fletcher also central midfield options, Anderson needs to make every second count in preseason if he is to force his way back into the side.
And on the back of the Ajax game, it doesn't look as if he'll be able to achieve that.
Ben Amos Needs a New Club
At 22 years old, Ben Amos is at the age where he needs to be playing regular first-team football if he is to develop as a goalkeeper.
Behind David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard in the pecking order at Manchester United, he won't be getting such playing time at Old Trafford.
Which is a shame, because Amos is a talented shot-stopper with good potential.
He was reliable against Ajax, controlling his defence well and commanding in the air, while his concentration was also spot on—as proven with the very good near-post save on 75 minutes from Thembinkosi Fanteni.
In order to realise his potential and possibly make his breakthrough with England, Amos needs game time soon.
He'll get that on loan at Hull City this season, and will probably need to stay there permanently if he is to get the matches he needs.
Make or Break Preseason for Bebe
Bebe was surprisingly effective against Ajax Cape Town and showed good movement, composure and finishing to rescue the game for Manchester United.
His goal and performance in the near 30 minutes he played will buy him more preseason game time—something the Portuguese forward will need if he is to not only make it at Manchester United, but also at elite-level football in general.
At the moment he has no chance of getting into the team ahead of Antonio Valencia, Nani, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez, but if he can do well in preseason, he could easily buy himself more and more playing time throughout the season in which to prove himself.
It's a make or break season for the 22-year-old, but in order to get to the start of the competitive campaign, it's a make or break preseason for Bebe.