Can Manchester United use their tour of America as a springboard to success?

So the 2017 pre-season tour of America has been announced, United will face; LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, over the course of 11 days as part of the International Champions Cup; the two MLS clubs just being friendlies. Gone are the days of quietly playing Blackburn Rovers a couple of weeks before the season started. Gone with the days of pre-season games being barely publicised, now these summer games are more in the public eye than ever before, and isn’t the world a better place for it. Pre-season is now a tease to football fans across the globe, who can witness some of the world’s biggest stars face each other before the season even begins. While there’s always the excitement surrounding of a few academy players being named in the squad.

For both Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, the success of this pre-season tour may just provide the perfect springboard to starting next season in the right way. After all, the head coach may feel as though he has not had a “proper” pre-season under his belt. For the European Championship 2016 reduced the amount of time he had to work with his players and then the pre-season tour of China is one he will be eager to forget. The atmosphere tainted by pitches that resembled more concrete than grass as well as planes needing to be diverted. Mourinho was openly annoyed by the conditions and the reporters, so maybe he could benefit from a more relaxing experience in the US.

This simply is not enough time to prepare for a Premier League season especially when a new manager is trying to implement new ideas, combined with new faces arriving. Key players such as Paul Pogba and Ibrahimovic had very little time to gel with the squad, possibly suggesting why some of their performances have been questioned at times.

However, this summer presents a whole new opportunity for United, despite being linked to occasional super signings, it is expected that Mourinho will not be overhauling the squad. Meaning that he can continue to make progress with the current squad who are, in time, starting to look like a very strong Mourinho squad. This summer should provide very few excuses, as their destination has become increasingly more well-adjusted to “soccer” on the whole. As demonstrated on Manchester United’s last tour of America, there should be very few, if any pitch issues to help provide a relatively stress-free environment for the players.

Louis van Gaal showed in his first season that the wrong approach to a pre-season can have a catastrophic effect, after having the worst start in United’s history when he tried to implement a very strict training regime. The importance of players remaining physically fit but not burning out is vitally important to the following season. Clever management via the medium of using a mixture of both experienced players and young players will allow the players to start the season both fitter and with clear heads. This tour will give Jose the opportunity to iron out any creases that he has noted down throughout the season, making tweaks to give his team a greater advantage next season.

For the players, pre-season tours are always somewhat of an audition, no matter what age the player might be. For the new signings, it’s about settling in and forming new relationships, with the hope that these link ups will carry forward into the following season. The latest pre-season did not necessarily allow that, meaning players such as Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan took time to find their feet in the squad. America gives the players the chance to show the fans and the manager what they are really capable of, against some of the biggest teams in the world. While it acts as a perfect introduction for the younger players, playing in games with big crowds against top class opposition. The sight of new signings wearing the United badge and Youth players breaking through is always exciting for the fans and this summer will be no different.

Overall America is likely to provide a much smoother pre-season than last summer. Allowing the manager to really shape the squad to his image and for the players to gel completely. Two factors Mourinho will be sure to correct this season. You can guarantee that no matter who leaves or who arrives in the summer, the team that starts the season will be far more prepared and have more hunger to succeed, and America will be a big part of this.

Written by Anthony Withington


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