Manchester United get their pre-season under way today with a trip to South Africa to take on AmaZulu FC in Durban before going to the beautiful provincial capital of the Western Cape to take on Ajax Cape Town. It may just be a pre-season friendly, but there are plenty of reasons for fans to get excited.
Firstly, new signing Shinji Kagawa will be seen for the first time on a field, wearing the red of Manchester United. Exactly where he will play and what role he will undertake should give fans a small glimpse into the future at how the team will shape up against Everton on August 20. Of course there are many players missing, but Ferguson may want to tweak the team's shape as early as possible.
With key players missing, fellow new signing Nick Powell should also get a run out and it will be interesting to see where and how he plays.
Looking elsewhere, both Anderson and Bebe have a lot to prove. This time last year, United fans perhaps thought they had seen the last of Bebe after he was moved to Besiktas on loan, with United hoping to make the deal permanent. But he now has a chance to prove himself to the manager and the fans.
After a very bright start to last season, Anderson will want to prove he can maintain his form and, more importantly, fitness throughout a full season. His partnership with Tom Cleverley tormented teams until both players succumbed to injury early in the season. It will be interesting to see if Anderson can finally live up to his potential and find that spark he found last August.
Another midfielder looking to impress will be Ryan Tunnicliffe, who was part of the FA Youth Cup winning side of 2011. After spending a season on loan at Peterborough, Tunnicliffe will want to make the step up and, along with Jesse Lingard, soften the blow of losing fellow FA Youth Cup winners Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba. Tunniclffe in particular can play in the heart of the midfield, an area where Manchester United are in need of fresh legs.
Another reserve player looking to break into the first team is Davide Petrucci. The Romanian-born youngster is injury-free now and is becoming a more complete midfielder. With an equal pleasure in supplying assists and winning tackles, Petrucci is capable of playing a deeper role in the United midfield if there is a change in shape.
Tyler Blackett, another youngster, has the best chance of breaking into the first team. With Fabio on loan with QPR, Ezekiel Fryers signing for Tottenham and Patrice Evra advancing in age, the powerful Blackett will want to use this tour to send a statement to both the manager and fans that he can be the one to replace Evra. Blackett is also able to play in the centre of defence or on the wing.
With such versatility, hunger and potential, United's new batch of youngsters will be looking to use this tour to really impress Sir Alex Fergson.
There are many reasons to get excited about Manchester United's pre-season tour. Most importantly we'll get to see what shape will be employed by the manager. Especially where Kagawa plays and how this effects the team's formation. Also, it's a chance for players to prove why they should stay at United, as well as a great chance to see some promising youngsters shine in the absence of United's regulars, who are ether resting or trying to win gold at the London Olympics.
It may just be a pre-season match for some, but there are so many reasons to get excited about it!
2012 Pre-Season Tour Squad:
Anders Lindegaard, Ben Amos, Sam Johnstone
Rio Ferdinand, Frederic Veseli, Marnick Vermijl, Scott Wooton, Tyler Blackett
Antonio Valencia, Anderson, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Nick Powell, Shinji Kagawa, Bebe, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jesse Lingard, Robert Brady, Davide Petrucci
Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov, Federico Macheda
Calling all Manchester United fans: Are you as equally excited about Manchester United's pre-season tour as Soohwan? What youngsters do you think can make the step up to the first team this season? What formation would you like United to play this season? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.