Just 39 days after their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley, Manchester United will begin their pre-season program for the upcoming campaign on Wednesday.
United take on Championship side Leeds United in Oslo in their first of eight scheduled friendlies ahead of the season opener against Wolves at Old Trafford on August 14. The trip to Norway will signal the start of another long and grueling campaign, which means it is very important. that everyone takes this period seriously.
Pre-season is an opportunity for players to lay down a marker ahead of the new campaign and force themselves into their manager’s mind ahead of the big kick-off, and the situation is no different at United, certainly ahead of this opening friendly.
As a result of international matches last month, 15 members of United’s first team squad will not be involved in Norway. They were entitled to a three-week break before reporting back to Carrington to begin pre-season training.
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This means the likes of Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho will all be absent in Oslo. They are likely to feature in pre-season for the first time when the Reds face Lyon at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on Wednesday week.
It means that the clash with Leeds, likely to be played at a slow pace as most of the opening games of pre-season are, will represent an opportunity for manager Erik ten Hag to assess some of his fringe players and the younger members of the club. squad, which may find opportunities dry up as more senior figures return.
United, for example, will be without last season’s first choice in midfield against Daniel Farke’s side, with Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro all on international duty last month. That means some of the club’s midfielders could join Mason Mount for a run-out.
Mount, signed from Chelsea last week, will be the center of attention in Norway and is guaranteed to be the main talking point regardless of how he performs or how many minutes he gets. He missed England duty last month through injury, meaning he has been training at Carrington since the end of last week.
Many expect Mount to oust Eriksen from Ten Hag’s first-choice midfield and join Casemiro and Fernandes in the engine room when the competition gets underway next month. Until then, however, a period of experimentation awaits.
This is why, for example, Kobbie Mainoo will be one of a handful of youngsters hoping to throw their name into the ring over the coming weeks. The United academy graduate was fast-tracked into the first-team squad last season after catching the eye of Ten Hag at Carrington’s training ground.
He leapfrogged Zidane Iqbal in the pecking order mid-season and finished the campaign with three senior appearances to his name, including a full debut against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup aged just 17. Ten Hag is a big fan of the midfielder and the youngster will be hoping to stay in and around the first team squad this coming season.
The Stockport-born midfielder, now 18, is highly regarded by those at United, which is why Ten Hag handed him three first-team appearances last term. Although still finding his footing, he is shaping up to be an all-round midfield operator, skilled both defensively and offensively.
He likes to play between both boxes as a typical No.8. United, although they have numbers in midfield, are not blessed with high quality in the reserve, meaning they may want to keep Mainoo this summer, as opposed to sending him out on loan.
He is widely regarded as one of the best players in his respective age group at Old Trafford and giving him the chance to prove himself against Leeds, albeit in a meaningless friendly where fitness will be the main takeaway, could give Ten Have a rough idea of where he is in his development. Once the senior figures return and United get closer to their season opener, the options may not be as imminent.
That’s why Mainoo, even if only for a half as Ten Hag could opt to mix things up at the interval, deserves a chance against Leeds to prove himself, possibly alongside Mount and Fred, who are also in fight to start in Oslo. After getting a taste of senior football in United colors last term, it’s only natural that the youngster will be hungry for more.