Our football reporter Simon Stone watched Manchester United and Aston Villa draw 2-2 in the final pre-season game in Perth, Australia on Saturday.
We asked you to submit your questions to him. Here are his answers:
Questions about Aston Villa
Q: All the pressure is on manager Steven Gerrard to succeed this season – but what is success for Villa (a Championship club a few seasons ago, remember)? Gareth, Birmingham
Peter Simon: Steven Gerrard made it clear from day one that he was not prepared to manage an Aston Villa side happy to bump into the middle of the Premier League, winning a few games and losing others. It is not in his nature to be satisfied with the second choice. He will push.
The big question is how far the owners are willing to go. As we have seen, with Leicester, Wolves and now West Ham, it is possible to challenge the top six. But to really break into this group will require the kind of heavy long-term investment now expected from Newcastle. This, no doubt, brings pressure.
But I don’t think Gerrard will care. He faced pressure all his life. Villa is a big club. He will expect them to think big.
Should Villa sign a striker? Is Cameron Archer ready for the Premier League? Miriam, Tamworth
Archer has a lot of promise. But that’s what he is – a promising player. At 20, he couldn’t be expected to carry the brunt of a Premier League attack. Its development is essential. I always thought Danny Ings would score goals if he had a run of games. Yet, time and time again, he picks up injuries.
Ollie Watkins has the ability but flatters to deceive. Leon Bailey is another player I like. He was excellent when he arrived in Perth and scored a very good goal. But he is inconsistent and needs to stay in shape. With creative players such as Philippe Coutinho and Emi Buendia, Villa need a reliable source of goals. I don’t think they have any yet.
Will Archer, Kaine Kesler Hayden and Tim Iroegbunam get playing time this season? And if they do, will it encourage Carney Chukwuemeka to sign if he can see a clear path to first-team football – where has that ship sailed? Anon, Staffordshire
Chukwuemeka’s situation appears to be going in the wrong direction from Villa’s perspective which is worrying, although they have also signed younger players from other clubs so cannot be accused of being lax on this front. .
Most managers will say that if a young player is good enough, he will have a chance. There’s an element of truth to that, but in the modern game results matter – and reliance on experience follows.
Gerrard didn’t make his Liverpool debut at the age of 18 because he was young. He did it because he was good. He continued to be chosen because he performed well. A quirk of fate can give a youngster a chance – an untimely injury, suspension or loss of form at the wrong time. Then, whoever it is, they have to show that they can handle that level of football.
From what I have seen both in the team and in the environment so far under Erik ten Hag, there has been a massive improvement in attitude and performance both at the training and in matches. But will Cristiano Ronaldo have a negative impact on the team again? Shaun, Brighton (and others)
This is the great unknown. Talk to people on this trip – I interviewed Raphael Varane and asked him about Ronaldo – and they will support him. But what else can they say?
Ronaldo had a huge influence on the team last season. But some people will say it comes from an attitude that only ever accepted the best – and last season was a far cry from that.
Photos of him training in United shorts suggest an engagement. But the fact that he continues to want to play in the Champions League suggests the exact opposite. We will only know the answer here when – or if – he returns. And then it’s up to Erik ten Hag to handle the situation.
What I think is that Ten Hag has more power to kick Ronaldo out of his team than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick did last season.
Given that Ajax are traditionally 4-3-3 and Manchester City and Liverpool have had great success with this system, what are the chances of a long-term change from United? Anon, Manchester
Two possessions come from a need to protect your defense, really.
The best teams only need one – and that’s because full-backs carry on. I’d be surprised if there were any major tinkering until Ten Hag had the defense he wanted.
Obviously, Lisandro Martinez will play. But he is 5 feet 9 inches tall. I know Ten Hag has complete confidence in him but I can see players like Chris Wood, Raul Jimenez and Michail Antonio shooting at him and asking for the ball to be played in the air. It will be fascinating to see how Martinez handles this.
Then there is the right side. I wondered aloud on social media if Raphael Varane was really going to be a replacement for Harry Maguire. People pointed out that Varane had so many injuries that his fitness could not be trusted. That’s a fair point.
I expect Christian Eriksen to get on the ball a lot, but he’s not a defensive player as you say. It depends on who Ten Hag trusts to prevent the opposition from scoring goals against his.
As a fan, it looks different for Manchester United now. Erik ten Hag seems to be in control. Would you agree that there is a different feel at Manchester United this summer from top to bottom? Ian, Northern Ireland
I agree there is a different feel.
Richard Arnold is a different managing director to Ed Woodward and director of football John Murtough has been empowered to negotiate transfer targets. Ultimately though – and they know it – football is about results. If the results suit you, the original aspects of a club can be considered positive. If they go against you, they are considered negative. Margins can be very small.
It is unrealistic to expect United to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool this season. It’s not unrealistic to expect a top-four finish – they finished second two seasons ago. Assessment time begins with Brighton’s game kicking off their Premier League season on August 7. Judging must be reserved until at least the end of the season.
What is it about the way Manchester United handle transfer business that means it takes them much longer to sign players compared to rival clubs? Will, Sutton Coldfield
United look like they are negotiating to get the best deals. I realize it seems like they procrastinate sometimes, but all transfers are complicated. There are at least three games – two clubs and one player – and everything has to line up. If making transfers were simple, there wouldn’t be a frenzy around every transfer deadline.
And I don’t think there’s a club that hasn’t been sucked into a deal like this at one time or another. The wealthiest and most successful clubs have the best chance of closing deals quickly. United are rich, but not successful at the moment.
I am very worried that we haven’t strengthened our midfield. Do you think holding De Jong is a dangerous move as I don’t see us improving from last season unless we get at least one, maybe two more signings. I know we signed Eriksen but he’s more of an attacking man. We were dominated by the majority of teams last season. Thanks. Anon, Coventry.
In some ways, I admire United’s stance on De Jong – but that’s a gamble to some extent. It feels a bit like 2013 – also in Australia – when the feeling was that Cesc Fabregas was going to sign. The talks went on and on and in the end it didn’t happen and David Moyes’ side weren’t strong enough to carry him through that key first season.
I guess Ten Hag has some kind of communication with De Jong and knows what the real situation is. I also feel like the alternatives just don’t fit the template. So should United ditch a player their manager really wants and buy someone less good for a lot of money? I think they are following the right strategy right now.
After watching the friendly against Aston Villa, I feel that David de Gea has to go. I like him a lot but he’s not big or physically strong enough to be a Premier League goalkeeper. Anon, Oxford (and others)
There are several things here. First of all, when you say “must go”, where? We are talking about one of Manchester United’s highest paid players. What club willing to pay that kind of money in wages needs a net?
Besides, is this a team De Gea wants to play for? De Gea was one of the few United players – some might say the only one – to come out of last season without reputational damage.
I see no reason to think he won’t be in goal against Brighton or that Ten Hag has any doubts about him that would necessitate a sale. The new manager has goals that he is still pursuing. A top-notch number one keeper isn’t one of them.
Are Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for sale? Daniel
There was a view if someone had come looking for Anthony Martial and paid the right price he could have left. I don’t think that situation still exists because of its shape on this trip.
Wan-Bissaka is interesting. It seems obvious that Diogo Dalot is ahead of him only thanks to their respective minutes on this trip. It could mean United were ready to let him go and I could see why a decision could be appealed.
But the idea is to have competition for places. Is Wan-Bissaka ready to leave without at least trying to win Ten Hag? And if he did, United would need a replacement.
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