Steven Gerrard’s penalty against Manchester United wasn’t enough to help Liverpool to another win over the Old Trafford side but it did highlight a likely cause for concern for United boss Louis van Gaal.
The spot kick was the third that United conceded during the pre-season tour of the USA, which stacks up negatively against the four the side conceded throughout the Premier League last season and the none conceded in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at the club.
Van Gaal’s side can’t afford to make routine defensive errors once the competitive action gets under way but it is explainable for a couple of simple reasons.
The squad is still getting used to the way van Gaal likes his teams to play football and a formation, which is based around having only three defenders predominantly in the back line.
When United get caught out on the counter attack or stretched during build up play, those three players become stretched which can cause individuals to make hasty decisions in terms of launching into tackles.
The team is also still settling following the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, which has placed pressure on the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans.
Luke Shaw is also still developing a relationship with the centre-backs in the team, which again, will only improve as the competitive action starts coming thick and fast from August 16.
The high number of penalties in pre-season can also be explained through the fitness of the players, which is only going to increase and improve over the first part of the season.
Players have had time off over the summer and after the World Cup, which suggests they aren’t quite as sharp as they would be in the middle of a competitive season.
United should be sharper than most of their opponents next season because they aren’t playing European football but van Gaal could respond to the penalties being given away by urging his defenders to work even harder and that can only be positive for the club.