Six things to look out for in pre-season
With four games announced on Tuesday, there's plenty to look forward to in Manchester United's pre-season schedule for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the players.
Facing Wayne Rooney's Derby County
Spectacular goals by Wayne Rooney were a common feature of pre-season tours in the past. The United legend is now manager of Derby County and facing off against our club record goalscorer will add something special to this clash, scheduled for 18 July and being played at Derby's Pride Park.
After meeting Wayne as a player, it will be great to come up against him as a manager for the first time.
A dress rehearsal against Brentford
Brentford's well-deserved promotion from the Championship this season has earned them a place in England's top-flight for the first time since the 1946/47 campaign. Meetings between Manchester United and Brentford have thus been notably rare. With two league clashes coming up in the 2021/22 season, this match will act as a dress rehearsal for both sets of players and fans.
The Bees' last visit to Old Trafford was in 1975, when goals from Lou Macari and Sammy McIlroy secured a 2-1 home win for Tommy Docherty's side in the League Cup second round.
Fans back in, in bigger numbers
Some 10,000 Manchester United fans returned to Old Trafford in May to see Edinson Cavani's stunning lob against Fulham. The eruption of noise that greeted that strike was an instant reminder of just how much football has missed fans. With COVID-19 restrictions gradually easing over the summer, we could see even larger numbers of supporters attending games. Emphasising how brilliant that will be is unnecessary; everyone is desperate for stadiums to be full again.
A chance to see some Academy talent
One of the most exciting elements of pre-season are the opportunities given to the young talents playing in United's Academy. This summer in particular should see plenty of chances for that to happen, for two reasons. First of all, both Euro 2020 and the Copa America are being held in June and July, meaning players like Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani will need a couple of weeks off after the conclusion of their tournaments to rest and recuperate. Secondly, with all four fixtures to be played in England - rather than thousands of miles away in the USA or Asia - Ole will know he can call up, at late notice, any youngsters he'd like to give some game-time to.
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While last summer's pre-season was almost non-existent, in 2019, Solskjaer took a number of developing players for the tour for games in Australia, Singapore, China, Wales and Norway. Tahith Chong, James Garner, Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood were all included, as well as Axel Tuanzebe and Andreas Pereira.
We expect to see more of the young players following suit. That's exciting.
Watch any new signings
The transfer window is open for a long time yet and with two international tournaments ongoing, completing signings may take a few weeks longer this summer. However, pre-season is often a great chance to see any fresh arrivals pull on a United shirt for the first time and show what they're about. All the games will be shown live on MUTV.
A real pre-season again
The boss made much of the lack of a pre-season last year, and rightly so. We came into the 2020/21 campaign without having properly prepared for the nine intense months that followed, and it showed when the initial form of September and October was replaced by sparkling performances in December and January. Ole will be delighted to have the opportunity to work on things on the training ground and experiment with new systems, set-pieces and personnel in matches. It could make a big difference to what we see on the pitch when the Premier League kicks off for us on Saturday, August 14 against Leeds United.