Manchester United have already had a busy summer.
Louis van Gaal was hired as manager after David Moyes' disastrous season in charge last year. Promising young full-back Luke Shaw joined the club, as did midfielder Ander Herrera. Several Red Devils are still featuring at the World Cup, including Marouane Fellaini, Patrice Evra and Robin van Persie.
United fans have plenty to get excited about, and they'll get the first taste of the club soon enough, as the team's preseason tour will kick off in late July. Below, we'll take a look at those fixtures and preview Manchester United heading into the season.
|Wednesday, July 23||10:30 p.m.||Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA||LA Galaxy|
|Saturday, July 26||4:10 p.m.||Sports Authority Field, Denver, CO||AS Roma|
|Tuesday, July 29||7 p.m.||FedEx Field, Washington D.C.||Inter Milan|
|Saturday, August 2||4:05 p.m.||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI||Real Madrid|
|Monday, August 4||8 p.m.||Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL||TBD*|
*Manchester United will play in this game if they win Group A at the International Champions Cup. They would face the Group B winner in the championship.
One of the interesting things to watch this summer will be the tactics and formations Van Gaal employs. It's very possible he'll look to bring the 3-4-1-2 (or 3-4-3) he's built with the Dutch national team to United, as Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail writes:
When Van Gaal trials this formation later this month during United’s pre-season tour to the United States, the new coach intends to broaden the minds of his players. He wants them to become fascinated with tactics and the evolution of a game as it progresses in real time.
As Zlatan Ibrahimovic notes in his brilliant autobiography, the Dutch "are obsessed with numbers on the pitch— 'he’s a 10, he’s a seven, he’s a six, he’s a four.'" It is new territory for United’s players.
They will have to adapt, to tune in to his obsession with the ability to make tactical adjustments in order to alter the outcome. This is football for thinkers. Van Gaal has identified his potential back three and much depends on the potential recruitment of Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal.
It would be really fascinating to see how that formation would work. If Vermaelen can indeed be brought to United, he would pair with Jonny Evans in central defense while Phil Jones plays the role of sweeper, per Ashton.
Shaw and Rafael Pereira da Silva, meanwhile, would fill the role of wing-backs, and each seem suited to the adjustment. Rafael in particular loves to venture forward on the right, and in this system he would be protected when doing so.
Some combination of Herrera, Fellaini and Michael Carrick would play in the central midfield pairing—if Van Gaal doesn't add another midfielder by then, that is—while Van Persie and Wayne Rooney would likely pair at forward with Juan Mata fitting into the playmaker role behind them, much as Wesley Sneijder has done for the Netherlands behind Van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Carrick, for one, seems excited to see what Van Gaal has in store for the team, as he told Sky Sports News, via David Anderson of the Mirror:
I'm looking forward to working with him. I'm looking forward to meeting him and getting cracking really. Looking back, it was a disappointing campaign. But we have got to learn from it - you never stop learning - and take what we can.
We have still certainly got enough quality in the squad anyway regardless of who is coming in this summer to be up there challenging again.
Yes, the system would probably render certain players irrelevant (cough, cough, Nani, cough). And Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck wouldn't find it any easier to make it into the squad. Plus, it remains to be seen where Adnan Januzaj would fit in (one guesses he'd deputize Mata).
But after last season, there's no question that United need a jolt. This system would certainly be one. If Van Gaal is serious about making this adjustment, we'll see it in action over the summer.
So that should get United fans excited, if nothing else.
And it's certainly not as though United are playing chopped liver over the summer. The L.A. Galaxy are traditionally one of the strongest MLS clubs, while Real Madrid need no introduction (and the chance to see former United star Cristiano Ronaldo in action against his hold club is intriguing).
Generally, the summer friendlies a team plays aren't terribly intriguing. But in a year of transition and for a club that could have a far different look this season, Manchester United's preseason slate is must-watch stuff.