Manchester United will kick off their preparations for a vital season when taking on Mexican giants Club América in Seattle on Friday evening. United will play four matches in the United States over the next two weeks -- the only chance Louis van Gaal will get to see his still-evolving squad in action ahead of a season in which the club will seek to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title and make their mark back in the Champions League.
The match with Club América, part of the International Champions Cup, could see four players make their first appearances in a Manchester United shirt. Following the arrival of Dutch starlet Memphis Depay in May, United moved to add a trio of additions ahead of departing on their preseason tour. In swift succession, in came versatile Italy international right-back Matteo Darmian, World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, and one of the Premier League’s leading midfielders in recent seasons, Morgan Schneiderlin.
While Van Gaal has said that he still intends to improve the squad in “at least two positions,” the Dutch coach will have a strong cast available against Club América at CenturyLink Field. Only Marcos Rojo and Ángel di María, resting after their involvement in the Copa América, and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, recovering from an injury picked up ahead of the Gold Cup, failed to make the trip and will join up with the rest of the squad on July 25. Meanwhile, Victor Valdes appears to set to exit the club after Van Gaal claimed the 33-year-old refused to play in a reserve match last season.
Fellow Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea, despite continued interest from Real Madrid, is with the team in Seattle. And all those who made the trip are fit to start on Friday, including Michael Carrick, who has recovered from a calf injury that ruled him out of the end of last season. Carrick has stressed the importance of participating in a full preseason in order to avoid the kind of injuries that dogged him through the last campaign. But the midfielder also knows that he will face increased competition following the arrivals of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin.
“Competition for places is good,” he told MUTV. “Over the years there has always been competition for places at this club. As players, you want the best players here and you want the squad to be as strong as possible and challenging for everything we’re involved and, to do that, you need the best players and the strength in depth.”
While United still have three weeks before the start of the Premier League season, their opponents will return to competitive action as soon as next weekend when the Liga MX Apertura gets underway. Club América’s Clausura campaign ended in disappointing fashion in May when they lost to Pachuca in the first round of the playoffs.
They have already been in action in the International Champions Cup, losing 2-1 to LA Galaxy last weekend before beating San Jose Earthquakes by the same scoreline. But the team, managed by Ignacio Ambríz, are without several players due to their involvement in the Gold Cup. Goalkeeper Moisés Muñoz, right-back Paul Aguilar and striker Oribe Peralta are on duty with Mexico, while center-back Ventura Alvarado is with the United States.
Kickoff time: 11 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes