x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Manchester United are in the expectation of great success

David Moyes's players are convinced he can be and he has made a positive impression on their pre-season tours, despite mixed results, writes Andy Mitten.

Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - AIK Solna v Manchester United - Friends Arena. Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on from the bench URN:17254750
Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - AIK Solna v Manchester United - Friends Arena. Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on from the bench URN:17254750

It is said that no news is good news. Not at Manchester United it is not, where fans are keen to hear of a first major signing under the new manager David Moyes.

United fans have watched nervously as neighbours and title rivals Manchester City have lavished almost £100 million (Dh567m) on new signings; they have watched Jose Mourinho return to Chelsea; and they have watched United underwhelm in pre-season matches.

Those fans are adjusting to life after Sir Alex Ferguson.

The most successful manager in British football history was at the club for nearly 27 years and many fans have known only a trophy-laden life under Ferguson.

Unlike Ferguson, who took nearly four years to win his first trophy, Moyes will be expected to be a winner from the start.

His players are convinced he can be and he has made a positive impression on the tour.

"Training under him has been hard. We've been doing double days, two sessions a day, which is different to what we are used to," Rio Ferdinand told The National in the United players' hotel at Yokohama, Japan recently.

"Luckily, he's come into a group of players who aren't moany, who don't shirk responsibility in terms of workload and who are like sponges when it comes to absorbing new information. We all want to impress the new boss and improve."

It is not only a new manager for United.

Mike Phelan, Rene Meulensteen and Eric Steele, the three central coaches under Ferguson, all left the club in the summer.

They have been replaced by Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Chris Woods, while Phil Neville and Ryan Giggs has also been given a coaching role.

"They're good," said Ferdinand.

"I've worked with Steve Round before, with England. I didn't know Jimmy, but he knows Eddie Gray, who I'm friends with from my time at Leeds United.

"There's common ground there. The appointment of Ryan and Phil was right, too. They know the identity and fabric of the club, that keeps the continuity going."

For all the talk of unity and continuity, issues within the squad persist and Wayne Rooney wants to leave.

His teammates have thought that as far back as May, when many said privately that they did not expect to see him in a United shirt again.

They believe that he wants to join Chelsea and the Londoners have twice bid for him, with both being met by rejections from United.

Rooney's club maintains that he is not for sale, but the reality is that United do not want to sell him to an English rival and Moyes is tiring of fielding questions about Rooney's future, batting them away with a "he's not for sale" comment.

United have faced rejection themselves, with two bids for Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas knocked back.

The Catalan remains United's top transfer target, but Moyes has said he is comfortable with his squad as it is.

He has to say as much, but Moyes has also been particularly impressed in pre-season by the midfielder Anderson. The 25-year-old Brazilian is starting his seventh season at the club, where, after a bright start, he has been injury prone and overweight.

Anderson understands why fans have been frustrated with him, but is leaner and fitter than at any time in the past five years. His attitude appears to have improved, too, and he has been returning for solo training sessions.

"I need it," Anderson said. "I need to be 100 per cent fit and I'm feeling good."

Said Ferdinand: "I don't think Ando's talent has ever been in doubt, but he's had a few injuries over the years. If he gets a clean bill of health, who knows what he can do?

"He's different from any other player we've got. In today's game, if you have a player who can go past people in the middle of the park then it's a big commodity. Anderson can do that, but we've never been able to get that out of him on a consistent basis because of injuries. He's got the potential to do it. If he can stay fit this season then it will be almost like having a new signing."

Fans will reserve judgement.

United's results have not been impressive in the six-game, five-country tour taking in Thailand, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Sweden.

The team have won two, drawn two and lost two against supposedly inferior sides, but the results of friendly games played as much to sate sponsors as foreign supporters has never been a pre-cursor to future success.

The pre-season has been good for younger attacking players such as Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj and the new signing Wilfried Zaha.

All have shown potential to be future stars and have integrated well with their new teammates, but it is unlikely that any will be regular first-team starters when they are so raw.

United's warm up exercises will cease after tomorrow night's testimonial for Ferdinand against Sevilla at Old Trafford.

Then the team will travel south to London on Saturday for Sunday's Community Shield match against Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium. United have sold 42,800 tickets so far against 3,000 bought by Wigan fans.

Then there is a tough Premier League season opener at Swansea City followed by league matches against Chelsea, away to Liverpool, Crystal Palace and away to Manchester City, the hardest start to a season in memory.

Ferdinand is not expecting any surprises in the Premier League.

"Chelsea and City, I don't see anyone else challenging us for the title," he said. "Tottenham and Arsenal might have a little push, but I can't see anyone breaking into that top three."

United fans are hoping for no surprises, unless it is a pleasant one with news of a big new name signing.


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