Manchester United flew out to the club’s pre-season tour with a host of young stars looking to impress boss Jose Mourinho in the United States – with Alexis Sanchez noticeable by his absence.
With a number of United’s big-names, including Marouane Fellaini, David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku still on holiday after the World Cup, Mourinho has a beefed up his selection with a host of the club’s most talented teens.
That includes Dutch starlet Tahith Chong, 18, England’s Under-17 World Cup winner Angel Gomes and 16-year-old striker Mason Greenwood – who bagged 17 goals in 17 starts for the club’s Under-18s last term.
That trio are joined by RoShaun Williams, Ethan Hamilton and Joshua Bohui, all 19, as well as the 17-year-old midfielder James Garner.
All will train under the watchful eye of Mourinho and will hope to impress in the five Stateside friendlies in which the Red Devils will participate, before July turns to August.
United flew out from Manchester Airport on Sunday, with Daley Blind omitted.
The Dutch international is on the verge of a return to former club Ajax in a £14million deal, which he is expected to complete in the coming days.
However, Matteo Darmian, whose future is similarly expected to lie away from Old Trafford, did travel.
Mourinho suggested on Sunday that the 12 United players who participated at the World Cup would be unavailable for the Premier League curtain-raiser against Leicester on August 10.
“We cannot start the Premier League with our players that were in the World Cup, which is a shame for the most important club competition in Europe,” Mourinho said.
“Three weeks [off], which I think is the minimum that their body and soul needs, and which is the minimum for them to return and think about football again.
“To bring them back before that would be, ‘Okay, I have you for the first match of the season, but maybe I don’t have you in three or four months.'”
That leaves United stretched in attack, with wantaway Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez the most senior forwards on the clubs books who will appear in the US.
Sanchez didn’t travel to the US on Sunday – he is in the middle of his first summer without football in five years – having been spotted in Wilmslow on Sunday afternoon having lunch with friends.
Sanchez had begun training at Carrington last week and is is expected to join up later, as Mourinho looks to get the Chilean as fit and fresh as possible for the start of the season.
Martial, 22, fell out of favour after Sanchez’s arrival in January and it is a make-or-break few weeks for the Frenchman; unless United bring in another attacker, he is unlikely to be allowed to leave before the transfer window closes.
Another for whom it is crunch time is Luke Shaw.
With Ashley Young having ended last season as first-choice, Shaw will get the opportunity to prove he has a future at the club – at a time when questions over his long-term future continue to rage.
United kick off their tour against Mexico’s Club America on Wednesday night.
United’s travelling party on Sunday
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira, Lee Grant
Defenders: Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, RoShaun Williams, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Demetri Mitchell, Luke Shaw
Midfielders: James Garner, Ander Herrera, Andreas Pereira, Scott McTominay, Ethan Hamilton,Tahith Chong, Juan Mata
Forwards: Angel Gomes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Joshua Bohui
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