We all must remember that was a friendly and in no way suggests how football will be played at Old Trafford in the coming months. A fitting tribute to Louis van Gaal, not so much Wayne Rooney in terms of footballing action but it was an evening earned by Manchester United’s very own ‘Marmite’ player. Here is what we learned tonight in his testimonial.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks sumptuous
And I’m not just talking about his sun tan. He didn’t score or assist, but when he got the ball he was just doing those little exciting things that get bums moving in seats. His footwork is mesmerising and ever so intricate and off the ball, he is just something else. Of course, it isn’t entirely unexpected, but the doubts many had over his age and whether he’d still be able to mingle amongst the best are now really starting to look unfounded and far too preemptive. In the last two seasons United have signed players that were meant to get fans excited with every touch of the ball and thus far nobody has managed to achieve this (bar Angel Di Maria fleetingly), I’d put good money on Ibrahimovic finally doing this.
Possible resurgence for some?
Under Louis van Gaal there were two or three players that didn’t excel quite how many expected or had done before. Ander Herrera is one such player, stifled maybe by a system unsuited to his strengths, his first half performance was very good and perhaps hinted to a recapture of the form that endeared fans to him in his first season. Antonio Valencia is another. Through no fault of his own, his game lost that edge it had before his leg break, it’s bound to happen. Then a move backwards to Right Back hindered him more so in an attacking sense, but so far in preseason he has assisted three goals (against Galatasaray) and tonight he was much more cavalier in his approach. The freedom to surge up and down is marred only by his insistence on not beating his man anymore. If he recaptures that ability then he is a real asset.
Where do Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit?
It feels to me that the starting XI tonight is going to be there or thereabouts come the next two Sunday afternoons, and this scares me a little. Not in any major way at all, but with Wayne Rooney definitely playing in an advanced role (and also being captain) and Ibrahimovic needing to start because he’s Ibrahimovic leaves no room for Marcus Rashford or Henrikh Mkhitaryan. It just isn’t doable to fit in all of the best players in the starting lineup and it’s a quandary I quite enjoy in a sadistic way. I’m sure both will get their chances to impress, it’s just a case of when and how.
It’s difficult to read too much into that tonight. Mainly because it was so boring I’ve puncture wounds from the toothpicks that were holding my eyes open, but also because it was a friendly. If I’ve to endure the complete balls up commentators are going to make of Eric Bailly’s name forever more I’d rather we sold him to be quite honest (a French lad having his name pronounced in Spanish because he played there is just utterly ludicrous) and Daley Blind may find opportunities hard to come by under his new manager, but otherwise there isn’t much more to say. Love or hate Wayne Rooney, you cannot deny all he has achieved throughout his career and you cannot fail to acknowledge the service he has given Manchester United either (even if there has been a transfer request or two). Many say he is over the hill and past it, but tonight that didn’t matter. Now for the real football to start, buckle in because it’s going to be a wild ride.