Manchester United have maintained their undefeated record during preseason after they beat A.S. Roma 3-2 in Denver, Colorado. The first game of the Guinness International Champions Cup was going to be an improved test for United after their 7-0 win over LA Galaxy, and they responded well to the pressure. Louis van Gaal chose to continue with his 3-5-2 formation, and gave left-back, Reece James, a starting position following his impressive performance against the Galaxy.
Manchester United started the game very slowly and conceded possession very easily throughout the half. In the first half an hour, Roma were the dominant team and put United under a lot of pressure. They pressed United whenever they had the ball, and they had more opportunities to shoot, but they were unable to hit the target. Manchester United did not register their first shot until the 35th minute, but they were able to convert from it when Wayne Rooney scored from outside the box. Rooney added an assist four minutes later when he found Juan Mata with a beautiful pass. Mata took the ball down, before chipping Roma keeper, Lukasz Skorupski, expertly. United who had previously been anonymous took control of the remainder of the half and won their second penalty of preseason when Danny Welbeck was dragged down clumsily by Urby Emanuelson. Rooney blasted the ball past the keeper to make sure that United went in to half-time 3-0 up.
At half-time, van Gaal made nine changes, again fielding several United youth products. The substitutions definitely took some of the momentum out of United’s offense and Roma were able to grow back into the game. Neither side were able to produce much until Miralem Pjanic saw United keeper, Ben Amos, off of his line and chipped him from inside Roma’s half in the 75th minute. It was great vision from Pjanic, but Amos will be disappointed to have conceded such a soft goal. Minutes later Amos made amends for his error with a brilliant one-handed save that denied Leandro Castan’s bicycle kick. Roma were able to pull a goal back in the 86th minute when Michael Keane was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. Roma captain, Francesco Totti, was able to convert the resulting penalty in order to ensure a nervy ending to the second-half. Roma were unable to create any further chances and United won 3-2.
Van Gaal will be happy that United won, but he will be very disappointed with their overall performance. Barring the 15-minute spell in the first-half, they were the second best team, and they failed to maintain any meaningful possession. He will be very happy about the 15 minutes though because United looked absolutely dominant. In the second-half he selected players who are likely to be second-string, so he may be more concerned by the lack of depth, rather than the result. Manchester United’s next game is against Inter Milan, and van Gaal will hope his squad can up their performances and avoid a second-half collapse.