Time to Impress
Monday night in Miami, the two sides will do battle once again in what represents the final opportunity for those players with an uncertain future at Old Trafford to consolidate their position in Louis van Gaal's plans, as the Dutchman is set to inform the squad of their fates after the U.S. tour.
The stage is the International Champions Cup final in perhaps the most important—and most heavily endorsed—friendly match this summer. Friendly by name alone, the competition ought to be fierce in Florida with both sets of players looking to impress their respective managers ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
Former England striker and BBC presenter, Gary Lineker, recently stated on Twitter that fans oughtn't be concerned by pre-season friendly results because "they mean nothing, absolutely nothing".
There is some basis for agreement with this particular school of thought. But for new manager Van Gaal and his players, pre-season is the only period in which they have been able to gain an understanding of one another. And therefore, it means a great deal to the Red Devils' forthcoming season.
Indeed, pre-season can prove vital to any collective and individual preparations that a club may wish to do. This is certainly the case for United, whose finest performers in pre-season will go into the new campaign with confidence and in prime fitness.
Both of these attributes are imperative in the eyes of Van Gaal, who has had no qualms in telling his new team what he expects of them since his arrival, as he seeks to re-establish Man United as English champions once more.
How great it is to see that a manager can still command the respect of his players simply through his character and conviction.
Quite rightly should he be entitled to demand the utmost of his team, even if it means telling England's darling £30 million left-back Luke Shaw that he is not fit enough, according to Sky Sports. This is what Van Gaal brings to Man United: ruthless, unadulterated discipline.
Positions Must Be Earned Under Van Gaal
A management style of this ilk rivals even that of Sir Alex Ferguson, who was widely renowned for his capacity to simultaneously strike fear and supreme confidence in the hearts of his players. Under Van Gaal, each and every one of the United squad has had to earn their position in his team, and this can be only a positive thing.
David Moyes shouldered too much of the blame for last season's calamity at Old Trafford; the players—young and senior—lacked entirely in the quality expected at a club with such a record of success. Many of them were anonymous for much of the season, and it is only fair that they must each prove their worth prior to this new era under Van Gaal.
Naturally, the arrival of a new manager has provided inspiration to some players who were out of favour during Moyes' reign.
Ashley Young has come into his own in pre-season, getting his name on the scoresheet on a number of occasions while in the United States.
Equally, Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley have applied themselves well under this new charge and will now be confident that their future lies in the red district of Manchester, having previously been linked with possible moves away after a lacklustre year.
Vitally, Van Gaal has rejuvenated key players such as Wayne Rooney, who is scoring freely in pre-season.
In addition, Van Gaal has been characteristically fearless with his experimentation of tactics and has rapidly bled new signing Ander Herrera into an effective playmaker role, adding dynamism to a position that was completely void last year.
Of course, United still need some investment with a holey defence, whose gaps need bridging and a central midfield that could still do with some reinforcement to ensure extensive protection for said defensive setup.
Mats Hummels would be a brilliant capture, adding genuine world-class talent and leadership at the back. Meanwhile, Angel Di Maria still appears to be in the cross hairs, according to The Mirror, as Van Gaal looks to bolster his creative options.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that a defensive midfielder is not being targeted, leading to suggestions that Marouane Fellaini will be relied upon to ultimately deliver.
Indeed, the most notable aspect of Van Gaal's management is the re-establishment of belief amongst his current players.
To rid of deadwood in the squad is the right thing to do, as there is too much poor quality padding out what ought to be a top-class side.
Some might argue that this exclusion would be overly harsh and hardly conducive to a strong atmosphere in the dressing room. But Van Gaal knows that those who remain will grasp the opportunity to stay under his tutelage and will flourish in doing so.
Van Gaal is exactly the right man for United because he will make the tough decisions that will benefit the club without a second thought, even and especially in pre-season.
He will value every game in terms of its potential for learning about his team and improving it week after week, carrying that spirit into Monday night's clash with Liverpool.
Such an attitude can only inspire his players to be as ruthless as he is, as they head into another exceptionally competitive Premier League season.