A new season awaits for Manchester United. Last season was the first of Erik ten Hag’s reign and following some big decisions, silverware and still some stinging defeats it remains to be seen what the future holds for United. Pre-season has been a mixed bag but there have been some notable tweaks that could signal some of United’s intent in the coming season. Here are 5 things we learned from United’s pre-season:
1. Kobbie Mainoo is due for a breakout seasonEmbed from Getty Images
During United’s preseason, Ten Hag gave a lot of academy players game time but none stood out like Kobbie Mainoo. Featuring at the base of the midfield three Mainoo was arguably United’s standout performer before an injury early in the Real Madrid game cut his preseason short. Mainoo showed composure with his touches and dribbled neatly in tight areas while also being clever with his passing, helping United move the ball efficiently in the first phase. As well as technically, Mainoo also seems to be physically ahead of players in his age group and showed strength on the ball when under pressure. Erik ten Hag is said to be a big fan of the youngster and has no plans of loaning him out as he wants him to be a part of the first team next season.
2. Jadon Sancho thriving in central areasEmbed from Getty Images
Due to an injury to Anthony Martial, Manchester United were without an out-and-out senior striker for their preseason. This led to Ten Hag experimenting with Jadon Sancho deployed as a false 9 throughout the tour. Sancho has struggled to carry his form at Dortmund into a United shirt, initially signed to fill the void on the right wing he has been used in various positions to try and get the best out of his performances. During this preseason Sancho has done well as a false 9, dropping deep to link play and create chances centrally where he can connect with more players. Sancho has also looked a lot sharper, leading United’s press from the front and seemingly gaining an extra yard of pace as seen in his goal against Arsenal where he capitalised on a mistake from Gabriel. Into his third year at the club now, it’s a pivotal season for Sancho and he must kick on from a positive preseason if he wants to succeed at United.
3. Alejandro Garnacho Keeps ImprovingEmbed from Getty Images
After a breakout year last season, Erik ten Hag has challenged Alejandro Garnacho to make an impact in games from the beginning. Throughout preseason Garnacho has been starting on the left with the ‘first team’ and could be in line to start United’s opening Premier League game against Wolves. The newly capped Argentine International has shown more maturity in his game, with better decision-making in the final third. This was on show for United’s second goal in their 3-1 victory over RC Lens, as Garnacho picked out Antony to finish off a quick counter-attacking move. Having only turned 19 in July, Garnacho still has a long way to go but the youngster is certainly on his way to establishing himself as a regular starter for United.
4. New Signings Making an ImpactEmbed from Getty Images
United were fairly quick with their business this summer getting both Mason Mount and Andre Onana through the door in time for the US preseason tour. Mount has slotted into midfield well primarily featuring ahead of Casemiro and providing energy and intensity when United press. On the ball Mount has done well linking play and getting into scoring positions – he should have scored a few already. Andre Onana has been revolutionary for United’s build-up during preseason. His ability to pick out passes under pressure has allowed United to beat the opposition press more frequently. Onana has also shown his range in distribution, clipping ball into United’s fullbacks with ease and accurately picking out passes to the likes of Rashford and Garnacho in forward areas. Both new signings will help United play closer to the style of play Erik ten Hag is trying to establish and should lead to more consistent team performances throughout the season.
5. Still A Way to GoEmbed from Getty Images
Despite all the positives seen throughout preseason it’s apparent that United are not yet the finished article under Erik ten Hag. We have still seen errors while playing out from the back, particularly in the game against Borussia Dortmund and United have also looked as if they need a focal point up in attack at times. The signing of Rasmus Hojlund does look to address the latter issue, but the Danish striker is just 20 years old and will need time to settle in. Lots of progress has been made in Ten Hag’s first year in charge of the club, but United may still be a season or two away from mounting a serious title challenge.