Manchester United will be looking to get pre-season off to a perfect start as they line up for their first game back against Wayne Rooney‘s Derby County. Looking to put last season’s Europa League Final defeat behind them, those who have not featured in this summer’s Euro 2020 and Copa America will be vying for a first start of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
The clash against the Rams will be viewed as a fresh start for players such as Alex Telles and Donny van de Beek, who had much limited game time last season. It will also give a good indication for coaches, players and fans alike to assess the squad’s match sharpness, and will give Ole and co a good basis to launch the new season from.Embed from Getty Images
The match will kick off at 1pm BST on Sunday 18th July, and will be played at Pride Park, home to Derby County.
A familiar face
Derby County is currently managed by Red Devil legend and all time goalscorer Wayne Rooney. Having narrowly escaped relegation to League One on the final day of the season, Derby County will be looking to get their Championship campaign off to a good pre-season start by testing themselves against the very best England has to offer.
Being reunited with former teammates, who now sit both in the opposition technical area (such as Michael Carrick) and on the oppositions team (such as Juan Mata), it is sure to be at least a slightly emotional day for Rooney, even if it is just a pre-season friendly. That being said, Rooney will certainly only be focused on trying to slay the Red Devils come matchday.Embed from Getty Images
A chance to shine
As previously mentioned, this match (and pre-season in general) is a great chance for some of United’s less high profile players to make their mark in the squad. With stars such as Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes all resting after their summer exploits, it will be particularly interesting to see who can fill those voids before they return.
Beyond the obvious choices of the standard squad rotation players, this pre-season offers a very unique opportunity for some younger player to impress. One in particular is James Garner, who spent the second half of last season giving very impressive loan displays at Nottingham Forrest.Embed from Getty Images
Garner will probably be looking to secure a second loan, potentially in the Premier League, as he looks to try and shoehorn his way in to Solskjær’s squad in the future. and Ole has already said that youth players will get a chance to start during pre-season before being sent on loan.
Another who will be looking to impress is Axel Tuanzebe. Although he has put in impressive performances in the past, most stunningly away against PSG in the Champions League last season, it has been reported recently that the club are looking on sending him on loan this season so that he can play more regular football.
Not all players will be available for the match. Beyond those who cannot make it due to their national team commitments (those players are listed here), other players such as Donny van de Beek and Anthony Martial may not be able to feature due to recovering from injury. Dean Henderson could be in line for his first start of the season after returning to full training on Tuesday, as he was previously ruled out of England’s Euro 2020 campaign due to a hip injury.
The matchup against Derby will also give the fans a chance to see old & new United boy Tom Heaton in action, as he re-signed for the club in the summer on a free transfer to provide back up and competition to the likes of Dean Henderson and David de Gea.
One to watch
One player to potentially keep an eye out for in the first game back is Alex Telles. A specialist in his position that had limited game time due to the rise and rather spectacular resurgance of Luke Shaw, he will be looking to displace the Englishman and win over Solskjær, allowing him to add a different dynamism to United’s attack with his quick thinking and wicked delivery.Embed from Getty Images
Preparation starts here
It almost feels that the 2020/21 season just finished, and we’re already beginning preparations for the next season.
United fell short of any silverware last time around, so a solid preparation for this campaign will be good for the squad – we saw last season how a non-existent pre-season can impact the squad, so hopefully this is going to be the start of a productive pre-season for The Reds.