A few eyebrows were raised when Manchester United confirmed that they would play eight games across their pre-season.
Their tour of America will include four fixtures against Arsenal, Wrexham, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Meanwhile, The Reds will play two games either side of their US visit against Leeds United, Lyon, RC Lens and Athletic Bilbao.
At least two of those fixtures are expected to be heavily youth-based – with games played in consecutive days – however, six games for first team regulars to play in remains a rather longer pre-season than usual.
However, there is certainly one aspect of United’s game that will benefit from this schedule.
The goalkeeper’s style is in complete contrast to that of the Spaniard and his excellent ball playing abilities and proactiveness will help Erik ten Hag adjust to a more ball-dominant system, especially when playing out of the back.
This change will probably be one of the biggest stylistically that the club have made in a single position in a number of years. Whilst that is a good thing in this case, it will also bring to light certain issues, at least early on.
United’s players have been used to playing with De Gea in recent times and that has impacted the way they build and how they set up in their shape when preparing for defensive transition.
Last season, Ten Hag’s side were one of the deeper lines in the Premier League and this was picked up upon by many. Alongside this, The Reds were often adjustable in their build-up, opting to go longer against teams that operated with a high press.
These two issues will not instantly be perfect with the addition of Onana. Of course, his qualities will make a big difference but with such a large change in personnel, teething issues are expected.
And that brings us to pre-season. Reports suggest that the club want the Cameroon goalkeeper signed in time before they jet off for their pre-season tour of the US. That gives Onana six games – four of which he’s likely to play, potentially five.
This will allow his teammates to adjust to his style and give the 27-year-old the chance to familiarise himself with his new team. Ten Hag will also have the time to introduce different build-up patterns that were not viable when De Gea was between the sticks.
Of course, not everything can be solved in pre-season, and last year showed us that you need to take these performances with a pinch of salt. However, the extra time alongside teammates will still be crucial for Onana and Ten Hag to get ahead of schedule.
The season proper will surely bring upon different issues because of the changing structure. It will also provide many benefits for the team.
Being able to start solving the issues, and maximising those benefits is exactly what pre-season is for.
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