In his latest diary from Manchester United’s tour of the United States, James Ducker provides an insight into the two sides of Erik ten Hag – focused and funny – and reveals the long journey undertaken by their new signing.

Onana’s chaotic travel schedule

Having managed Andre Onana at Ajax, Erik ten Hag knows full well what a colourful character the Cameroonian goalkeeper is. The Manchester United manager is convinced Onana will relish the challenge at Old Trafford, although he will hope his new £44 million signing’s first few months at the club are smoother than the journey his new No 1 has just been on – first to get to Manchester to complete a medical and then to New Jersey to join the pre-season tour of the US.

Onana, it transpires, flew from Milan to Turin with the aim of getting a flight to Birmingham as that was the nearest available flight path to the UK at the time. Yet when that flight was cancelled, Onana ended up having to stay overnight in Turin and instead flew direct to Manchester the next morning.

With Ten Hag eager for the goalkeeper to join United’s tour at the earliest opportunity, the club had no time to do the usual interviews that accompany a new signing announcement and so, after formally completing a medical at their Carrington training base, he was rushed onto an Aer Lingus flight to the US. Onana ended up landing in New York at 6pm on Thursday and was personally greeted upon arrival by Ten Hag.

Jonny Evans has Darren Fletcher to thank for return

It turns out that it was Darren Fletcher, United’s technical director, who recommended that Jonny Evans should train with United’s Under-21 side. Former team-mates at Old Trafford, Fletcher was aware Evans was looking for a new club after leaving Leicester at the end of last season and suggested he should keep fit by running out with the U21s.

United agreed and then decided to offer the 35-year-old defender a short-term contract covering the pre-season period when it became clear he would need a deal for insurance purposes to be able to play in front of crowds.

Evans played in the 1-0 win over Lyon in Edinburgh on Wednesday and is set to feature in an academy side against Wrexham in San Diego on Tuesday. Depending on what happens with Harry Maguire this summer, it is not completely unfeasible that Ten Hag may consider keeping Evans on.

Football focus

United are accustomed to thousands of fans camping outside their hotel waiting for autographs or a picture with their heroes. It has been a fixture of countless pre-season tours down the years.

But it is a reflection of Ten Hag’s desire for United’s focus to be solely on ensuring the players are in the best possible condition for the start of the season that they are squirrelled away at the Delta Marriott in Iselin, New Jersey, a 45-minute journey from the MetLife Stadium where they face Arsenal on Saturday night and a far cry from the bright lights of Manhattan.

Around 50 or so United supporters have been spotted hanging around outside the team hotel, a tiny fraction of the usual armies of fans. United also have only two commercial days on their tour with Ten Hag eager for the players to direct all their energy into the football.

Ten Hag’s sharp sense of humour

There was an amusing exchange during Friday’s press conference at Pingry School in New Jersey between Ten Hag and Andy Mitten after a slip of the tongue from the editor of popular fanzine, United We Stand.

Mitten mistakenly referred to Bruno Fernandes “becoming manager” rather than United captain. “Manager?” Ten Hag replied, a large smile etched on his face.

“I’m getting two years ahead of myself,” Mitten joked in return.

“Two years?” asked Ten Hag, playfully pretending to be offended at the suggestion his United reign would not extend beyond 2025.

“OK, I’ll give you three,” Mitten quipped, much to Ten Hag’s amusement.

For all the Dutchman’s talent as a manager, it should not be forgotten he has a good sense of humour.

Varane hails Erik the ruthless

If Ten Hag has proven anything during his 14 months in charge of United, it is that he is unafraid to make difficult decisions. From offloading Cristiano Ronaldo to dropping Marcus Rashford for being late, Ten Hag makes big calls and his latest show of strength came with the decision to strip Harry Maguire of the captaincy and give the job to Bruno Fernandes.

Raphaël Varane says United’s players take huge confidence from knowing they have such a strong personality steering the ship. “He wants a team with character and he’s the leader so he has to show it himself,” the United defender said. “He’s not scared to take these decisions and take that responsibility. That is what we expect from the manager.

“He knows exactly what he wants. He’s shown that determination and from the first day we’ve known exactly what we’ve had to do and where he wants to go. It’s all clear for the players and for the team and we have a good connection with the manager.”

Irwin can still play – even three years shy of 60

A media team from England took on their US counterparts in the searing mid-afternoon New Jersey heat at Pingry School. Denis Irwin, the treble-winning former United left-back, played a half for both teams and, even at 57, we can report the Irishman remains a class act and revelled in a sweeper role at the back.

The Americans ran out 4-3 winners but it was so hot that the plastic blades on the boots of one member of the United media team melted during the course of the game, leaving said reporter to effectively play in slippers.

Nod to a local super coach

Ten Hag presented a signed shirt to Miller Bugliari at Pingry School. Bugliari, Pingry School’s head of soccer and special assistant to the school principal, is the “winningest” coach in US high school soccer with over 900 victories. He classes Sir Alex Ferguson, the former United manager, as a friend and was clearly humbled by the gesture from Ten Hag.

Arsenal game a sell-out

There will not be a spare seat in the house at the MetLife Stadium on Saturday night when United take on Arsenal in the first game of their pre-season tour of the US.

The 82,500-capacity home of the New York Giants and New York Jets NFL franchises has been sold out, with organisers saying the attendance is due to be the biggest ever for a match between two football clubs at the stadium.