With most players now having been back at Carrington for pre-season training for around a week, thoughts are now turning to the pre-season tour of the USA which is fast approaching, with the first match on the 13th of July and the squad staying for the remainder of the month.
During Pre-season, the squad will play matches against clubs of varying strength and quality, from Kansas City to the recent Champions League victors Barcelona. With more emphasis being put on conditioning the players and preparing them for the upcoming season than the results of the games, it is the perfect opportunity for some of the players to stake a claim to the first team or at least the subs bench.
The much discussed summer signings of Ashley Young, De Gea and Jones will all be looking to make a claim for first team football, with De Gea’s task being the easiest for obvious reasons. Young will also have high expectations and expect to make a strong impression in pre-season, and is surely hoping for a start in the opening game of the season against West Brom. Jones seemingly has the hardest task in ousting Vidic or Ferdinand for a first team place, but is certainly prepared to have a go and try to claim a starting jersey for the upcoming campaign.
Not only are there the new signings to consider, the current players on the fringe of the squad will also be looking to impress the manager, with Chris Smalling coming from the back of an impressive under 21 tournament and having just signed a new contract will feel more than hopeful of forcing his way into the team at some point, and will certainly expect a good run out in pre-season to show exactly why he should be in our starting eleven week in week out.
The Da Silva twins Rafael and Fabio will consider the departures of Brown and O’Shea to be only a good thing, showing the trust Fergie has in them to play consistently in the first team, and they will both look to try and enhance their reputation during the pre-season games and at the start of next season. With Evra now 30 and not getting any younger, it seems feasible that Fabio will focus on making the left back position his own and Rafael will look to become the main right back for United.
Likewise upfront, whilst Rooney has the least to prove of the four main contenders, Hernandez will want to prove he is not a one season wonder, and Berbatov will be trying to stake a claim for a place partnering Rooney up top come the 13th of August. Owen, one would assume, would simply be looking to show he can finish something other than his dinner. Danny Welbeck and Kiko Marcheda would also be looking to make some sort of impact and at the very least raise an eyebrow or two of the management to prevent being farmed out on loan for a further season.
When considering the high profile retirements of the last season, Van Der Sar’s successor is pretty much certainly De Gea should the boy perform as expected, with Gary Neville’s position being filled by the Da Silva twins. With the mentioned departures of Brown and O’Shea, the only recognised full backs in the squad are the Brazilian lads and Patrice Evra. Both Chris Smalling and new signing Phil Jones can also prove a dab hand at full back, and Fergie seems to have acknowledged this, with his lack of pursuit of a further full back to fill the shoes left by Neville. Pre-season will be vital for our young players to prove they deserve a place in the team and to show Fergie was right in focusing on other areas during the summer transfer window.
Scholes’ ‘successor’ is yet to be unveiled, but Nasri or Sneijder look strong possibilities to be pulling the strings in our midfield next season. Signing either of the above before the pre-season tour commences is far from likely, but Fergie will want some sort of deal done sooner rather than later, possibly in time for the Community Shield game against Man City, if not long before that.
Pre-season will be vital for all our players, with each either looking to cement their place in the first team or to enhance their reputation and break into the first team. With such competition for places, and a great deal of quality too, not only do the pre-season games look promising, but the upcoming season has the potential to be one of the best yet.