Manchester United had to come from behind to beat Liverpool 3-1 in Miami in the final game of their US preseason tour.
It brings to a close a sequence of games in North America where United went unbeaten and saw the rediscovery of form of a number of players, as well as the importance of new signing Ander Herrera.
It would be natural to get carried away at this stage, but it is hard not to be impressed by the work of new manager Louis van Gaal.
With the season less than two weeks away, here are FIVE things we learned from United’ win over Liverpool…
Though Man United’s defence and central midfield still needs a little work, going forward, the team look completely revitalised and happy to work to Louis van Gaal’s tactical setup.
It was the case in all US preseason games, not just in the win against Liverpool. The team look far more fluid now than they did under David Moyes, with the problem of integrating Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney into the same starting XI a thing of the past.
We know all about van Gaal and his reputation across European football, but if these games in preseason are anything to go by, the Dutchman is making easy work of the apparent colossal job to turn the club’s fortunes around of the events of the past year.
It may just be a preseason friendly, but United certainly didn’t have a comeback in their locker last season. Van Gaal’s influence is clear for all to see.
It was widely expected that Ashley Young would be sold this summer and finally bring to a close his chapter with Manchester United.
But the winger has apparently looked to start afresh where he is, picking up the award for best player at the International Champions Cup.
Young has shown his worth to van Gaal this summer, performing in wing-back roles and showing his flexibility to play on either flank. His performances, especially with basics such as crosses into the box, have drastically improved under the new manager.
The win against Liverpool provided just another reason for van Gaal to keep hold of Young for the season ahead.
Maybe all Wayne Rooney needed was a change from Alex Ferguson.
Last season, Rooney was surprisingly one of United’s best players, though such was their overall poor form throughout, that isn’t really saying much.
But Rooney clearly reacted positively to something different in David Moyes, and is looking to follow the same path under another manager in Louis van Gaal.
Rooney has looked lively in preseason and started United’s comeback against Liverpool by scoring their first goal.
Having been close to an exit from Old Trafford, the club are now tied to the player after his recent contract renewal. But it’s looking far from a bad thing, with the England international one of many to thrive under the guidance of van Gaal.
There’s something about the way Phil Jones defends that shouldn’t fill most with confidence, always acting in a last-ditch effort to prevent a goal, but often conceding a free kick within range or a penalty.
The same as the case for Liverpool’s opener, in which the United defender felled Raheem Sterling inside the box. For much of the first half, Jones struggled with the pace of Liverpool’s forward, and further raising doubt as to his immediate suitability for the centre-back role.
Perhaps it can be attributed to a lack of consistency in game time, owed to regular injuries. But such is the manner of Jones’ mistakes, it generally points to his own shortcomings as a defender. It’s something van Gaal will need to address over the coming season.
There’s no way Man United can get through this season with the centre-back options currently available to van Gaal. Yes, Thomas Vermaelen has been linked, but even if he arrives – which may not be the case, with Arsenal unwilling to sell and Barcelona also interested – further reinforcements will be needed.
It isn’t just a matter of injuries with regards to Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans; the former two are still short of being good enough to be regulars at centre-back for the club.
The pursuit of Mats Hummels is a waste of United’s time, with Dortmund uninterested in entering negotiations for the centre-back. But in the win against Liverpool, van Gaal would have seen more than enough evidence that he’ll have to seriously reconsider his suggestion that United’s transfer business could be done.