CLUB AMERICA vs MANCHESTER UNITED
This was the long awaited first game of pre-season and a chance to see United’s recent recruits in action. Pre-match Van Gaal had made it known that he would be playing a different eleven in each half; two games in one then. As such we have changed the format of this report to reflect this.
Of the four new signings three started the game. Darmian at right back, Schneiderlin partnering Michael Carrick at the base of the midfield and Depay behind Rooney wearing number 9 but with a role closer to a “Number 10”.
United started this game in less than convincing style. Club America pressed high in the opening stages and almost caught United several times with only the sharpness of Johnstone in goal preventing the Mexican’s from scoring. He rushed off his line several times to intervene when they had beaten the defensive line. On other occasions throughout the second half United were saved by their offside trap. This was very hit and miss with the defence generally looking fairly shaky.
Despite the uncertain start United took an early lead when Schneiderlin arrived undetected at the far post to outmuscle the nearest man and head home a Mata cross. That goal should have settled United down and to some extent it did although much of their play remained disjointed throughout the half.
United’s shape was roughly a 4-2-3-1, but with Mata constantly coming inside this tended to create a rough midfield box which a lack of fluidity in the midfield interchanges. Mata movement inside created space outside for Darmian to use, and the new right back made several encouraging forays forward. Depay looked lively and produced one or two moments of excellence. There were signs that he and Rooney could soon develop a good understanding.
Schneiderlin played with plenty of energy and worked hard. Darmian was perhaps the most solid looking of our defenders with both Jones and especially Blind struggling with the pace and muscularity of the Club America front two of Quintero and Arroyo.
Keypoints of the first half
- This was a disjointed display perhaps only useful in helping players gain fitness and understanding with colleagues.
- The new players were perhaps United’s better performers.
- The defence was unconvincing and United were lucky not to concede.
Wholesale changes with the fourth new recruit Schweinsteiger coming into midfield alongside Herrera. As well as the eleven changes in personnel United’s team shape also changed to a shape closer to a 4-3-3. Perhaps this was the shape United were supposed to be playing in the first half and if so all we can conclude is that this set of players executed the plan better than those who played first.
We say this because United now looked more composed and less disjointed. They were playing with two midfield pivots in Schweinsteiger and Herrera with Januzaj as the number 10. When United had the ball one or other of the pivots would push forward so that the point of the triangle was then at the back of the team; when defending it was at the front. This all worked better than in the first half and United had several chances to extend their lead; Januzaj in particular had a couple of good shooting opportunities but shot just wide on each occasion.
One of the reasons the shape worked far better was that in attack United’s wider forwards, Pereira and Lingard tended to stay wider longer and as such United attacked on a wider front. The team then looked more balanced right to left. Pereira and Lingard both looked bright, full of running and importantly confident.
In the middle of the half Club America rallied and took the game to United. The defence however now looked solid with all players having a good game. Schweinsteiger and Herrera worked hard and United got through this to rebalance the play.
Keypoints of the second half
- A better team shape in the second half; more solid in defence and fluid in attack.
- Schweinsteiger and Herrera worked well together. Schweinsteiger always looked composed and Herrera was his usual hard working self. They dovetailed well between the attacking and defensive phases of play.
- United’s second half team seemed to have more pace about it with Pereira, Lingard, Januzaj and Wilson, the front four, all looking lively.
- Club America looked dangerous on the break throughout the game, but in the second half the United defence looked far more composed.