Some Manchester United employees will break out in a cold sweat at the prospect of returning to the United States this summer. The United States is a popular pre-season destination for both players and supporters, but five years ago, Jose Mourinho’s collar was as scorching as the air outside.
It was the summer following United’s second-place finish to Manchester City, but that platform was to be squandered in a summer of squabbling and dissension. Mourinho lamented the absence of players due to the World Cup, the lack of progress on transfers, Antonio Valencia’s off-season training, and Anthony Martial’s unwillingness to return following the birth of his second kid. It had been a disastrous few weeks.
Yet, the Mourinho-led implosion of 2018 is an outlier. There is a collective sigh of relief in Premier League dressing rooms when clubs reveal that America is their preferred pre-season destination, and United’s squad will be no exception.
There is severe jetlag to contend with in Australia, a destination United has been to twice since its last American tour, and the humidity, intensity, and cuisine in the Far East can be difficult to deal with. If the United States feels like a home away from home, vacations to popular touring countries like China, Japan, and Singapore can be much more difficult for players who are accustomed to routines.
In confirming that they would return to the United States this summer, United’s football director John Murtough mentioned the country’s popularity among players as well as the high level of training facilities.
“This will be our first visit to the United States in five years, and everyone at the club is excited about it, especially the players, who adore the high-quality facilities, welcoming atmosphere, and enthusiastic support of our enormous American following,” Murtaugh added.
“We’ve worked with the manager and his staff to design training camps with the best sporting facilities available, as well as a mix of tough opponents to play, ensuring that the entire squad has the best opportunity to develop fitness and playing time during their stay in the United States.”
Erik ten Hag, who demonstrated his attention to detail during his first pre-season tour to Thailand and Australia last summer, will value the quality of those facilities.
Ten Hag and assistant Mitchell van der Gaag came on day one with a full pre-season training schedule in hand, and despite the challenge of transitioning from the suffocating heat of Bangkok to the milder conditions of Melbourne and Perth, United got a lot of work done.
They will find even better facilities and weather this summer, and Ten Hag will have the added benefit of a year without a major competition, which means his squad should be able to report as one before the tour begins.
Mourinho bemoaned the paucity of transfer activity at United during that tour five years ago, notably the inability to buy a central defender. Ten Hag can be demanding when it comes to bringing in players, but he appears to be working in a more cohesive system today, and such public outbursts of dissatisfaction are unlikely this time around.
Nonetheless, the Dutchman hopes to have a couple of fresh members to his squad by the start of the tour, something he was denied last summer. Tyrell Malacia was the sole newcomer on the tour, with Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen signing during the Australian leg but not flying out. Casemiro and Antony arrived after the season started.
Ten Hag’s first objective this summer is a striker, and he will be anxious to bring anybody he can before the trip, though luring Harry Kane away from Tottenham or Victor Osimhen away from Naples will be difficult.
Yet, you can bet the United manager is already looking for ways to convert this summer into an opportunity. He has the ideal pre-season tour venue and the opportunity to work with his entire group for an extended period of time. It could be a great condition for attempting to set the groundwork for closing the gap to the top. Expect no 2018-style implosion.