What we learned at the MCG
Erik ten Hag's Manchester United secured a second win of pre-season, by beating Melbourne Victory 4-1 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, in front of around 80,000 spectators.
The Reds were behind for much of the first half, following a shock early Victory opener, but a couple of goals before half-time from Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial put us in the driving seat.
Marcus Rashford and a late own goal by Edmond Lupancu then ensured we've now scored four times in consecutive games.
Here's the main talking points from a night under the lights at The 'G...
STRONG STARTING LINE-UP
Given that this was United’s only match against non-Premier League opposition of Tour 2022, some were wondering if Erik would place his trust in the significant contingent of young players in the travelling squad and give them a chance to impress from the start.
However, he largely kept his faith in the XI which had raced into a 3-0 half-time lead against Liverpool, with only David De Gea, Raphael Varane and Rashford making way, for Tom Heaton, the fit-again Harry Maguire and Anthony Elanga, respectively.
A SCINTILLATING SHOW
It’s been 23 long years since United were last welcomed to the MCG and the famous stadium certainly threw a party to celebrate the Reds’ return.
A light show, with pyrotechnics, got the ground rocking, while the pocket of Victory fanatics behind the goal the Reds were attacking in the first half launched into a hearty rendition of Ben E King’s classic hit ‘Stand by Me’. Good choice!
After Chris Ikonomidis slotted the ball home to give Victory a fifth-minute lead, the local side put their gameplan in place, sticking nine of their outfielders behind the ball and relying on the speed of no.11 Ben Folami to break forward and cause us problems.
United struggled to pick out an opening for the first half an hour, although Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire went close before McTominay’s heavily deflected effort just before half-time.
SANCHO EXCITES THE CROWD
Despite the Reds’ issues in breaking through, Sancho once again impressed with his close control and skill and the Melbourne crowd were audibly anticipating some magic each and every time the ball was pinged out to him on the right wing.
Although our two Anthonys – Elanga and Martial – combined to score our second just prior to the break, the strike came about through Sancho's perseverance, endeavour and vision as he spotted a gap to play in Diogo Dalot. Three touches later - one each from Dalot, Elanga and Martial - and the ball was resting in the net.
WHOLESALE HALF-TIME CHANGES
For the second friendly in a row, Erik opted to change his entire outfield line-up at the break, with Rashford captaining a younger and more inexperienced side in the second half.
Eight of the 10 replacements had also played in Bangkok, but for Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong, it was a chance to get some minutes in the legs and time on the pitch for United after spending much of the recent time out on loan.
SWITCHING CENTRE FORWARDS
Rashford was the obvious choice as United’s main man up top in the second 45, but it was Amad who initially occupied the position. The Ivorian stood out when fielded there in the Liverpool clash, as he set up Facundo Pellistri’s goal – our fourth of the game – but Marcus soon swapped with him, latching on to Eric Bailly's through ball to score our third.
Still, it shows we have plenty of options for rotation in the forward positions, with Erik commenting in his Thursday press conference that he feels Donny van de Beek could also occupy an attacking midfield – and perhaps even a false no.9 – role. The fourth strike towards the end, came when Chong's cross led to the own goal, although players were waiting to apply the finishing touch in the middle.
A WARM RECEPTION FOR NANI
The signing of the 35-year-old former United winger has been headline news in Australia all week and even though he’d only travelled Down Under earlier this week and trained twice with his new team-mates, Nani – who stopped to grab a quick word with MUTV before kick-off – was named on the Victory bench.
The big screen showed him all wrapped up during the first half, eliciting a huge cheer from the MCG crowd and that noise cranked up a decibel or 10 when, with 87 minutes on the clock, Victory’s new no.17 was introduced for his Australian debut.
It’s always great to come up against past greats and, with the Champions League winner entering the final stages of his career, this might be the last chance we have to catch up with him during his career.Every pre-season game will be shown live in the Man Utd App and on ManUtd.com.