Manchester United: Preseason winners and losers

Louis van Gaal will be satisfied with United’s preseason performances so far.

In just over two weeks the Premier League season will kick off.  Manchester United are currently touring the United States and have given opportunities to plenty of young talent.  Some of that talent has impressed, while other players haven’t quite seized the opportunity.  The players that have played well will be looking toward August 16th as an indication of whether their efforts will come to fruition.  Here, I will examine some of the players that have played well during preseason, and others have been less than impressive.

Reece James- James will certainly be expecting to get some first-team action for Manchester United this season.  He was due to play against Inter Milan on Monday, ahead of Luke Shaw, only to be ruled out by an injury.  He scored twice against LA Galaxy, and he has looked like a solid back up for Shaw in all of the games he has featured in.  He has shown that he has a very good left foot, but he does not look as capable of taking players on as Shaw is.  There is not going to be as much squad rotation because United will not be playing in the Champion’s League, but he will definitely get his chances, especially during the congested Christmas period.

Ben Amos- Amos will not expect much, if any, game-time this season.  He is back up to Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea so there is not much chance of being rotated in, especially after the clanger that he conceded against A.S. Roma.  He was lobbed from inside the Roma half by Miralem Pjanjic, and although he made a nice save later on, Louis van Gaal was not very impressed by the keeper’s mistake.  Amos may feature in the League Cup, but it is not likely because van Gaal will be more likely to give those games to Lindegaard.

David Moyes loaned Wilfried Zaha to Cardiff City last year.

Tyler Blackett- Blackett is another defender that seems to have made the most of his opportunity.  Although he hasn’t had any outstanding contributions, Blackett has looked comfortable in possession, and reliable at the back.  Real Madrid will be a completely different test for him, but so far he looks like he will be able to provide some depth for United’s back three.  Blackett will be likely to see first-team action given Phil Jones’ injury record, but he will also know that defensive additions are likely at United, so his playing time may be limited depending on who is added.

Nani- I think that Nani’s time at United is unfortunately coming to a close.  He looks a shadow of himself and was pulled off half-way into his substitute appearance against Inter.  Van Gaal has not been using wingers in his current formation and Nani has not been influential up front.  He has yet to impact a game, often he will drift with the ball and lose possession needlessly.  Against Inter he was guilty of being unable to complete a simple 10-yard pass.

Wilfried Zaha- Zaha’s analysis can go either way because he failed to play in van Gaal’s first couple games.  However, against Inter he was United’s most exciting offensive player.  In the post-game interview he talked about how he was never given an opportunity under Moyes and that he feels he can succeed under van Gaal.  Van Gaal has mentioned using him as a striker during the season so he certainly sees something of value in Zaha.  Zaha’s playing time will be directly linked to his work ethic.  If Zaha can show van Gaal that he is serious about being a Manchester United player then van Gaal will play him.  Unfortunately Zaha’s work ethic has been questioned, so playing time may be limited.

Van Gaal will be satisfied with results so far because the team has remained undefeated.  On Saturday they face their stiffest test, Real Madrid, so it will be interesting to see if van Gaal continues with his squad rotation.  Often when van Gaal has made mass substitutions it has taken the wind out of the team’s sails.  Even though it is preseason, United fans will be eager to beat Madrid and send a message to their rivals so it will be interesting to see how van Gaal approaches it.