Written by Gerard Bands and Dharnish Iqbal
After a ‘friendly’ against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, Manchester United’s unbeaten streak throughout pre-season ended after a 1-0 loss.
As the game saw tempers flare and whistles blown after each minute, Manchester United came to their first loss in pre-season to top level competition Atletico Madrid, after a late strike by João Félix found the back of the net.
Although the loss seemed demoralising considering the overall performance from the Red Devils, there were many talking points from the game and presented below are five things we learnt today after a tough defeat against Atletico Madrid.
#1: The starting line-up could be the same against Brighton
After the announcement of the squad list being taken to Oslo in a matchup against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, reports earlier this week suggested that the starting line-up today may be the one to take on Brighton come next week. Barring Jadon Sancho’s absence in the starting line-up due to the player being unwell, the main change in the usual line-up saw Tyrell Malacia starting over Luke Shaw. Many fans were expecting to see new signings Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez take on to the pitch to make their debuts for Manchester United, but instead saw only Christian Eriksen come on for a cameo in a bid to gain fitness for the upcoming Premier League campaign.
Thoughts on this man’s cameo? 🇩🇰 pic.twitter.com/oTXVLG1T2P— Utd District (@UtdDistrict) July 30, 2022
The insight from today's line-up offers supporters a chance to see what new manager Erik ten Hag believes to be Manchester United’s strongest line-up in preparation for next week's Premier League match up against Brighton.
#2: Improvement of Ten Hag’s pressing system
During the whole pre-season Manchester United have shown a clear instruction of intensive pressing in their previous games. Supporters first saw a proactive pressing style of football when the Red devils took on Liverpool in their pre-season tour in Thailand. Since then, Manchester United displayed patches of pressing against both Crystal Palace and Aston Villa and again displayed this quality today against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.
Although Manchester United have improved significantly from previous seasons in the pressing department, during this pre-season it is essential that the Reds can maintain this style throughout a full 90 minutes. Today against Atletico Madrid the Reds were able to maintain the pressing style incorporated by Erik ten Hag for a long duration of the game, showing that pressing will be an inevitable quality practised at Carrington.
#3: Manchester United urgently need attacking reinforcements
When the announcement of Jadon Sancho being officially declared unwell for the game against Atletico Madrid, many supporters were left worried of the lack of depth in the attacking positions for Manchester United.
From kick-off to the final whistle, it was evident that there was a lack of depth amongst the forward options. Unfortunately, Elanga is a significant downgrade on quality from Sancho and still needs minor improvements before the Swedish International can be heavily relied upon.
Although Elanga is still young and has many years to improve, overall, the right side of the pitch today had been non-existent in contrary to the output it is used to when Jadon Sancho is occupying the position.
With the Transfer deadline approaching it is essential Manchester United look to the transfer market for a forward option who can play across all three forward positions.
#4: Tyrell Malacia looks comfortable against top competition
A name that was a surprising inclusion in today's fixture against Atletico Madrid was Erik ten Hag’s first signing Tyrell Malacia. When stepping into a line-up many supporters had been used to seeing, the Dutch international created waves on social media with his impressive run out for the Red Devil.
During the first 45 minutes, Malacia was out creating chances and was an integral part of the Manchester United attack. The young Dutchman has shown many this pre-season the qualities which justified Manchester United’s decision to hijack a deal which almost sent the fullback to Lyon.
Thoughts on this man's performance so far? 👏 pic.twitter.com/T1GjFkDeeV— Utd District (@UtdDistrict) July 30, 2022
Not only has Malacia impressed many with his footballing ability to get up and down the ground contributing on both ends, but the young Dutchman has also found himself being a fan favourite amongst the Red devil supporters.
#5: Has Erik ten Hag unlocked Fred?
In 90 minutes, viewers of today's game witnessed a masterclass by Manchester United’s own Fred. The Brazilian international displayed his qualities on both sides of the pitch impressing many on the defensive side.
Despite receiving a red card nearing stoppage time, Fred’s intensity throughout the game was on show for the entirety of the match pondering the question: Erik ten Hag unlocked pastor Fred?
Throughout the pre-season Fred has proved to be an integral part of the Manchester United first team and has shown his ability to star in a midfield pivot.
With the starting line-up looking to be the same team to take on Brighton, Fred has definitely proved that he is locked in to play in match week one.
Although the loss today against a top European competition may be concerning, the overall performance from the Red Devils was positive. The intensity shown to win back the ball and play a proactive style of football is a main focal point Erik ten Hag has incorporated since becoming Manchester United manager.
As the Red devils move forward to the opening fixture against Brighton next week, the Red Devils will face Royal Vallecano tomorrow hoping to achieve a better result than today.
#6: Manchester United’s King of Cool Christian Eriksen has arrived
There were some that questioned the arrival of Christian Eriksen and where he would fit in with Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United.
His short cameo against the Spanish giants has gone someway to give us more of an idea.
Eriksen, with only around 25 minutes under his belt, offered calmness and assurity in midfield whilst still being direct in his play, fizzing balls wide and finding neat little spaces.
It felt like the early days of Juan Mata. It was interesting to see Fred playing as a lone number six flanked by Donny van de Beek and Eriksen as two eights.
The Dutchman was looking to make runs and join the attack, picking up on loose balls whenever he could. Eriksen was more the quarterback with Fernandes interestingly on the left.
It shows Ten Hag’s tactical flexibility. It also suggests that he doesn’t want another fully fledged number six. If that was the case United would’ve probably put in a Youri Tielmans bid by now instead Ten Hag wants the car to be on cruise control something Eriksen can offer. He seemed like a season veteran out there just knowing what to do and when to do it.
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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