Manchester United have ended the American leg of their preseason tour with a win, beating Real Madrid 2-1 in Miami. The Red Devils got off to a hot start, scoring twice before the half hour mark, with Alexis Sanchez opening the scoring before Ander Herrera doubled the advantage soon after. The reigning Champions League winners grabbed one back at the end of the first half, with Karim Benzema tapping in a low cross from Gareth Bale. United held on during a relatively boring second half, and were able to pick up a nice moral boosting win.
Here are some things we learned from the contest.
Better From United
It was a much better performance from Manchester United, who were woeful against Liverpool last time out. They rebounded well, as the Red Devils came out of the blocks with plenty of energy. They took full advantage of this hot start, scoring twice early on, with both goals coming as a result of quality build up play. The opener came when Ander Herrera played Darmian down the right wing, with the Italian hitting a low cross to the top of the penalty area. He was able to pick out Alexis Sanchez, whose first time shot sped past the Madrid keeper. The second goal was even better. Juan Mata latched onto a through ball in behind the Real defense, before cutting inside and crossing it toward the back post. Alexis rose highest, and headed it down to the top of the area. Ander Herrera was the first man to the ball, and finished off the move sublimely, volleying it into the back of the net. United did step off the gas pedal toward the end, and conceded an easy goal on the stroke of halftime, but were able to hold on to the result at the end. There were plenty of reports of a potential crisis before the game, but a decent result against a quality side will do well to lift everyone’s spirits.
Fred Gets Off to a Quality Start
Although he featured for United against Liverpool, Fred only came on for a limited cameo, and didn’t have the chance to influence the contest at all. Against Madrid, Fred was given the start for the first time in his United career, alongside Ander Herrera and Andreas Pereira in the midfield. The Brazilian showed glimpses of why United paid big money for him this offseason, as he provided fans with moments of brilliance throughout the contest. Fred didn’t venture too far forward during the game, instead staying back and controlling the pace of play. He was marvelous on the ball, carrying it up the pitch while dancing past defender after defender. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was never going to be, as Fred still has to adapt to his new surroundings. Some early passes were misplaced, and there were some moments of miscommunications between him and his new teammates. It still is preseason, and fans will hope this performance was only the beginning from Fred in a United kit.
Ander Herrera And Juan Mata Still Have Plenty Left to Give
Two men who weren’t taken to the World Cup for Spain, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera have been able to rest up this summer, and take full part in preseason. Both have played a key role, and have shown they are still integral parts of the squad. Mata has been a key component of the attack, getting the chance to play in his preferred attacking midfielder position behind Alexis Sanchez. The diminutive Spaniard has been the main man when it comes to linking up play, and has played plenty of impressive passes up the pitch. Ander Herrera has been a constant figure in the middle of the park, and has taken on a leadership role as one of the few experienced players on the tour. He’s helped on both sides of the ball, coming back to support the defense while making late runs into the penalty area. Both players will probably start on opening day against Leicester City, but neither are set to stay in the starting lineup once the World Cup players return from vacation. However, Mata and Herrera have proven that they can still be relied upon whenever need be, and will be able to provide United with some much needed depth throughout the long and enduring season.
Refreshed Sanchez Continues To Shine
Everyone knows of the struggles Alexis Sanchez endured at the end of last year. Joining United in the middle of last season, Alexis wasn’t given much time to adapt to his surroundings. He was used in a number of various positions throughout the year, but wasn’t as effective as usual. Fatigue was getting to the player, as he had carried Arsenal throughout his time there, and represented his country every summer for more than half a decade. His problems only continued for the national team, as Chile shockingly failed to qualify for the World Cup. Although heartbreaking at the time, this disappointment has proven to be a blessing in disguise for the player, as Alexis finally had the chance to take the summer off, which was great news for United. He has seemed refreshed this preseason, and only continued his blistering run of form against Real. He opened the scoring once again for the Red Devils, smashing a low shot past the Madrid keeper from the edge of the penalty area. Sanchez would go on to grab the assist on the second goal, as his clever knock down header picked out Ander Herrera, who finished the move off with a low strike of his own. With Lukaku, Rashford, and Martial all out, Alexis has carried the United offense this preseason. With none of those attackers guaranteed to return in time for the Leicester game, there’s a high chance he will have to do the same when the Premier League season starts. Thankfully for United, he seems more than ready for the job.
5-3-2 Against Leicester City?
Although Jose Mourinho has usually relied on a 4-3-3 formation throughout his United tenure, he has been willing to adjust when need be. Against Real, he did just that, opting for the 5-3-2 lineup that he sometimes rolled out last season. A makeshift back three of Bailly, Fosu-Mensah, and McTominay were flanked by wingbacks Darmian and Shaw, with a midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Fred, and Pereira playing behind a front two of Mata and Alexis. The decision paid off, as United looked more balanced, and more threatening going forward. Now, some are left to wonder if Mourinho will stick with the change for the start of the Premier League season. With less than two weeks until the season starts, it is unclear which World Cup stars will be able to return to the team in time. If Mourinho is left with this roster for the game against Leicester, there is a chance he rolls out the same lineup that he did last night.