They say you can’t read too much into pre-season results, but it’s hard not to view Manchester United as serious Premier League challengers based on the string of imperious displays they’ve produced in the lead up to the coming campaign.
Here are the three key reasons the Red Devils are shining stateside right now – and why we think they’ll take that fine form into the coming season.
Romelu has hit the ground running
With an eye-popping £72m price-tag on his shoulders, it’s fair to say that expectations on the former Evertonian were unnaturally high, and that any mistake – including his close-range debut miss against LA Galaxy – would be scrutinised.
However, so far the critics have had little to throw at him in a confidence-boosting pre-season which has seen the Belgian net twice in four outings, with only the frame of the goal preventing him from scoring a spectacular double against rivals Manchester City.
With their new striking sensation having slotted into the side with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of style, there’s no risk of him taking time to acclimatise once the league season begins.
United are seeing games out
In the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, United might surrender the lead once in a season and end up with a draw. Last term, that happened on eight different occasions. But it’s a problem they appear to be getting over if this pre-season is anything to go by.
In the first game, against LA Galaxy, Jose Mourinho’s men were 3-0 up within the half-hour. The match eventually ended 5-2, but the MLS side never reduced the deficit to less than three.
Against Real Salt Lake, the Premier League giants came from behind to win 2-1, seeing out the final 22 minutes of proceedings with just 10 men. That was followed by a comprehensive 2-0 defeat of Man City, in which Pep Guardiola’s men had barely the faintest sniff at goal.
Admittedly they did lead against Real Madrid and end up with a 1-1 draw, but conceding a single goal from the penalty spot to the best side in world football right now is hardly an indictment of the Red Devils.
This could be the boost Martial needs
While last season wasn’t a disaster for Anthony Martial, it wasn’t too far off being one. The French forward managed just eight goals in 42 games, and few of those proved crucial, with the bulk of them coming in comfortable wins over second-rate opposition.
The rest of the time, the former Monaco man strolled around the pitch with the disdainful air of a man pacing the room waiting for a takeaway which should have arrived 20 minutes earlier.
So it’s been quite a surprise to see the 21-year-old burst into life in this pre-season, netting against LA Galaxy and producing a truly sublime assist for United’s opener against Real, with his tricky footwork leaving Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric dazed and confused.
Once again, the youngster appears to be playing with confidence, freedom and a real spring in his step. A return to the brilliance of his first campaign at Old Trafford could well prove the biggest boon of the club’s forays stateside.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing