Just a day after bemoaning the fact that United’s busy schedule here in America was threatening to disrupt his players’ preparations for the new season, the new United manager watched his team stroll through their opening tour game against a lamentable LA Galaxy here at the Rose Bowl.
This is an iconic American stadium and United produced a clinical performance with which to grace it. Watching them sweep Galaxy aside, it was hard to believe that it is the American team are in the middle of their season and United who are supposed to be looking for form and fitness under their new manager.
In fact the only problem United had all night was actually getting to the stadium. Despite the presence of a police escort, United’s team bus took more than two hours to reach Pasadena from their hotel in Beverley Hills, meaning that at one stage the kick-off was in danger of being put back.
In the end, though, everything started on time and the night subsequently ran like clockwork for United who eased to victory through two first half goals from Wayne Rooney, one from Danny Welbeck and two goals on debut for half-time substitute Reece Jones followed by two late strikes from Ashley Young.
With the stadium almost full – there were more than 86,000 here – on a beautiful, warm California night, United perhaps felt compelled to put on a good show.
Whatever the case they began well and scored in just the 13th minute.
Van Gaal chose to use the 3-4-3 formation he deployed with Holland at the World Cup and it will be interesting to see if he keeps faith in it. More noticeable in the first half, though, was the performance in the centre of midfield by new signing Ander Herrera.
The Spaniard was impressive from the start, passing the ball well and helping United to set the rhythm they needed and so often lacked under David Moyes last season.
Midfield general: New signing Ander Herrera was outstanding all night for United
United almost opened the scoring in the fourth minute as Herrera forced Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to touch his shot over from 25 yards. Soon after, though, they did break through as Juan Mata bustled through the middle, the ball broke free and Welbeck swept a first time shot past Penedo from the edge of the penalty area.
It was a superb, crisp finish from the England player and typical of what United were to go on to produce.
Galaxy did threaten briefly after the first United goal as Stefan Ishizaki crossed low for Gyasi Zardes and United goalkeeper David de Gea had to save sharply.
That was as good as it got for the American team, though, as United scored twice more before half-time.
The second goal came from the penalty spot after Antonio Valencia’s run and cross down the right brought a handball from AJ Delagarza. Wayne Rooney stepped up to convert the penalty with his right foot.
Then, in first half injury time, Rooney profited from a terrible mistake from Galaxy defender Tommy Meyer to lift the ball over the goalkeeper and in to the goal.
With the game won, it was tempting to wonder if United would be able to come out and play with such intensity in the second half.
Van Gaal made sure there was no slacking off, though, by making nine half-time changes. Only Herrera and Darren Fletcher remained, with Fletcher dropping back to the centre of defence for the second period.
After the break, things actually got a little surreal.
Young left back James scored twice – from an Ashley Young cross shortly after half-time and then again from 15 yards as he ran on to a loose ball with six minutes remaining – while Young himself added two of his own in the last four minutes to complete Galaxy’s humiliation.
Both of Young’s passes came from Herrera passes and certainly the Spaniard’s night was an influential one.
At the end of the game, a pitch invader was flattened by a steward in the centre circle. It was the closest an American had come to make a perfect tackle all night.
Man United first-half (3-4-3): De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Evans; Valencia, Fletcher, Herrera, Shaw; Mata; Welbeck, Rooney.
Man United second-half (3-4-3): Lindegaard; M Keane, Fletcher, Blackett; Rafael, Cleverley, Herrera, James; Kagawa; Nani, Young.
Goals: Welbeck 13, Rooney 41 (pen) and 45, James 62 and 84, Young 88 and 90.
LA Galaxy: Penedo; Gargan, Meyer, Leonardo, DeLaGarza; Ishizaki, Sarvas, Juninho, Husidic; Keane, Zardes.
Booked: Keane, Leonardo.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Man of the Match: Ander Herrer