Biggest Storylines from Manchester United's US Tour
Manchester United's tour of the US was a spectacular success. Fans turned out in their droves to see the Red Devils play. And play they did.
Of course, everything in this slideshow has to be set in the context of pre-season (or "preparation time" as Louis van Gaal has repeatedly called it). The games in which United achieved such success were not proper competitive games, and thus there is a necessary asterisk alongside these storylines.
However, given that last year's pre-season tour saw United lose to a "Singha All Star XI," there is plenty of cause for optimism.
Louis van Gaal on #mutour: "More than 350,000 fans & over half were Manchester United fans. Unbelievable. They were all in Red. Beautiful."— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 5, 2014
The number of spectators that have seen United play is one of the storylines that didn't make the final cut. Others in consideration for a place would have been the success of Michael Keane, Reece James and Tyler Blackett, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney's fine link-up play and Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa's effective performances behind the strikers.
However, they did not make the final cut. Let's take a look back at the biggest storylines to have emerged from what has been a very fun US tour.
Back to Winning Ways
The trophy that Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney are holding in this picture is a made-up trophy. Whilst it may be literally real—that is not an elaborate Photoshop—there is some way to go before the International Champions Cup competes with the Champions League.
However, made up or not, it still needed to be won. Having beaten LA Galaxy 7-0—and winning the equally fictional Chevrolet Cup in the process—United entered the tournament with plenty of confidence. They remained unbeaten, scoring freely and generally defending well (with a couple of exceptions).
Given how difficult wins were to come by at Old Trafford last season, a return to winning ways is a very promising storyline.
A New Formation
Louis van Gaal has implemented the biggest tactical shift at United in at least a decade. United have played the entire tour with three central defenders, two wing-backs, two deep-lying midfielders, an attacking playmaker with a lot of tactical freedom, and two high-energy forwards.
It is a remarkably effective use of the personnel at Van Gaal's disposal. Feeling the squad "is not in balance" in terms of the distribution of talent, Van Gaal has set United up to maximise its strengths and minimise its weaknesses.
It has lead to some beautiful football (of which more later), and it will be fascinating to see it deployed in more competitive games as the season progresses.
Whether or not the results prove to have much bearing on United's future success, the change in United's style of play has been a cause for genuine optimism and excitement.
It has been a long time since United have looked so fluent in possession. There have been passes of all lengths and types. It has been a feast of perfectly weighted through balls, long-range diagonal passes, pin-point accurate crosses, flicks, one-twos and backheels.
There have been times when I have felt like standing and giving a round of applause in my living room. I haven't actually done it, but I suspect I may not be alone in feeling the urge.
If United play anything like this during the season, there will be plenty of standing ovations from the paying punters at Old Trafford.
The Unexpected Revitalisation of Ashley Young
Ashley Young has been superb on this tour. Against LA Galaxy he played as a forward during the second half, netting twice.
From the second half of the game against AS Roma onwards, Young was transformed into a wing-back. He has thrived in the role. His brace against Real Madrid was a stand-out contribution, but he was excellent again against Liverpool, even when United were struggling as a collective.
His passing, shooting and crossing have all be excellent and he has not let his side down defensively.
There is next to no one clamouring for Young to be sold. There is no other storyline in this list with as big a twist in the tale.
Ander Herrera has immediately looked at home in a red shirt—and indeed a white shirt and a dark-blue shirt, given United have shown off the entire range on this tour.
Herrera's guile and technique is matched by industry and a competitive streak a mile wide. He has not been shy about putting in tackles, and looks to be a spectacular addition to United's midfield.
He has looked especially good alongside Darren Fletcher. Their partnership click straight away, and Herrera was instrumental in the destruction of the Galaxy.
He has combined beautifully with United's forward players, particularly Juan Mata.
Herrera is a player who looks entirely ready for the rigours of the Premier League. United have an all-round midfielder again. It has been a long time coming.
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