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Manchester United Pre-Season Tours – What do they really tell us? 

Pre-seas on tours have evolved from a few matches in Ireland and Scandinavia into big business for Manchester United. What do they really tell us about the forthcoming season? Are they simply lucrative money spinners for the club? An important way to integrate new players and blood new talent? More importantly, do they have any bearing on what the future season will hold?

In the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, Pre-Season tours for Manchester United have been inconsistent to say the least. When we look back at David Moyes’s first Pre-Season, it clearly shows that it was, with the benefit of hindsight, a barometer of a man who was out of his depth, opening his account with the Champions of Manchester United to a defeat to the almighty Thai All Stars XI (!).

However, can we really rely on the results in a pre-season to demonstrate signs of things to come? I believe that most supporters tend to take little notice of pre-season results, with the exception of Louis van Gaal who actually, and somewhat wildly, claimed that his six pre-season victories counted in the actual season despite an opening day reverse at home to Swansea!

The following season, Van Gaal railed against the previous year’s pre-season friendlies claiming there were too many energy-sapping matches and associated travel and restricted the following pre-season tour to just four matches and condensed the number of locations and journey times, even altering a venue to which supporters had purchased tickets to accommodate his ideas.

As recently, as last season, some wag decided to take on actual climatology and host a big match against Manchester City in Beijing which was subsequently cancelled due to adverse weather conditions rendering the pitch unplayable.

This season, it’s back to a pre-season tour of the United States of America It seems that there are many powers at work in defining a Manchester United pre-season tour. It represents a chance to export the Manchester United team beyond the geographical constraints of the UK and Europe. It’s an opportunity for Manchester United supporters around the globe to have a chance to see their heroes in live action, which is fantastic for those supporters, however is this just a cynical ploy to market the Manchester United Brand to a Global fan base and sell some more shirts?

Surely, the main benefits of a pre-season is to allow emerging players and new signings to gel with the existing personnel and prepare the squad for the forthcoming season and to raise the fitness levels in readiness for an ‘out-of-the-traps’ assault on the Premier League?

Do die-hard Reds welcome the chance to follow the team in different parts of the world and connect with global fans or is it an unwelcome financial strain? Do supporters even take them seriously at all?

The only semi-competitive matches worth playing, which are often weaved into the pre-season schedule is either the Community Shield or, in the case of this season, a crack at the European Super-Cup. Given how difficult this one is to qualify for does make it a trophy which, although not too serious, is worth competing for as, if won, does happen to look great on the honours list.

In summary, although I’d like for Manchester United to win all the seven pre-season matches in the United States of America, Oslo and Dublin on this summer’s tour, I would, like any right-minded supporter, trade this in a heartbeat for winning the first five Premier League fixtures.

The pre-season tour has become a fixture in itself, however let’s ensure that the reasons for having a pre-season are there to benefit the team’s preparation for the forthcoming campaign and other benefits that transpire as a result of this tour, are simply a bonus. After all, if selling more merchandise is a key objective for the club, then success on the pitch will drive more sales than any exhibition match played out, or not, on a rainy night in China will ever achieve!

Written by Paul Young

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