Louis van Gaal’s 25-man Manchester United squad set flight for California on Friday ahead of a three-week pre-season tour of the United States – a regular summer fixture with so many stateside with sponsors to please. Games follow against LA Galaxy, AS Roma, Internazionale and Real Madrid before the Reds return home for the Premier League kick off in August.
It is a summer tour of marked contrast to the 2013 variant in Asia-Pac. High quality opposition, a van Gaal-led training camp, and some fresh faces to boot – there are many grounds on which to feel optimistic that the coming weeks will set United fair for the season ahead. Not least because whatever faults remain in United’s squad – and there are many still as yet uncorrected – none will be exacerbated by David Moyes.
Where Moyes was star-struck on United’s pre-season tour in 2013, van Gaal waltzed into Old Trafford on Thursday every bit a United manager. Arrogance, confidence, an unbreakable worldview – call it what you want – but Reds man, woman and child, know a United manager when they see one. Whisper it quietly, but there is just a touch of Sir Alex Ferguson in United’s new Dutchman.
There will be plenty of analysis of the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager to come. For now he has just shy of a month to get his squad into shape for the season ahead – and just two further weeks to seal any additions to a squad that is short an experienced central defender, high-quality box-to-box midfielder and goal-scoring winger.
van Gaal is taking a strong squad to the States, with the English World Cup contingent all making the trip west. Robin van Persie, Marouane Fellaini, and Adnan Januzaj have been given a post World Cup break, while Javier Hernández joins part way though.
New signings Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera are also in van Gaal’s travelling party, while youngsters Tyler Blackett, Michael Keane, Reece James and Will Keane travel. James Wilson, who scored on début towards the end of last season, will be disappointed to have been left at home.
van Gaal’s side is competing in the eight team ‘International Champions Cup’, with the participants divided in two groups of four, and the group winners set to meet at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami on 4 August.
Tour squad: De Gea, Lindegaard, Amos, Johnstone, Rafael, Evans, Smalling, Jones, Shaw, Blackett, M Keane, James, Herrera, Cleverley, Fletcher, Young, Zaha, Kagawa, Mata, Valencia, Nani, Lingard, Welbeck, Rooney, W Keane.
Manchester United v LA Galaxy – Rose Bowl, Pasadena – 24 July, 4.06 am
Beckham’s former club has enjoyed a mixed start to the MLS campaign, although is now unbeaten in seven games – the prelude, perhaps, to a strong second half of the season. Third in the Western Conference, behind runaway leaders Seattle Sounders, Bruce Arena’s side is still in the hunt for a ninth MLS title overall. The side contains some familiar names in Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Robbie Rogers, although Omar Gonzalez alone made the US national squad that reached the World Cup round of 16 in Brazil.
Usually based at the 30,00 capacity StubHub Center in Carson, the fixture against United will be played at the 92,000 Rose Bowl, below, 25 miles away in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl is home to the UCLA American Football team, but also staged the 1994 World Cup final, where Roberto Bagio missed a crucial penalty in the shoot-out to hand Brazil the trophy. In 1984 more than 101,000 people saw the France beat Brazil 2-0 in the Olympic Gold Medal match.
United will hold an open training session at the venue on Tuesday, July 22 at 7pm local time.
Manchester United v AS Roma – Sports Authority Field, Denver – 26 July, 9.06pm
Roma finished second to Juventus in the 2013/14 Serie A season, although some 17 points adrift. Former Lille manager Rudi García was a surprise choice for the Head Coach role when appointed in June 2013, but won over many doubters as the Giallorossi stormed to 10 Serie A victories in a row at the start of the campaign. Roma failed to maintain that form, but secured Champions League football with some comfort. Mehdi Benatia, Miralem Pjanic, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman are familiar names, while former England left-back Ashley Cole joined during earlier this month.
The match will be played at the 76,000-capacity Sports Authority Field at Mile High – home to NFL team Denver Broncos. Opened in September 2001, the new venue was built adjacent to the original ‘Mile High Stadium’, with many fans – and even the Denver Post – refusing to name the stadium after the original sponsors Invesco. ‘Against Modern Football’ – whatever kind of football that might be.
United will also hold open training in Denver, with the session at Sport Authority Field on Friday, 25 July.
Manchester United v Inter Milan – FedEx Field, Washington DC – 30 July, 12.30am
It was a disastrous season for the Milan clubs in 2013/14, although Inter at least qualified for the Europa League by finishing fifth in Serie A. Nerazzurri coach Walter Mazzarri kept his job despite the disappointing campaign, although the expectation is that he leads Inter back into the Champions League in the coming months. Former United defender Nemanja Vidić joined in June, alongside Frenchman Yann M’Vila, although it has been a low-key window to date. Rodrigo Palacio, Hernanes, and Fredy Guarín all featured in the World Cup.
FedEx Field played host to United in 2011, with the Reds beating Barcelona 2-1 in front of 81,807 fans. Usually home to NFL’s Washington Redskins, the stadium can hold more than 85,000 fans, although it is not universally popular with supporters – not least because the stadium is 15 miles from downtown Washington.
Manchester United v Real Madrid – Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor – 2 August, 9.06pm
Los Merengues failed to capture La Liga in 2013/14 after coming in third behind champions Atlético Madrid and rivals Barcelona. While the league performance hurt, Carlo Ancelotti kept his job after Real captured the Champions League for a record 10th time. Many of the Real squad went to the World Cup, although few will be welcomed ‘home’ with as much excitement as world champion Toni Kroos. The German joined Real last week for around £20 million – surely the bargain of the summer.
United’s final game of the summer tour – save for a potential final in Miami – will take place at ‘The Big House’, Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium. The 109,000 capacity venue is usually host to the University of Michigan American Football team, the Wolverines, and is the largest stadium in the United States – the third largest non-racing stadium in the world.
Manchester United v Valencia CF – Old Trafford – 12 August, 7.30pm
United completes pre-season against Valencia at Old Trafford. Los Che arrives in Manchester with a new manager in Nuno Espirito Santo after a period of turmoil at Valencia. Years of financial trouble, necessitating repeated sales of leading players in order to balance the books, may be over with Peter Lim taking control in May. The Singaporean bought up more than 70 per cent of Valencia from the club’s foundation – a move that fans hope brings a period of stability and, after a long wait, a new stadium too.
* all times BST