PRESEASON IS OVER - MY VERDICT
It's been a fun and quite entertaining pre-season with lots of matches and positive vibes around the team. It started with a fun and entertaining 4nil victory against Liverpool, and culminated in a 1 all draw against Rayo Vallecano. The fans and support has been fantastic from Bangkok to Australia, to Oslo and back to Manchester. It's been quite a rollercoaster ride with there being clear improvements in the playing personnel and the quality of play.
So as the season is just about seven days away and we await the coach's verdict on what his preferred team would look like, there are some things that has been clear so far to me. This article is to point out and state the obvious from what I have noticed about the team throughout pre-season. It is my own verdict on the Manchester United team using their pre-season performances as a yardstick.
TAKE AWAY GOALS AND RONALDO BECOMES A PROBLEM
Cristiano Ronaldo will always be a legend of the game no matter where he goes or what he does at this stage of his career. He has had a magnificent career ladden with goals. And this season again, he will definitely score goals in this team. But what this Manchester United team needs isn't just about a goal machine but about attackers with the energy to lead the pressing from the front.
After watching his performance against Rayo yesterday, I was convinced that Ronaldo is not that guy. There were numerous times I felt screaming at him to cover the opposition, but it was obvious that he did not have that kind of energy to run around.
Yes that was his first preseason game and his fitness is not at the required level, but we all know Ronaldo can't press for his life. He's at the twilight of his career and is more about conserving energy for the vital moments.
You don't want to keep an unhappy player who doesn't fit into the system so I'd advice United to let him go, and get a new younger CF. I don't know why no one has mentioned Lautaro Martinez in the same sentence with this club, but that would be a perfect replacement for Ronaldo.
TRASH VDB, CHONG, ELANGA, TELLES
I think I've seen enough of these guys to convince me that they're just mass, have weight and occupy space but with little to no dividends to show for it. Van Der Beek has so far been given enough opportunities to prove that he belongs in this team, but everytime he steps on the pitch, he seems to be unsure of where he actually is or what his role is. Personally I rooted for him to thrive under his former boss, but he just doesn't seem cut out for it.
Another player who had so much promise but have failed to take his opportunities in preseason is Tahith Chong. I remember when he was supposed to be the next big thing along with Gomes. But his over all performance on this tour has been well below par. He struggles to beat players, makes poor decisions, and his shooting range is abysmal. It's either we send him on loan or outrightly sell him off.
Elanga is actually a bunch of energy and hardwork. The boy has got energy to burn and he's got the pace to beat anyone on a one-on-one. The thing is that at this point in time, it's more about the end product than the overall endeavor and he just doesn't deliver the end product. Not forgetting the breathe of fresh air he brought last season, I believe that a good loan will do him a world of good. He needs to play regularly and momentum.
Right now, I think Alex Telles is the most unfortunate player in this team. He hasn't been woeful since he came to United, though he hasn't been blistering either. Then all of a sudden he finds himself as the third choice leftback for the team. And to make matters worse he's just been shifted between CB CDM and LB throughout the tour with no clear position for him.
With the arrival of Lisandro Martinez, things will only get worse. I'd say keep him for the grueling October fixtures, but that would be extra cost for a team that's already well stock in that position, so for the right price, a sale might be better.
GIVE THESE BOYS A CHANCE
This is actually the tricky part for any coach or manager, figuring out which of the youngsters to keep and which to send out on loan. This preseason was filled lots of youngsters, partly because of the clear out that happened at the end of last season. Many of them had been given an opportunity to stake a claim, and some has been impressive and I think they should be given a chance.
First here has to be Zidane Iqbal. The Pakistani wonder kid has been all an old fashioned number 10 should be. Not just about creating chances, but doing it with swagger and flair that bellies his age. He's been exquisite with the ball, knows when to be simple and when to be flashy, then add his composure and he looks really good already. I'd advice he be given a chance this season to prove himself at the top.
Another midfielder who impressed me was Charlie Savage. Their combo with Iqbal was beautiful, the chemistry, understanding and friendship. Everytime I watch him, I see a younger Matić, and his passing range is a top notch. What I admire most in this boy is his simplicity, he knows the delicacy of his position and doesn't try to out do himself. He keeps it simple while building play from deep. Give him a chance in the cup competitions.
At some point I thought maybe Savage should be sent on loan while Garner is kept to stake his claim. But why can't we have them both? Though he was injured at the beginning of the tour, he came back strongly to deliver some solid performances and give the coach something to think about. Though he doesn't have Savage's passing abilities, he's got the experience and is physically better than the youngster. I still have my reservations about him though, I only hope he doesn't become another McTominay.
Amad Diallo is a joy to watch and I'd love to see him compete for that RWF position next season. He's skilful and fast and I know the coach can help with his decision making. Give him an opportunity and I believe he'll take it. Garnacho on the other hand needed on just about 70mins to show the world what a joy he is. He was by far our best player against Rayo. The energy, the willingness to run at defenders and the unpredictability were just simply exquisite. Even though he only featured in one match, he appeared to be the one most ready for a step up. Let him compete with Rashford and Sancho.
Last but not least is Ethan Laird. He's been solid on this tour and though he was caught out of position a few times against Rayo, he still delivered a solid display at RB. Although AWB is better than him defensively, he's a better all rounder. And with the current system requiring the fullbacks to push high up the pitch, I'd root for him ahead of AWB who's been out of sorts.
PLAYING TWO ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS IS DANGEROUS
On a few occasions especially against Aston Villa and Rayo Vallecano, ETH played with with inverted no 8s of either Fernandes/VDB or Eriksen/VDB which left the team with a single pivot covering up tye defense on his own. Against Villa it was Fred and he did a fantastic job of it especially in the first half. But when they brought Bailey in, and the story changed as the attacker exploited the space left behind in between the CDM and the left back.
Against Rayo the same thing happened with the Spanish team constantly exploited Telles and Laird as the two no 8s along with the WFs were too far up the pitch trying to press high and leaving their fullbacks exposed. I have to admit that it is lethal when executed to perfection, but when the team starts tiring, it leaves too much room to be exploited. I believe ETH must've seen this and will do something about it.
WE STILL NEED PLAYERS
I believe that this is not news at all. Everyone knows that this team still needs at least 3 players to really compete. As much as I believe in our youngsters, we still need proven players to come I and bolster this team. You don't want to be playing against city and your bench is filled with academy boys with no experience at the top of the game.
This team still needs a CDM, a RWF and a striker. These are pressing areas that needs bolstering because if one or two of these first team players gets injured, then we're going to be threadbare and back at square one. I hope the club knows what they're doing (which I doubt), and support ETH to get the needed players.
That's my verdict on Manchester United so far, you might agree with me or differ. Let me know in the comments section.
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