10 Things to Watch out for in Manchester United's Pre-Season Tour

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

10 Things to Watch out for in Manchester United's Pre-Season Tour

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    With the World Cup about to become just a fond memory soon, focus now returns to club matters and the start of a Dutch era at Manchester United.

    Louis van Gaal will join the Red Devils' pre-season tour of the USA to get a first-hand look at his new squad.

    United are due to play a minimum of four matches on tour against a host of strong competition.

    It all kicks off on July 23 when the Reds face MLS side LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl, for the Chevrolet Cup. With the Galaxy in the middle of their season, the match promises to be a difficult one for United who will be some way behind their opponents in terms of fitness.

    Van Gaal's men then travel to participate in the International Champions Cup tournament featuring eight of Europe's top club sides. United play Ashley Cole and Roma first, in their opening match on July 26, in Denver.

    Then next it will be an emotional reunion with former captain Nemanja Vidic as the Reds take on his Inter Milan team on July 29, in Washington DC.

    And finally, United play Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammates on August 2, in Ann Arbor.

    If United top their group, they will feature in the ICC final on August 4 in Miami, against either Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan or Olympiacos, per InternationalChampionsCup.com.

    Here, we review 10 elements to look out for during United's USA tour:


James Wilson

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    As Adnan Januzaj excited the faithful during the last pre-season, United starlet James Wilson threatens to do so this year.

    The young attacker from Biddulph has been electric for United's youth and reserve teams for some time and got a starting opportunity during Ryan Giggs' short tenure at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, scoring twice on his first-team debut against Hull, on May 6. 

    Wilson has all of the attributes to be a top-class striker: He is strong, athletic and fast, and he is clinical in front of goal.

    Louis van Gaal is known to promote teenage talent into his first team, winning a European Cup with a largely youthful Ajax side, and giving Thomas Mueller his debut at Bayern Munich. 

    There is still a chance that the boy will end up out on loan this season, as is the drill for young players currently but if United choose the Januzaj path for Wilson, he will be fully involved during Van Gaal's first season in charge.




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    Despite Louis van Gaal's use of a 5-3-2 system in the Netherlands' World Cup campaign, 4-3-3 is very much his favoured formation.

    It is a tactic relatively foreign to Manchester United who have relied on 4-4-2, with a smattering of 4-2-3-1, for many years.

    With Van Gaal in charge for the first time of team affairs in the USA, the Reds are likely to set up in the manager's most common formation and it will be interesting to see which players take to the change immediately, and which ones do not. 

    The tour will be a litmus test for many individuals in the squad. 


Ryan Giggs in the Technical Area

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    Despite his flirtation as Manchester United boss last season, the 2014-15 season sees Ryan Giggs officially become a former player and now reinvent himself as assistant manager to Louis van Gaal. 

    Giggs is currently in charge of the opening days of United's pre-season campaign, per Simon Stone of BBC Sport, and he is being helped by recent Van Gaal appointments Marcel Bout and Albert Stuivenberg.

    Last season, we saw Phil Neville involved in coaching during games but this year we will see Giggs in the technical area. 

    The USA tour will be our first chance to see how the United legend copes on the sidelines as life with Van Gaal becomes a reality. 

The Use of Adnan Januzaj

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    Just 12 months on from his entrance into United's first team, Adnan Januzaj has a new contract, a new manager and a World Cup finals under his belt.

    The USA tour will see Januzaj play a major part in the club's activities, surely with the No. 7 or No. 11 shirt being thrown his way.

    Januzaj fits perfectly into Louis van Gaal's 4-3-3 and the coming season could see him blossom in the attacking formation, being able to play either side of the striker.

    As with James Wilson, LvG will not be afraid to include young talent if they prove on tour that they are ready for the challenges ahead.


Luke Shaw

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    The USA tour will see the passing of the left-back baton from Patrice Evra to Luke Shaw, as we get our first opportunity to see United's new acquisition in a Red Devils shirt.

    Shaw is one of Europe's best young talents and United have done good business to get him. 

    Louis van Gaal's preference for hard-working wing-backs, who can also provide assists, fits Shaw's game perfectly and he will surely feature consistently next year.

    The experience of the World Cup will also have been a positive one for the defender before he steps into the spotlight as a United player.


Motivation Values

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    David Moyes can be criticised for many things during his time at Old Trafford but one element, more than any other, concerned United fans last season.

    The team lacked its normal motivation levels and there was a distinct lack of intensity at times from the players.

    A lethargy would consistently enter the team's play in the last 10 minutes of games and United were heavily punished for this, as they threw points away with startling regularity. 

    In the USA, United fans will expect to see higher motivation values from the squad, mirroring those witnessed by Louis van Gaal's Netherlands side, in Brazil.

    Another season of mediocrity will not be accepted by the faithful. LvG will have to show early on that he has the trust of his new squad and that they respond to his methodology. 

Ander Herrera and Midfield

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    It had become a running joke between Manchester United fans about how weak the club's midfield has appeared, compared to rivals, but that has started to be addressed with the signing of Ander Herrera.

    The 24-year-old is the definition of the modern box-to-box players: He is technically gifted, forward thinking, 6' tall and intelligent.

    His ability to play anywhere in central midfield will be a huge bonus for Louis van Gaal as he looks to find his best starting XI.

    Herrera reported for his first day at United on Monday and he will be an integral part of the first team during the tour, and beyond. 


Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa Combination?

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    The dismissal of David Moyes could turn out to be the best news possible for both Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, as they look to play a more progressive style.

    Both players were used out of position continually by Moyes during the previous campaign but the advent of 4-3-3 would surely please both individuals.

    Kagawa has been forced out wide in a 4-4-2 during his two years at the club and it is not a formation that suits him.

    But in a 4-3-3, playing the inside channel next to a striker is the Japan international's preferred position, allowing him into the central attacking positions more frequently. 

    The same counts for Mata. He is no winger but is most happy in the more narrow attacking areas.

    With players like Luke Shaw to provide the width, Mata and Kagawa can both weave their magic in the parts of the pitch they prefer. 

    A combination of both players, either side of Robin van Persie, could create a phenomenal attack for the Reds, in 2014-15. 

Room for Wayne Rooney?

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    If Louis van Gaal decides to start Wayne Rooney as his No. 9 in his new team, then there is every chance that the player will score 30 goals, next season.

    However, LvG is more than likely going to start Robin van Persie as his striker.

    Wayne has shown for United and England that he is not a fan of playing in the wider positions, as we saw against Italy at the World Cup, and this could become a major issue for his inclusion at Old Trafford.

    Rooney does not like playing second fiddle to anyone and his body language always shows when he is dissatisfied.

    The USA tour will almost definitely see the player start as United's striker if RvP is excluded, due to his extended summer with the Netherlands.

    Rooney will need to show in the tour games that he is United's main man and force Van Gaal to play him in his preferred role, at the point of the attack. 

Louis Van Gaal's Impact

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    It is the most obvious point of all but the one thing that will be studied most during the USA tour will be the impact caused by Louis van Gaal's arrival. 

    He is the first continental coach to run Manchester United and his tenure should see the Sir Alex Ferguson era closed shut, once and for all.

    David Moyes showed last year that he did not have the personality or technical acumen to be United boss, which is why the board of directors moved fast to acquire Van Gaal's services.

    Van Gaal is a man who improves footballers and promotes attacking football―two things United desperately need.

    The tour will allow us to witness how the squad reacts to the new boss and we will see just how long the honeymoon period might last.