There is a cliché in football that a player already at a club can be used ‘like a new signing’.
It could well be a tactic we see used at Manchester United this summer given the tricky transfer market situation many top sides are being presented with.
Match day revenues are non-existent, many sides have limited money to spend and securing any new arrivals will likely depend on getting ride of deadwood in the first place
United are in.a much better situation than most and will look to invest a substantial amount in their squad during the off-season, but given the bizarre circumstances of last summer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves some leniency if he does try and peddle the ‘likes new signings rhetoric’.
A journey to the Europa League semi-finals last year prolonged United’s season deep into summer and savaged any plans of a somewhat ‘normal’ pre-season.
There was no grand tour and no chance for players to settle into a new environment or work on their new tactical roles. Instead, it was just one sunny afternoon in the Midlands as United lost to Aston Villa in their solitary friendly fixture.
The lack of proper preparation is something which Solskjaer has been quick to point out this season, although his argument is perhaps weakened by the fact Man City experienced a similarly disjointed off-season but are still on course for a Quadruple.
“What we’ve lacked, what we’ve missed out on is the hours on the training ground,” the manager referenced in a press conference earlier this week. “We haven’t had that.
“We’ve had injuries, sometimes we haven’t had the squad fully fit. So that has made it more difficult. The biggest challenge was the lack of pre-season, because normally you would practice different ways of playing but we only had one game and we needed the fitness.”
Yet he does still have a point, to a degree at least.
While other rivals have had some success of integrating new additions to their squad this season United’s oversea additions have found it extremely hard to adapt to their new surroundings.
The younger duo have been living in a city which has only just eased lockdown restrictions ever since they joined, with the pair both constrained to their homes due to local restrictions. It’s hardly the healthy environment required to prosper at a new club.
Likewise, United’s involvement in cup competitions coupled with the already hectic fixture schedule has severely restricted the opportunity to work on tactical shape in training sessions.
Solskjaer has instead been limited to either working on brief pre-match work based on upcoming opposition, or lighter recovery sessions focused on easing the workload amid such a heavy fixture list.
This lack of specialist teamwork and the awkwardness of settling into a new club at a troubling time has been a huge contributing factor behind the slow start to life at United.
It is for those reasons why both Van de Beek and Amad were only introduced from the bench again in midweek, even given United’s dominance from the first-leg against Granada.
Solskjaer had to pick a risk free side which he could trust, ultimately those two still need to earn such a level of faith – that will come with time.
This summer United will hope for a much more normal pre-season routine, dependant on travel restrictions, this period could be crucial in finally unleashing Van de Beek and Amad next season.
United can’t ignore the need for serious investment if they are to truly close the gap on Man City next season, but by the time August comes around they should have two new options who can seriously influence games.