Cadiz v United: Things we noticed
Erik ten Hag's Manchester United team returned to action for the first time in 24 days, with a friendly against La Liga side Cadiz CF in Spain.
United fell two goals behind early on but Anthony Martial's penalty and Kobbie Mainoo's finish brought us back level, the latter just two minutes into a second half which featured an entirely different outfield XI to the one which had started the game.
Here are eight topics of discussion which emerged from Wednesday evening's action at the Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla, where the home side ran out 4-2 winners...
TEN HAG’S TEAM
Although he has a sizeable squad to choose from, with 29 players making the trip to Spain for the training camp in Andalusia, Erik largely opted to start with experience as the likes of Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek and Martial were included in the starting XI, which the United App revealed much earlier than usual, at 16:30 GMT. Perhaps the only surprise was Martin Dubravka being given the nod in goal, although in his pre-match interview with MUTV, Erik ten Hag noted the Slovakian's good display against Aston Villa in the recent Carabao Cup success and also said that it was good to challenge all his players and see what they could do.
A NEW GROUND TICKED OFF
This was the Reds' first-ever meeting with the team known by their fans as Los Piratas, and therefore our inaugural trip to the Nuevo Mirandilla. Unlike the other La Liga grounds we’re familiar with, such as the Bernabeu, Camp Nou and the Wanda Metropolitano, it’s a small venue but it’s tucked right in the middle of Cadiz, just a couple of streets away from the picturesque beach and ocean. With not a great deal of space to accommodate its footprint, the blue-and-yellow stands rise steeply into the sky and United’s travelling support of around 600 - the total attendance was 14,648 - were dispersed throughout the stadium, with the home faithful behind the goal making the majority of the noise. That was dialled up a little further as Cadiz raced into a two-goal lead, thanks to efforts from Carlos Garcia and Anthony Lozano.
MARTIAL COOL FROM THE SPOT
Panenka penalties have been en vogue this week, after Achraf Hakimi’s nerveless shootout decider to send Morocco through against Spain at the World Cup, and Martial’s spot-kick midway through the first half was just as good. The Frenchman was handed the ball from 12 yards out after Zidane Iqbal was brought down by Luis Hernandez, following some intricate play. Martial is eager to be back among the goals after a stop-start first portion of the season due to injury and if he continues finishing his chances as coolly as this, there’s no need to worry when the season resumes.
MINUTES IN LEGS
While Ten Hag has spoken about the importance of increasing the fitness of his first-team players, it was also good to see several Reds out on the pitch again after lengthy absences. Teden Mengi and Brandon Williams made their first United appearances in over a year, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka was selected for the first time since coming on as a substitute against Liverpool in August. While it’s great to get away and work together as a squad in training, you can’t quite beat that match experience and it was much needed, particularly for this trio who have been unfortunately affected by injuries in recent months.
GIVING YOUTH A CHANCE
Much of the talk about United’s squad in Spain has centred on how young it is, with a large contingent of last season’s FA Youth Cup-winning side involved in Andalusia. Six of them were given the opportunity to impress after being introduced at half-time, alongside several players who already have first-team experience, such as Shola Shoretire and Charlie Savage. Dubravka took the armband for the second half, with original incumbent McTominay departing at the interval.
MAINOO’S INSTANT IMPACT
It took a little under two minutes for the subs to reap dividends, as central midfielder Mainoo found the back of the net to equalise. His finish may have taken a slight deflection off a Cadiz defender, but the way in which the 17-year-old dipped his shoulder and sashayed into space to craft the chance was something to behold. Both he and Savage in the engine room impressed with their energy and composure on the ball when up against more senior players and both will surely benefit from the experience of a game abroad with the first team.
“It’s a great opportunity for them [the younger lads],” Under-21s coach Mark Dempsey, who is out with the lads here in Spain, told us ahead of the game. “They get tested physically, mentally more than anything. They’ve had tough sessions, but, as I said before, they’ve coped really well with them and now the icing on the cake is being part of a first-team Manchester United side and going out and representing yourself and representing the Academy.”
COMPETING UNTIL THE END
Goals from Ruben Sobrino and Tomas Alarcon settled the game 4-2 in the hosts’ favour but the Uinited youngsters can be pleased with the way in which they competed, as Noam Emeran and Mainoo were both denied claims for penalties. Shoretire also dazzled on a couple of occasions with some sublime pieces of skill and Tyler Fredericson stopped a late attack with an immaculately timed tackle. Although Cadiz are struggling in La Liga, it must not be forgotten that they are a top-flight outfit who had most of their first-team players available, so the friendly defeat is nothing for United to be ashamed of.
NEXT UP, BETIS
You won’t have to wait long for our next live game, with another friendly on the horizon this Saturday. The Reds take on Real Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville, with kick-off set for 17:00 GMT. Once again, MUTV subscribers can watch the game via the United App, ManUtd.com and a variety of other ways, so don’t miss it!
Real Betis v United will be shown live on MUTV*, which can be accessed via the United App on the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, on ManUtd.com or via the following connected TV platforms: Samsung Smart TVs, Android TV, LG Smart TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV and Xbox.
*Live MUTV coverage will not be available in Spain due to broadcasting restrictions.