United’s first pre-season friendly of the summer gave the fans a healthy taste of the type of football manager Steven Pressley is looking to implement as his team gave Scottish Premier League outfit Hibernian a real test on Tuesday night.
Speaking after the game, which yielded seven goals, he said: “The most important thing for me from the game was getting the physical aspects out of it.
“With that in mind we had a multi-ball system in place with the ball boys and we spoke to the players before the game about the need for quick restarts with throw-ins, free kicks and set pieces.
“I wanted that because sometimes you can play pre-season games and you don’t get a great deal out of them. That’s why it was all about intensity and we had it in our minds that Hibs are a long way ahead of us in terms of preparation.”
“All of those aspects were right and that was really pleasing to see,” he added. “I think the players got a lot more out of the game than they ever could have expected. It’s been a good one for us because it’s another big step towards the first game of the season.
“Like I say, the attitude and intensity of the game, along with the way we went about things, was exactly what I wanted. The result didn’t go our way, and you always want to win games, we’re driven that way, but for me it’s about constant improvement at this stage of the summer.”
“What we have to bear in mind is that we’re only really 10 days in so it was good to see the energy levels and the work-out the boys put in and took away,” he commented. “We spoke to the Hibs staff and I think they found it was the most intense pre-season game they’ve played.
“When you consider that this was our first game, that’s a real compliment to our players. The lads grasped a number of the messages we’ve been giving them really well. The senior and younger players showed a real willingness to play the way we want to play and that’s really encouraging.
“Our chances in front of goal came from the way we want these players to press and get at the opposition. I want to see us play high and counter as much as possible, and we saw the players implement that whenever they could.
“We’ve got a really good group and I’ve been really pleased with their attitude. We’re only in our first pre-season game, so if I’m still speaking like that come mid-November then I’ll be a happy man. The early signs of them as characters and how they’ve gelled together has been great.”
Meanwhile the boss confirmed that a midfield loan target is due to become summer signing number eight later this week.
“We should have a loan midfield player in by Thursday or Friday,” he told us. “He’s playing in a game for his club on Wednesday night and if he comes through unscathed then we’re hoping that he’ll join us later in the week.
“That’s the closest we have at this moment in time. We’ve spoken to a number of clubs about attacking players and we hope to have a better idea on where we will be with those by next Wednesday or Thursday. We believe we should be in a position where we will be able to bring some more personnel in by then.
“Getting players in is an ongoing process. A lot of clubs we’re talking to have these players included in the early part of their pre-season and we probably won’t get them in until the middle of next week. We’re confident we’ll get the players we’ve targeted in the next week or so.”
And on the quartet of trialists who played on Tuesday night, he said: “They all applied themselves well and the judgement on most of them will be after the Chester game.
“I’ve spoken to them all about that and they know that I need to see more of them. I’ll have more of an idea after that Chester game as that will have given us adequate time to fully assess them.
“It means they still have the chance to prove themselves, even though it’s been made clear there are no guarantees. I will only sign players I think are good enough and who are the right characters to support us in what we’re trying to achieve.”
One trialist who didn’t feature was defender Michael Chambers, who left Brunton Park last week to take up a trial opportunity with Wrexham.
“I offered his agent the opportunity for him to come back,” the manager explained. “That was more in a sense of it being a training opportunity, but with us bringing Nathaniel [Knight-Percival] in then the likelihood is that we won’t sign another left-sided defender.
“For that reason it’s unlikely that we’ll see Michael again.”
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