What does a successful pre-season mean for Manchester United?
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Since his arrival at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done his utmost to implement a new playing style. Initially, Manchester United reaped rewards with some superb results. However, the high-intensity training sessions and tactics eventually took its toll on the squad, with the players looking exhausted from mid-March onwards.
During the Red Devils' pre-season tour of the Far East, United are putting in some outstanding displays reminiscent of Solskjaer's early displays. It has been a pleasing change for the fans, with the positivity that the Baby Faced Assassin brings to the table now beginning to rub off on the squad.
Four wins from four, against some pretty decent opposition too, confidence is sky-high, the dressing room is bouncing once again. But what exactly does it mean for United and their trophy aspirations over the next twelve months?
First and foremost, pre-season is purely to build up those all-important fitness levels before the serious stuff starts. Teams tend to play far more open, players perform with more expression as there's nothing really at stake (other than pride). Carrying on playing with this free-flowing, expansive style is much more difficult when there's something on the line. Do you really think these players will be leaving that much space in behind them, say, when Chelsea come to town on the Premier League's opening day? I doubt it.
It cannot be denied that this squad suddenly looks fitter. Double training sessions will certainly do that for you. Hopefully, from a United perspective, the gruelling regime Solskjaer placed them on will start to pay dividends over the duration of a long and arduous season...
Confidence is key. At the elite level, there's not much difference between players talent-wise. It's all about having the right mentality and attitude. Winning football games is a habit regardless of what's at stake. Beating top-class sides like Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur will get those positive juices flowing for the whole dressing room. With two games remaining, there's a good chance that the Red Devils could end their pre-season unbeaten, which can only help United moving forward. I'd much rather head into the Premier League season on the back of six wins rather than six losses, that's for sure.
Team-bonding, and having players all pulling in the right direction cannot be understated. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James will now be starting to feel right at home with the lads, while youngsters like Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Axel Tuanzebe will continue to be drip-fed minutes. These youngsters have shown they can compete with the best, it's now up to Solskjaer to not let up and ensure they remain integral members of the squad. I know that's easier said than done given what's at stake, but he has to be brave and carry on with the wonderful work he's doing in regards to rediscovering United's identity.
All-in-all, pre-season is what United make of it. With a loss on the opening day against Chelsea, all that good work will suddenly be undone, but what's happening away from the match-day situation is crucial. These players look hungrier, happier and ready to roll. Carrying their good form into the serious matches is easier said than done, but these guys have shown their capabilities at remaining consistent. Now, it's time for them to show the world why they shouldn't write United off.