Not since the 74/75 season have Manchester United radically changed their footballing philosophy. Luis van Gaal has ensured a break in that line by announcing a 3-5-2 formation, come 3-4-3 for the season ahead. The boss was calculative enough to make this announcement after United had recorded a 7-0 thrashing of MLS side LA GAlaxy.
It was hard to say whether the performance was down to the system or this particular player, Ander Herrera, but something about the performance has gotten us looking forward to tougher tests on tour as well as the season ahead.
For starters, to come through 90 minutes of a footballing match and have no laments about a Manchester United midfield is a first in this decade. It's even more startling that this happened without Michael Carrick. Enter Ander Herrera, new signing from Athletic Club Bilbao for what seemed like a hefty sum. Not anymore now, in 90 minutes he has produced the kind of midfield performance we last witnessed when Scholes was in his prime. Tackling, great. Passing, excellent. Shooting, brilliant. What more can one ask of a midfield player? Think of a blend between Sergio Busquets and Andres iniesta. Herrera might not possess the entire repertoire of the 2, but he's got a great deal of what both can offer in his arsenal.
That he got 4 assists in is more a measure of his quality than the opposition for he made scoring easy for the kind of playees we are not used to seeing rack up goals as easy as they did. If LVG manages to get Vidal playing next to this kid, United's midfield statistics for the season ahead could be eye watering.
It was great to see the manager pick a lot of youth for the tour. Last season saw Lingaard stake his claim, this season Reece James seems to have caught the eye of LVG. A couple of goals to go with it will do him no harm for his future prospects. Antonio Valencia's new contract seems to have been with that wing back role in mind, so it will be interesting how he develops there. Also, a dedence of Jones, Evans and Smalling, seemed water tight because of the cover from midfield and wing backs Shaw and Valencia. A 3-5-2 means when defending, you are effectively 5. It's weakness though is that it hugely depends on the hardwork of the wing backs to get back and forth quickly and often. Anything less, and you are badly exposed on the counter. Ultimately though, there was a fluidity about United that made it the best performance in quite a while.
Obviously pre season is nothing to get carried away by, but next season our strongest opponents are the traditional big sides in the EPL, therefore pre season against the likes of AS Roma, Real Madrid and Inter Milan is a good measure of how good the side is ahead of the kick off. It will be interesting to see how the system fares against a more organised Roma side this weekend.