By Ivan Yeo
Another U.S. preseason tour has begun for Manchester United, but something was very different this time.
Man United started its preseason on Saturday at StubHub Center against the Los Angeles Galaxy. This time however, it started without Wayne Rooney, its all-time leading scorer who went back to Everton. It was certainly a strange sight, not seeing No. 10 warming up with the Manchester United players, and it will be interesting to see how things play out.
However on Saturday, United showed that while you never truly replace a player like Rooney, they certainly have enough firepower to weather the storm early on. Players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mikhtaryan among others showed their capabilities on Saturday night as United got its preseason to a fling start in a 5-2 win over the Galaxy.
“It was good, no injuries,” manager Jose Mourinho said. “Everybody played 45 minutes, Timo [Timothy Fosu-Mensah] 40 minutes and the most important thing for me was compete.”
Rashford got his chance to show off in the first 20 minutes. Jesse Lingard dispossessed Rafael Garcia and right away sent a ball into the penalty area. Rashford chased the ball down and right away, fired a ball that beat keeper Jon Kempin far post to open the scoring. Rashford added a second goal in the 29th minute. It started when Ander Herrera forced a turnover, played a ball to Juan Mata, who then sprung Rashford into the penalty area. Rashford again went far post on Kempin, this time to the left to double the lead.
“It’s just natural evolution of a kid,” Mourinho said. “Accumulation of minutes on the pitch, he’s put some muscle, and his speed is the most important thing.”
United added a third goal courtesy of some quick passing, Lingard played a ball to Herrera, who then touched it back to Lingard at the endline. Lingard sent a pass back, Fellaini charged in and fired a shot that beat Kempin, this time near post and United had a 3-0 lead by halftime.
The second half was more of the same for United, only this time, it was Martial’s turn to put on a show. Martial pounced on a bad pass by Jermaine Jones near the midline and immediately sprinted for goal. Martial played Mkhitaryan into the penalty area and Mkhitaryan fired shot past keeper Brian Rowe in the 67th minute. Martial got on the scoresheet five minutes later, Paul Pogba played a ball forward, Timothy Fosu-Mensah chased it all the way to the endline, played a pass to Martial, and his one-timer beat Rowe’s near post to finish off the scoring.
“You are trying to create relationships,” United captain Michael Carrick said. “Obviously Pogba and Romelo [Lukaku] are big players for us, and we need the big players to play and perform for us to be successful. Their good mates anyway, so they’ve got a good understanding which helps.”
Moving on from a player like Rooney is never easy, and United’s recent history suggests that task will definitely be a tall one. That being said, with players like Rashford and Pogba, not to mention United’s still vast financial resources that allows them to sign a Lukaku, United will certainly give it their best try and they look to create a new era of Manchester United dominance.