Pre-season is such a curious time for the football fan. After a break, the appetite is whetted to see your boys in action once more. The games come along in obscure places and it provides the chance to see a glimpse of the new signings. In Manchester United’s case, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan made their bow at Wigan, and yesterday in Gothenburg it was ‘Zlatan time’
Whilst you never want to see your team lose, the only thing you can really take out of watching a pre-season friendly is that opportunity to see the new blood. The result really does not matter.
The only thing that matters is that the players improve their fitness and sharpness. Had United’s game with Manchester City taken place, their would have been a huge circus as a result of the new managers, but ultimately the score wouldn’t have mattered.
Still, with the seasons curtain raiser now less than two weeks away, the new look United should be taking shape. The game with Galatasaray certainly provided clues as to how United may line up against Bournemouth, but by the end of the game you were left scratching your head a little. The starting eleven toiled at times in the first half, and it was only after a raft of substitutions at half time that United burst into life.
Yet they couldn’t have scripted the start they got. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, making his debut in Sweden, just had to score and he did just four minutes into the game.
He had barely had a touch of the ball when he launched himself into the air to bicycle kick a lofted cross into the ground and into the net. A perfect start, but in an attack sporting Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial for their first appearances the Ibrahimovic goal was as good as it got.
Rooney was played in behind Ibrahimovic with Martial and Mkhitaryan out wide, but none of the attackers showed much. In the midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin made his first appearance alongside Ander Herrera.
They showed a bit of ambition and put themselves about, but United looked a little bit leggy compared to their Turkish opponents. Galatasaray were bright and intensive and managed to turn the deficit around by half time going into the break 2-1 up.
If United looked lethargic before the break the second half introduction of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, Maroune Fellaini and Michael Carrick had a massive impact on the game. United, who in the first half mirrored much of the football played under Louis van Gaal, now played with more pace, were more direct and looked much more threatening.
Rooney had not been having the best of games, and Mkhitaryan did not seem to enjoy himself out on the flank. Mkhitaryan had looked a class act previously as a No.10 but hardly got into the game out wide. Yet after the interval Rooney came to the fore.
He scored the equalizer. He played a lovely through ball for Rashford, who did brilliantly to win a penalty that Rooney then converted. Rooney then played another great ball for Rashford which started the build up for the fourth goal, scored by Fellaini.
There are plenty of United fans that would have Rooney out of the club, let alone the team, but he showed enough after the break to suggest that Mourinho will be happy with his decision to have Rooney as the ten.
Could Mkhitaryan do a better job than Rooney? Quite probably on the brief evidence so far, but Mourinho seems to be of a mind that he wants them both on the pitch at the same time.
All of the others that appeared in the second half, including Juan Mata who finished the scoring, could feel pleased with themselves. There is no doubt that Galatasary tired badly, but a lot of that was down to United. Rashford, Carrick and Young both played well, and Mata also looked bright after coming on for Rooney. Fellaini did ok and took his goal well.
Whilst the likes of Lingard and Memphis Depay both provided energy and looked sharp – Depay came on at 4-2 – they never quite produced anything of note. They may well have shown enough to stay in the managers thoughts, but even if the ‘A’ team failed to fire, neither youngster will be likely to force their way in to being first choice.
The starting back line played the majority of the game, but weren’t all that convincing. The full backs of Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw did ok, Valencia looking better in the second half when United took control. Eric Bailly looks strong, and Daley Blind again passed with intelligence.
Yet they conceded two sloppy goals, one from a set piece and one where Bruma was allowed to run at the defence and pick his spot, and never looked comfortable in the first period.
They were all replaced on 67 minutes, with Young dropping in at right back and Phil Jones, Marcus Rojo and Matteo Darmian coming on. They all did reasonably well but the fight had all but left Galatasaray and they were not severely tested. Chris Smalling is a shoe in to return on the evidence of yesterday, and Blind will be the one under most pressure.
In summary, it is still hard to predict who will get the shirt for next weeks Charity Shield against Leicester City. Defensively, it is likely that Blind will miss out for Smalling, but Valencia could make way for Darmian. In midfield it is hard to say. Schneiderlin would be the obvious choice if he could recapture his Southampton form, and Carrick still continues to show more composure than anyone else.
Fellaini and Herrera may well be set to miss out to begin with and of course, there will be one more signing. It’s safe to say when the deal goes through, the incoming player will get a shirt. In attack, it will be as you were even if United looked far more dangerous after the substitutions.
Ibrahimovic showed up well despite not getting much service, but there were some nice touches and his one opportunity was dispatched with aplomb. The Rooney conundrum will continue to spark debate, but it is unlikely to abate any time soon. Mourinho has already nailed his colours to the Rooney mast and it would take injuries to break up the front four in the early stages of the season.
So the tune up continues at Old Trafford for Rooney’s testimonial. You can expect to see everyone get some sort of a run out and the intensity start to crank up a bit. Mourinho will already have his idea of his first choice starters, but there certainly looks to be places still up for grabs as the kick off draws ever closer.