Joao Felix’s second-half strike in Oslo brought to end Manchester United’s unbeaten pre-season in a game that the Red Devils dominated.
After an unbeaten pre-season tour, the Red Devils looked to ramp up preparations for the 2022/23 campaign with a stern test against one of Europe’s best.
Going into their penultimate pre-season game, Erik ten Hag made three changes to the side that drew with Aston Villa in Perth last week, with Donny van de Beek, Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho making way for Tyrell Malacia, Scott McTominay and Anthony Elanga.
Christian Eriksen also made his Manchester United debut, coming on in the second-half, with the Danish midfielder showing his class and how important he will be to the Red Devils in the upcoming season.
However, in the end it was a solitary Joao Felix strike that was the difference on the day.
Within seconds of kick-off at the Ullevaal Stadium, Atletico Madrid showed their pressing intent by ferociously closing down the United defensive line and forcing David De Gea into an early mistake.
However, after this early scare, United, through Malacia, played through the Atletico press, with the Dutch full-back finding Marcus Rashford on the left-flank.
The English winger drove towards the Atletico box and skilfully beat an approaching defender but his follow-up shot from inside the box towards the near-post was collected comfortably by Jan Oblak.
Moments after this opening chance, United looked dangerous again when they stole the ball off Simeone’s side in the middle of the pitch. The ball broke for Anthony Martial who bore down on Jan Oblak’s goal, but under pressure from Gimenez, the French forward scooped his shot over the bar.
Erik ten Hag’s side continued their dominance of the early period, with Martial on the eighth minute almost finding himself in a position to open the scoring after his earlier missed chance. A long ball from United found the Frenchmen just outside the Atletico eighteen yard box and some lovely footwork for the forward took him past his marker but some good covering from Reinildo defused the danger.
After a frantic early period in which the Red Devils looked like breaking the deadlock, the pace of the game calmed slightly with Atletico seeing more of the ball than they had in the opening ten minutes.
Despite the clear growth in Atletico’s confidence, United maintained the relentless pace with which they had begun the game.
Erik ten Hag’s team aggressively pressed the Colchoneros and did not give them any space or time on the ball, with United nicking the ball off the Atletico defenders on a few occasions and attempting to fashion chances through Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial but could not breakdown the Spanish sides trademark back five.
However, even as United’s Norwegian fans waited for their side to put the ball in the net, the signs of United’s attacking and pressing intent were certainly evident.
The Red Devils in all accounts were in control of the game, but on the 24th minute, Simeone’s men had a huge chance to take the lead. A Colchonero corner was cleared by United as far as Marcus Llorente on the edge of the box, the Spanish midfielder whipped a shot back towards goal that pinballed through the bodies in the United area, with ball falling fortuitously for an Atletico player, but a last-ditch tackle from Victor Lindelöf retrieved the ball and stopped the Spanish outfit opening the scoring.
Eight minutes after this chance, Angel Correa would find himself free inside the Manchester United penalty area and looked to cut the ball back for a teammate to tap into the net, however, a confident challenge from Fred prevented the pass from being played and stopped the Atletico attacking move in its tracks.
Compared to the pace at which the game had begun, these latter stages of the first-half were tame, with United still looking the more threatening side.
On the stroke of half-time, intricate play from Manchester United, that was started by Fred winning the ball from Reinildo inside the Atletico-half, created a chance for Anthony Elanga, with the Swedish winger being found unmarked in the Colchonero 18-yard box by Marcus Rashford, but the shot from the United youngster was straight at Jan Oblak.
This chance was United’s last in the first-half, with nothing to separate the two sides at the break, but Erik ten Hag would be happy with the way he side had approached the game so far, with pressing and attacking being the characteristic of the Red Devil’s first-half in Oslo.
Erik ten Hag resisted the temptation to make any changes at the interval, with the Dutchman electing to give his first eleven more match minutes ahead of the fast approaching 2022/23 campaign.
Two minutes after the restart, United would have their first chance of the second-half.
The Red Devils countered quickly with the ball being played with pace between the front-four. The ball would eventually find Anthony Elanga who let it run across his body, as he battled with an Atleti defender, for an approaching Martial but similarly to the first-half, Reinildo snuffed out the danger.
After United’s lightning start to the second-half, the pace of the game dampened with both sides contesting ever ball, and as the hour mark approached, Diego Simeone elected to make wholesale changes to his Atleti eleven with players like Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann and Axel Witsel entering the fray.
These changes made the Colchoneros even more threatening, but only seconds after these changes, Bruno Fernandes almost wrong-footed Jan Oblak with a clever free-kick from the right-hand side towards the near post, but the Slovenian international was able to recover and collect the ball.
On the 68th minute the Ullevaal Stadium erupted into applause as Erik ten Hag introduced one of his new signings to the game, with Christian Eriksen replacing Anthony Martial. Donny van de Beek also entered the contest, with Scott McTominay making way.
Only minutes after his introduction, the Dane played a magical ball into the Atleti penalty area which just missed Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga, with the new United number fourteen already showing his class.
Moments later Eriksen would be the conductor of another United chance, with the midfield maestro swinging in a dangerous corner which found an unmarked Harry Maguire, but the United captain’s header was just wide of Jan Oblak’s goal.
Following this corner, Ten Hag would make his third change of the match, with Anthony Elanga being replaced by youngster Facundo Pellistri.
After the flurry of United chances that followed Eriksen’s introduction, the game would begin to slow down as United still showed a bit of pre-season fatigue.
However, on the 82nd minute Facundo Pellistri released Marcus Rashford down the United right-flank. The skilful winger turned inside and out in an attempt to shake off Axel Witsel inside the Atleti 18-yard box, with his eventual shot being blocked, before Facundo Pellistri would concede a foul attempting to connect with the follow-up.
Five minutes from time, Joao Felix would hand Diego Simeone’s side what looked to be the winner with a fantastic low-strike from outside the box that wrong-footed David De Gea at the near-post.
And five minutes later, United’s afternoon would go from bad to worse with Fred receiving his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card, with James Garner subsequently replacing substitute Facundo Pellistri.
In the end the game finished with United being defeated for the first time in pre-season, but there was much for Erik ten Hag to be positive about at the Ullevaal Stadium.
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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