Though all the usual caveats of a pre-season friendly obviously have taken into account, the opening half an hour or so provided little in the way of notable positives.

United were ponderous in possession far too often and struggled to breakdown a home side sat deep. Aside from an occasional lifted ball from Bruno Fernandes or overload created by Diogo Dalot, they rarely looked dangerous in possession.

Most worryingly, however, was their fragility in defence. Melbourne’s opener came from a counter-attack, the kind that left all of Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof stranded for pretty much the entirety of last season.

Maguire and Lindelof were guilty of that here as Chris Ikonomidis tapped home in the opening four minutes, although that again points to a wider problem. This is a team with a soft underbelly, one who look lost at sea when the opposition play through their press.

The performances of Dalot and Sancho, however, were reasons to be optimistic. The pair linked up well on the right-hand side, with the Portuguese running in-behind Sancho and proving a profitable outlet.

While there was a slice of luck in McTominay’s leveller three minutes before half-time, the Scotland international deserves credit for reacting to a loose ball quickly before seeing his shot from outside the box deflected into the net.

Minutes later, Sancho dropped deep to release Dalot and his cross from the byline eventually found Martial, who finished calmly just before the break.

The interval brought with it a raft of changes and, from there, United improved. While they were still sometimes found wanting on the ball, Rashford, Charlie Savage, Amad Diallo, Zidane Iqbal, Tahith Chong (who forced a late own goal) and Ethan Laird did set a higher tempo.

After a few nervy moments when clearing his lines, Eric Bailly broke forward from defence and played a wonderfully incisive ball through to Rashford in the 77th minute and the England forward finished calmly.

Against a stubborn defensive unit, United eventually found a way through. Things will need to improve of course, but Ten Hag has overseen two wins in a row. If nothing else, it’s something to build on.

Source link