Although Louis van Gaal intends to restore Manchester United to its former international glory, even the veteran coach was impressed when his new club scored a virtual touchdown at the Rose Bowl.
United made an impressive debut under Van Gaal on Wednesday night, with Wayne Rooney scoring twice late in the first half of a 7-0 victory over the LA Galaxy.
Ashley Young and Reece James scored two second-half goals apiece as United opened its summer tour with a surprisingly polished win over MLS’ overmatched Galaxy in the Guinness International Champions Cup.
Van Gaal doesn’t subscribe to the notion that such a friendly is meaningless, not when United have so much work to do this summer.
“I think always the results do matter,” Van Gaal said. “With such a result, you get confidence, and also confidence in a new system. The boys are willing to pick up all the info. We have given a lot of info, but it’s fantastic how they performed today.”
Van Gaal’s tenure got off to a start reflecting the confidence of the veteran manager, who revealed a system similar to the attack of his Dutch World Cup team. The tactics might be unfamiliar to United fans, but they worked splendidly in a stunning start.
“When you see us train, you can expect something, but not 7-0,” Van Gaal said. “That for me was a surprise, and there were some beautiful goals. They scored out of some good attacks.”
Danny Welbeck scored the first goal for Van Gaal, who has had limited work with his new club after leading the Netherlands to a third-place finish in Brazil earlier this month. United still outclassed the Galaxy in the friendly between two of David Beckham’s former clubs.
Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera also made their debuts while United won by a familiar American football score at the Rose Bowl, the venerable college football stadium.
“It was surprisingly good,” said goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, who played the second half. “The first game of a preseason tour is always difficult, and a new manager and a new system could make it more difficult, but it went really well.”
Van Gaal was hired to repair the 20-time English champions after David Moyes’ poor tenure. United finished seventh in Moyes’ only season as Alex Ferguson’s replacement after 26 years, failing even to qualify for Europa League play.
Van Gaal is still adjusting to his new job, but he is already planning to spend more time around Old Trafford next summer. Van Gaal spoke out against lucrative preseason tours this week, saying the lengthy U.S. stay hinders his preparations for the season.
Van Gaal might not like the summer tour, but United got it off to a sparkling start with goals from likely and unlikely sources.
Rooney wasn’t United’s captain, ceding the job to Darren Fletcher, but the England star easily handled his scoring chances. James wasn’t even listed on United’s 25-man roster, but the 20-year-old defender provided two outstanding finishes against the Galaxy’s ragged defense.
“I have nothing but respect for the show that Man United put on,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “Getting punished for mistakes and really getting a lesson on the speed of play, we can actually use it as a positive for them.”
Herrera, the Spanish midfielder acquired from Athletic Bilbao last month, looked sharp throughout the night. United scored its first goal under Van Gaal when Juan Mata set up Welbeck in the 13th minute for a low 25-yard shot off Jaime Penedo’s post.
After A.J. De La Garza was whistled for a handball in the 42nd minute, Rooney easily buried the penalty even though Penedo guessed correctly. Four minutes later, Welbeck’s centering pass went through the legs of Galaxy defender Tommy Meyer, who crumpled to the ground as Rooney walked the gift into Penedo’s net.
James put a sharp side-footed finish on a pass from Young for United’s fourth goal in the 62nd minute. He then scored from distance on a deflection in the 82nd minute before Young capitalized on defensive blunders for two late goals.
The Rose Bowl was largely full for the late-starting friendly, with United supporters easily outnumbering the home team’s fans. Thousands of Mexican fans in the announced crowd of 86,432 likely showed up hoping to see embattled striker Javier Hernandez, but Chicharito stayed on United’s bench.
United’s tour continues Saturday in Denver against AS Roma, followed by matches with Inter Milan in Washington on Tuesday and Real Madrid in Michigan on Aug. 2.
Updated July 24, 2014