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'Pre-season crucial for Van Gaal'

ESPN staff
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Manchester United's pre-season tour to America will be a crucial bedding-in period for new manager Louis van Gaal, defender Chris Smalling has claimed.

Van Gaal will fly out with United to California on July 18 for a two-and-a-half week trip that takes in games against LA Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

It will mark a whirlwind turnaround for Van Gaal, who takes charge of the Netherlands one last time in their third-place play-off against Brazil on Saturday after the semi-final defeat to Argentina.

"Pre-season is always massively important and the tour gives the manager an opportunity to get all the players together and drill home his ideas that will last for the rest of the season," Smalling told United's official website. "It's a crucial period."

Despite his exertions at the World Cup, Van Gaal has been busy in the transfer market with Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera already brought on board. Both players will make the trip and Smalling, speaking from experience, feels it is the perfect chance for them to get to know their new team-mates.

"That's important too, especially for the new lads who come in as it's two or three weeks where we are all together," Smalling added.

"I've already done one tour in the States and we really enjoyed it out there as there are so many places to visit.

"Football's getting bigger over there so it'll be good to go back. We've played the MLS All-Stars before so it'll be nice to play another team from the US league in their own backyard. I'm sure it'll be a great atmosphere."

Manchester United have been linked with a move for the Netherlands' Daley Blind © AP
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Shaw and Herrera are not expected to be the last new signings for United this summer, not leat because Patrice Evra is set to join Juventus despite having signed a new one-year deal at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal will need a replacement for the Frenchman to compete with Shaw and United have been linked with a move for Switzerland left-back Ricardo Rodriguez. The Times reports that Wolfsburg's Rodriguez, who played in all four of his country's games at the World Cup, is the leading candidate to replace Evra.

Daley Blind could also be an option. The 24-year-old has proved his versatility at left-back and in defensive midfield for Van Gaal's Netherlands side in Brazil.

The Manchester Evening News claim United will step up their interest in Feyenoord's Blind, whose father Danny is part of Van Gaal's backroom staff at the World Cup, if Evra departs.

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