Our football reporter Simon Stone watched Manchester United and Aston Villa’s 2-2 draw in the latest pre-season fixture in Perth, Australia, on Saturday.
We asked you to submit your questions for him. Here are his responses:
Aston Villa questions
Q: All 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
Simon Stone: Steven Gerrard has made it clear from day one he is not prepared to manage an Aston Villa side happy to bump around in the middle of the Premier League, winning a few games, losing others. Settling for second best is not in his nature. He will push.
The big question is how far the owners are prepared to go. We have seen, with Leicester, Wolves and now West Ham, it is possible to challenge the top six. But to actually break into that group will require the type of heavy long-term investment now expected of Newcastle. That, undoubtedly, brings pressure.
But I don’t feel Gerrard will be bothered about that. He has dealt with pressure all his life. Villa are a big club. He will expect them to think big.
Do Villa need to sign a striker? Is Cameron Archer ready for the Premier League? Miriam, Tamworth
Archer has a lot of promise. But that is what he is – a player of promise. At 20, he could not be expected to carry the weight of a Premier League attack. His development is paramount. I have always thought Danny Ings will score goals if he gets a run of games. Yet time and again, he picks up injuries.
Ollie Watkins has ability but flatters to deceive. Leon Bailey is another player I like. He was excellent when he came on in Perth and scored a really good goal. But he is inconsistent and needs to stay fit. With creative players such as Philippe Coutinho and Emi Buendia, Villa need a reliable source of goals. I don’t think they have one yet.
Will Archer, Kaine Kesler Hayden and Tim Iroegbunam get game time this season? And if they do, will it encourage Carney Chukwuemeka to sign if he can see a clear pathway to first-team football – or has that ship sailed? Anon, Staffordshire
The Chukwuemeka situation seems to be heading the wrong way from Villa’s perspective, which is a worry, although they have also signed younger players from other clubs, so they can’t be accused of slackness on that front.
Most managers will say if a young player is good enough, they will get a chance. There is an element of truth to that but in the modern game, results matter – and a reliance on experience comes from that.
Gerrard didn’t make his debut for Liverpool at the age of 18 because he was young. He made it because he was good. He kept getting picked because he performed well. A quirk of fate may give a youngster a chance – an inopportune injury, or suspension, or loss of form at the wrong time. Then, whoever it is needs to show they can handle that level of football.
From what I have seen in both the team and the environment so far under Erik ten Hag, there has been a massive uplift in attitude and performance in both training as well as matches. But will Cristiano Ronaldo have a negative impact on the squad again? Shaun, Brighton (and others)
This is the great unknown. Speak to people on this trip – I interviewed Raphael Varane and asked him about Ronaldo – and they will back him. But what else can they say?
Ronaldo was a divisive influence on the squad last season. But some people will say that comes from an attitude that has only ever accepted the best – and last season was way off that.
The pictures of him training wearing United shorts suggest commitment. But the continued talk of him wanting to play in the Champions League suggests the exact opposite. We will only know the answer here when – or if – he comes back. And then it is Erik ten Hag’s job to manage the situation.
What I do think is Ten Hag has more power to leave Ronaldo out of his team than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick did last season.
Given Ajax are traditionally 4-3-3, and Manchester City and Liverpool have had great success playing that system, what are the chances of a long-term switch by United? Anon, Manchester
Two holding midfielders comes out of a need to protect your defence, really.
The very best teams only need one – and that is because the full-backs push on. I would be surprised if there is major tinkering until Ten Hag has got the defence he wants.
Evidently, Lisandro Martinez is going to play. But he is 5ft 9in. I know Ten Hag has total confidence in him but I can see players such as Chris Wood, Raul Jimenez and Michail Antonio pulling on to him and asking for the ball to be played in the air. It will be fascinating to see how Martinez deals with that.
Then there is the right side. I wondered out loud on social media whether Raphael Varane was really going to be a back-up to Harry Maguire. People pointed out Varane has had so many injuries, his fitness cannot be trusted. That is a fair point.
I expect Christian Eriksen to get on the ball a lot but he is not a defensive player as you say. It depends who Ten Hag trusts to stop opposition teams scoring goals against his.
As a fan this feels different for Manchester United now. Erik ten Hag seems to have control of the situation. Would you agree there is a different feel to Manchester United this summer from the top down? Ian, Northern Ireland
I agree there is a different feel.
Richard Arnold is a different chief executive to Ed Woodward and football director John Murtough has been empowered to negotiate over transfer targets. Ultimately though – and they know this – football is about results. If results go for you, quirky aspects of a club can be seen as a positive. If they go against you, they are viewed as a negative. The margins can be very small.
It is unrealistic to expect United to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool this season. It is not unrealistic to expect a top-four spot – they finished second two seasons ago. The time for assessment starts with the Brighton game that kicks off their Premier League season on 7 August. Judgement needs to be reserved until the end of the season at least.
What is it about the way Manchester United go about transfer business that means it appears to take them so much longer to sign players compared to rival clubs? Will, Sutton Coldfield
United would argue they are negotiating to get the best deals. I realise it does seem as if they are prevaricating at times but all transfers are complicated. There are at least three parties – two clubs and a player – and everything has to be aligned. If doing transfers was straightforward, there wouldn’t be the frenzy around every transfer deadline day.
And I don’t think there is a club that hasn’t got sucked into a deal like that at one time or another. The richest and most successful clubs have the best chance of getting deals done early. United are rich, but not successful just now.
I’m very concerned we haven’t strengthened our midfield. Do you think holding out for De Jong is a dangerous move as I can’t see us improving on last season unless we get at least one, maybe two more signings. I know we signed Eriksen but he is more of an attacking midfielder. We were outplayed by the majority of teams last season. Thanks. Anon, Coventry.
In some ways, I admire United’s stance on De Jong – but it is a gamble to an extent. It feels a bit like 2013 – also in Australia – when the feeling was Cesc Fabregas was going to sign. Talks went on and on and on and in the end, it didn’t happen and David Moyes’ squad was not strong enough to carry him through that key first season.
I assume Ten Hag has some kind of communication with De Jong and knows what the real situation is. I am also under the impression that the alternatives simply do not fit the template. So, should United abandon a player their manager really wants and buy someone not as good for a lot of money? I think they are following the right strategy at the moment.
After watching the friendly against Aston Villa, I feel David de Gea needs to go. I really like him but he isn’t physically big or strong enough to be a Premier League goalkeeper. Anon, Oxford (and others)
There are a couple of things here. Firstly, when you say “needs to go”, to where? We are talking about one of the best-paid players at Manchester United. Which club willing to pay that kind of money in wages needs a goalkeeper?
And then, is it 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 his reputation taking a hit.
I don’t see any reason to think he will not be in goal against Brighton or that Ten Hag has doubts over him that would necessitate a sale. The new manager has targets he is still pursuing. A top-class number one goalkeeper is not among them.
Are Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka up for sale? Daniel
There was a view if someone had come in for Anthony Martial and paid the right price, he could have gone. I don’t think that situation still exists because of his form on this trip.
Wan-Bissaka is an interesting one. It seems obvious Diogo Dalot is ahead of him purely down to their respective minutes on this trip. That might mean United were open to letting him go and I could see why a move might appeal.
But the idea is to have competition for places. Is Wan-Bissaka willing to go without at least trying to win Ten Hag over? And if he did, United would need a replacement.