Following Louis van Gaal’s announcement of the players who will be going to the United States on tour, I will be looking at the significance of the announcement and the clues it can give us behind the Dutchman’s plans for the future. First of all, the 25-man squad is larger than usual. In 2013, then manager David Moyes selected just an initial 19 players, though more joined from holiday as the tour went on. In 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson’s final tour had 22 players. However, a larger squad hasn’t necessarily seen a large number of youth players selected.
Ben Amos, Sam Johnstone and defenders Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane are involved, as well as last year’s tour hero Jesse Lingard and forward Will Keane. Perhaps this signifies a lesser focus on youth by van Gaal, possibly with the expectation that more established first team signings will be made. The absence of young players such as Tom Lawrence and James Wilson is surprising given their performance in the first team against Hull at the end of last season. Louis van Gaal may not see a first team role for them this season which suggest they may be heading out on loan in order to gain first team experience.
Given that Tom Lawrence is set to sign a new long-term contract in the coming days, and James Wilson widely regarded as one of Manchester United’s best prospects, I would suggest their future at the club is safe and their absence from the tour may be disappointing, but is not significant. Other significant absentees include many first team players, including Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj, Marouane Fellaini and Javier Hernandez. They are not included as they are currently on holiday following their participation in the World Cup.
This is no bad thing as it is essential that players gain the correct amount of time to relax and refresh before a new season. Many United fans will remember Chicharito being considerably less effective in his second season at the club. Sir Alex Ferguson put this down to the fact he had been in a major international competition every summer for the previous three years. Louis van Gaal has also decided to leave out several first team fringe players. Nick Powell, Anderson and Bebe have all not been included. Reports surfaced on the 18th July that Anderson had suffered a calf injury in preseason training that ruled him out of the tour, but I would not be surprised if he was not included anyway.
I believe the decision to leave him out of the tour squad could signal the end of his time at United. Bebe was also left out, but given a transfer to Benfica seemingly imminent – it is also likely that we will not be seeing Bebe in a United shirt again. In my opinion, Nick Powell is perhaps the most surprising omission from the tour squad. A very highly rated midfielder, Powell was extremely impressive for Wigan last season, making 42 appearances and scoring 12 goals. There was even talk of recalling him during United’s troubled spell in January 2014.
Now whilst I believe the decision to leave him out of the squad is most likely due to a possible injury or a deal to loan him out being in place, I am disappointed he will not being going on tour because I think he genuinely has something to offer to the first team this season, even if it is a small role. One surprising inclusion on the tour is Nani. Widely believed to have played his final game for United, I was fully expecting to see Nani sold this summer, with Juventus and Inter Milan reportedly interested. However, his inclusion perhaps signifies and new role under Louis van Gaal, who may be prepared to give him a chance to impress before making a decision on his future.
Whilst van Gaal operated at 5-3-2 at the World Cup, his favoured formation is 4-3-3 with wide, fast, attacking wingers. Nani fits this bill and given the absence of other dynamic wingers in the squad, Nani may yet have one more roll of the dice before he is transferred to Italy. I am also surprised to see Ashley Young’s name on the squad list. Whilst I personally believe he is one of United’s worst ever players, he does have pace and Van Gaal may yet have a plan for him if he can impress on tour. van Gaal made it very clear in his press conference that he wanted to give the current players a chance before dealing with any transfers, and I believe this is what has kept Young’s place in the squad secure.
Pre-season tours are about gaining fitness and essentially making money so I think it is important to emphasise that the make-up of a tour squad does not provide any guarantees as to who will play next season. However, every once in a while, the tours provide an opportunity for some players to shine which will lead to them being given a chance in the first team. For example, last year, few people had heard of Adnan Januzaj. Following an impressive tour, he was given a chance under David Moyes and ended up being of the brightest patches in an otherwise disappointing season.
This article was written by Nick Sutton, who is part of our Academy writing team. Please make your comment on this article if you agree or disagree with the comments raised in this article.