Manchester United's 3-2 win over Roma taught us some interesting things as the new campaign approaches.
Manchester United continued their pre-season preparations with a 3-2 victory over Roma on Saturday evening.
Two goals from Wayne Rooney and one from Juan Mata saw Louis van Gaal’s side take a 3-0 lead, before an outstanding long-range effort from Miralem Pjanic and a late penalty from Francesco Totti reduced the deficit.
It may not have been the free-flowing attacking style that saw United knock seven past LA Galaxy, but there were still reasons to be cheerful.
Here are five things we learned from United’s 3-2 win:
Rooney remains vital
For much of the first half Rooney struggled to influence the match, but he ended the half as the hero, having scored twice and set up another for teammate Mata.
Questions have been asked as to whether Rooney would remain at United under van Gaal, with rumours persisting of a big-money move for the likes of Edinson Cavani. But the truth is Rooney is vital to United and he showed it against Roma.
With van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation, Rooney can play up front and expect goals aplenty from the England international when the new campaign kicks off.
Mata can shine under van Gaal
Juan Mata arrived at United back in January with expectation – and a hefty price-tag – weighing heavy on his shoulders. While he could not fire them into Europe he showed glimpses of what he can do, and already under van Gaal it appears he is destined to be one of United’s star performers.
The Dutchman knows exactly how to utilise the Spaniard and that can only be a good thing for United fans and players alike.
Zaha questions remain
Wilfried Zaha is now the only United player not to have featured during this pre-season tour, and while van Gaal hinted that he could feature against Inter Milan, it is telling that in 180 minutes of football the winger has remained on the bench.
Zaha is the type of player who could blossom under van Gaal. But given the formation United look set to use next season, Zaha will be hard-pressed to get into the side unless he drastically improves his defensive contributions.
Cleverley future clear
Tom Cleverley was one of the players said to be most at risk of the chop following van Gaal’s arrival. So it was something of a surprise when the midfielder was handed the captain’s armband against Roma, despite the presence of Wayne Rooney.
As it was, Cleverley was one of only two players to return for the second half and he could have a big future under the 62-year-old.
The defence needs strengthening
They may still be getting used to the new formation, but at times against Roma, United’s defence looked all over the place. Van Gaal will almost certainly bring in two new centre-backs given the demands a 3-5-2 formation would have on the players currently at his disposal.
Preparation is exactly what pre-season is all about, but United could have conceded more than two against Roma, and that is something van Gaal will want to tackle as soon as possible.