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Manchester United finish U.S. tour on a high note against Real Madrid

MIAMI -- Three points on Manchester United's ICC-ending 2-1 win against Real Madrid.

1. Manchester United's tour ends on a high note

It has felt, at times, like Manchester United's tour of the United States has been played out under a cloud. Jose Mourinho began his first media conference in Los Angeles by saying it would be a "really bad" preseason and followed it up with criticism of World Cup winner Paul Pogba, club captain Antonio Valencia, wantaway Anthony Martial and the club's transfer dealings. Then there have been the injuries -- most notably to Valencia and Nemanja Matic. But after all that, the trip ended on a positive note.

United are four games further ahead than Real Madrid as they prepare for the new season so it was perhaps no surprise that they beat the Champions League holders in Miami. Still, the goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera in the first half were lovely to watch -- probably United's two most impressive moments during more than two weeks in the U.S. -- and it means the players should head back to Manchester with a degree of positivity.

Next up is Bayern in Munich on Sunday and then four days to get ready for Leicester to start the Premier League season. Despite Mourinho's often downbeat tone during the tour, the first real indicator about how this season will pan out won't come until the opening game at Old Trafford on Aug. 10. For now, though, the mood should be slightly more positive.

Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring a goal for Manchester United against Real Madrid.
Alexis Sanchez scored one and set up the other as Man United hung on to beat Real Madrid.

2. Jose Mourinho makes his point

The United manager has made no secret of his desire to sign two more players before next week's transfer deadline, saying on Monday in Miami that he is "confident" he will get at least one. Sources have told ESPN FC he is keen to sign a centre-back and it felt pointed that against Real Madrid he picked Scott McTominay in a back three.

There are plenty of coaches at Old Trafford who think McTominay will become a central defender in the future. But his inclusion at HardRock Stadium felt like Mourinho was sending a message to Ed Woodward along the lines of "get me a centre-back." He has been linked with moves for Harry Maguire and Toby Alderweireld -- both of whom can play in a back three. Maguire, in particular, excelled in a back three for England at the World Cup.

It seems unlikely that McTominay will play in defence next season and the fact that Mourinho chose to overlook Axel Tuanzebe, a more natural centre-back, against Real Madrid speaks volumes. The pressure on Woodward to deliver in the final few days of the transfer window has been raised ever so slightly.

3. Gareth Bale in the spotlight

The Welshman has hardly been in the shadows since joining Real Madrid in 2013 -- world record transfers don't usually go under the radar. But with Cristiano Ronaldo departing for Juventus this summer, Bale has been thrust front and centre. The Champions League holders have been linked with superstars like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard but, for now, Bale is the one expected to fill Ronaldo's boots.

The 29-year-old has been productive at the Bernabeu, scoring 88 goals in 189 games. But they are not Ronaldo numbers -- 450 goals in 438 games over nine seasons and never fewer than 42 in a campaign since 2010. The statistics are frightening but that is the expectation now on Bale's shoulders.

He delivered when he was the main man at Tottenham and he has done the same when he has played for Wales. He's now got the chance to show he can do it for Real Madrid and, in the process, prove he deserves to be talked about in the same category as old teammate Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. One game into their preseason programme, it is still far too early to say whether it's possible, but that's the challenge.

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