Manchester United have had a balance to strike between allowing their players rest after a gruelling end to last season and preparing for the next.
That has led to the organisation of just one friendly match before the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign, against Aston Villa on Saturday.
The match offers a much-needed chance to get back up to speed ahead of the big kick off against Crystal Palace.
United will travel to face Villa, who the team beat 3-0 away from home in July thanks to goals from Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba.
Dean Smith’s side did take a share of the spoils at Old Trafford in December and it should be a competitive run-out.
Here’s five questions Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking at…
How does van de Beek fit in?
The match will be Solskjaer’s first opportunity to watch Donny van de Beek in the famous red shirt.
There are questions to be asked over where the Dutchman best fits into the United midfield.
Just like Bruno Fernandes, he’s got a nose for goals from midfield. Paul Pogba’s best role has been a conundrum since his return in 2016.
Solskjaer has to find a way to balance his midfield creativity with enough security.
It’s also a chance to see how settled van de Beek feels already and how he interacts with his new team-mates.
Will he strike up an early understanding with anyone in particular? Solskjaer will be watching intently.
Are the players still feeling the effects of last season?
United’s players looked exhausted by the time last season came to an end with that 2-1 defeat to Sevilla.
Even accounting for the delayed start to the Premier League season, they haven’t had that much time to rest and recover.
That time has been eaten into further by many of Solskjaer’s squad jetting off all over Europe for ill-timed Nations League matches in recent days.
Sweden boss Janne Andersson said Victor Lindelof was still worn out when he reported for international duty.
The return to match action will help show up how fit United’s players are and whether they’re still feeling the effects of last season.
Can anyone alter Solskjaer’s plans?
Solskjaer had an established first eleven by the end of last season.
He wasn’t often willing to change it from the start and he didn’t seem too keen on introducing substitutes mid-match to alter it either.
The arrival of van de Beek may provoke a reshuffle, but can anyone else force their way into the manager’s plans ahead of the new campaign?
Those who didn’t play much at all post-lockdown should be fresher, and have a point to prove to their manager – starting on Saturday.
Some, like Daniel James, have enjoyed a strong international break. They will hope to continue that return to form on at club level.
A couple of goals or assists would catch the eye and could put a player at the forefront of Solskjaer’s thoughts ahead of the match against Palace.
Can we get through the game without injuries?
The last thing Solskjaer will want is a last-minute injury to rule a key player out for the start of the season.
Injuries have plagued United for too long now, stretching back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and it was no different in 2019/20.
It would be cruel if the forthcoming campaign started in the same vein.
The likes of Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe could really do with a season clear of the treatment table. It would massively help further their development and give them a real shot of forcing their way into the side.
Yes, United want a competitive run-out. Yes, we’ll want to win. But not if it comes at significant cost in terms of injuries.
Are any youngsters ready to make the jump?
The lack of a proper pre-season has robbed United’s youngsters the traditional opportunity to impress on tour.
This match may see Solskjaer take a look at some of the young talent to closely examine how close they are to being ready for senior football.
Just like with the fringe senior players, that would represent an opportunity for the young guns to plant themselves in Solskjaer’s thoughts.
Brandon Williams did that with his Europa League display against Partizan last season.
It is possible to play so well that it almost forces Solskjaer to bring a player across from the youth setup into his first team plans.
That has to be the goal for United’s talented young crop, if any of them are handed the opportunity on Saturday night.
- It’s time for Jesse Lingard to move on, but £30m seems too good to be true
- Luke Shaw calls for Manchester United to sign more players
- Solskjaer praises Donny van de Beek as midfielder sends message to fans
- Manchester United’s season feels over before it has really begun
- Six things learned as Manchester United lose to Crystal Palace
- Confirmed Manchester United line up v Crystal Palace
- Teden Mengi could have early season chance to impress for Manchester United
- How Donny van de Beek can use Manchester United fan frustration as motivation
- Four reasons for Manchester United to be optimistic