With the start of the English Premier League season only two weeks away, Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has promised to “turn the dial” in Saturday night’s friendly against Manchester United at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
Liverpool legend Gerrard has already guided Villa to Queensland Champions Cup success with wins over Leeds United and Brisbane Roar during his club’s pre-season tour of Australia.
Gerrard now wants to end Villa’s tour with a positive performance against United before his squad returns home to England to further prepare for their season-opening clash against Bournemouth on August 7.
“It’s the last push – the tour’s been fantastic so far and we want to finish on a high,” Gerrard said.
“We’re a couple of weeks out from the start of the season so we need to turn the dial now and we’ll introduce slightly more game time to certain individuals.
“It’s the right time – they’re ready now. It gives us another opportunity to rehearse the team, the style and how we want to play, so it’s a really important game for us.
“(A match against Manchester United) is the perfect rehearsal for us two weeks out (from the start of the season).
Gerrard said he was looking forward to locking horns with United’s new Dutch manager Erik ten Hag.
Ten Hag’s United thrashed Liverpool 4-0 in Thailand last week before flying to Australia, where they have beaten Melbourne Victory 4-1 and Crystal Palace 3-1.
“I’ve been really impressed with their performances in pre-season,” Gerrard said.
“We’ve watched all the games they’ve played and they seem in a better place. There are a lot of positive things coming out of their camp, which is different from last year.”
Ten Hag said United’s trip to Australia had helped lay a “platform” for the Red Devils’ season, which starts on August 7 against Brighton.
“In the end, you construct a team that’s ready for the league start,” he said.
“I know in the first half of the season, no team is playing (at its) best but it’s about getting the right constructions, but you also need results.”