The Trophy Drought is Over!

Manchester United finally ended its long silverware drought, winning one of the most prestigious trophies in football while destroying the same Liverpool side that nearly won the quadruple last year and annihilated them by an aggregate score of 9-0.

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Oh wait. It was a preseason match in Thailand against a Liverpool squad featuring many players who will likely spend the next season in the reserves or on loan with other teams. Treating the match as little more than a glorified training session, Jürgen Klopp rotated through 32 players and might have won the game if his players had been a little more match sharp.

Still, there was plenty for United to be happy about:

  • The Century Cup might not be much of a competition, but the fact remains that this is the first trophy of any kind we’ve won since the 2016-17 Europa League. And I’m not going to lie, the trophy looks pretty nice.
  • There were plenty of instances where players looked sharp and actually seemed like they knew what they were supposed to do. The press is still a work in progress, but Erik ten Hag’s taxing training sessions are already paying dividends.
  • Case in point: Anthony Martial, long derided as a lazy player, earned his goal by pressuring the Liverpool defender into a costly turnover. And it wasn’t just the goal that was cause for renewed optimism. Martial moved well without the ball and showed that, for one match at least, he was capable of leading the team press from the front.
  • On the back end, there have never been questions about David de Gea as a shot-stopper. But there have been plenty about his ability to build attacks from the back and play as the type of sweeper-keeper that top teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and Barcelona utilize. In fact, de Gea, despite winning yet another Player of the Year award, wasn’t even considered for a Spain call-up. “A goalkeeper must start the game and generate the first superiority, which dominates the aerial game,” Spain manager Luis Enrique said at the time. Against Liverpool yesterday, de Gea actually showed more willingness to play short passes and even came out of his area three times to snuff out attacks. That might not seem like a lot, but there have been entire months where de Gea never ventured outside of his own penalty area. Ultimately, de Gea had to leave with an injury. Here’s hoping he’s not seriously hurt.
  • Eric Bailly, Fred, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelöf and Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho played well and gave United fans hope they could be important players this season. Midfield is still an issue and United lacked control, at times. If only United could close the Frenkie de Jong deal or move on to someone else.
  • “We did the press, we made some mistakes in pressing, we conceded some chances, but also we created a lot,” ten Hag said after the match. “I know we have good players. Now we have to construct a team and we started the first game now, so I am happy with the first game. I have seen some really good things and I think what you see is we have a lot of creativity and speed up front, so we have potential.”

That’s the word with this team: “potential.” This team was bad last year, no question about it. But a lot of that could be chalked up to lack of cohesion, structure, stability and identity. There’s always been talent here. Here’s hoping Erik ten Hag can figure out how to best utilize it.

Unfrozen Caveman Law Writer

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