Manchester United: What have we learned after the first two pre-season games under Erik ten Hag? 

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Manchester United started their pre-season campaign early this summer after the non-international players returned to training on the 27th of June, while the international players joined the squad one week later. 

The record Premier League champions endured a disappointing campaign last term, finishing sixth in the league with the lowest points tally in their Premier League history, eventually missing out on the Champions League. 

The Old Trafford outfit are looking to brush off last season’s results and are looking forward to working under the new manager Erik ten Hag

Having been managed by an inexperienced manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in the last few years, there are enthusiasm among the fans as to how the Red Devils would shape up under the Dutchman’s guidance. 

Following the conclusion of the first two preseason games, there are several talking points, which have been noticed after more than two weeks of pre-season training. 

1, David De Gea: despite showcasing a great display last season, the Spaniard was criticised due to his inability to play out from the back and his tendency to stay inside the box. 

However, the shot-stopper looked comfortable in the first game against Liverpool and did quite well in the sweeper-keeper role. He did not feature in the last game against Melbourne Victory due to an injury issue. But, the Spaniard has shown glimpses of what it is required to play in Ten Hag’s system. 

2, issues in defence and Bailly’s renaissance:

Harry Maguire was injured in the first game against Liverpool but started the game against Melbourne Victory yesterday. And it took only four minutes to show why the Englishman should not be paired up with Victor Lindelof. 

Ten Hag likes to play with a high defensive line and the pressing starts from the front. However, once Melbourne Victory went past the initial press, it opened up the spaces for the A-League side to utilize the open space behind the two centre-backs. And the two defenders do not possess enough recovery pace to cover the ground behind them. 

Meanwhile, Eric Bailly has now played both games in the pre-season and although he showed promise in the first game against Liverpool, the Ivorian has displayed in the second game why he doesn’t feature regularly at Old Trafford. 

The defender displayed a performance full of mistakes yesterday. However, he made his mark in both games on both ends of the pitch. 

3, Wan-Bissaka worries: The Englishman came onto the pitch in the second half against Liverpool, however, he didn’t look comfortable at all. On the other hand, Ethan Laird played against Melbourne Victory in the second half and showcased a better display. 

4, midfield woes: McTominay and Fred started both of the games and on both occasions, they failed to take control of the midfield battle. Despite scoring three goals against Liverpool, while they were on the pitch, the Merseyside clubs engineered quite a few great opportunities, bypassing the Red Devils’ midfield. 

On the other hand, two youngsters Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal seemed more comfortable with possession and the Red Devils controlled the game better when these two academy graduates were on the pitch in both games. So, it will be interesting to see how long Erik ten Hag will keep faith in McTominay and Fred before shifting his focus to the youngsters. 

5, tactical analysis: Although Manchester United lined up as 4-2-3-1 on paper, there were plenty of positional interchanges happening during the game. 

Among the two holding midfielders, one often played higher up the field and the fullbacks tucked inside to cover up the space infield left by the midfielder. This happened on both sides. 

In terms of pressing, Manchester United have tried to press the opposition higher up the field, but they still have plenty of room to improve in this department, but they showed signs of counter-pressing against Melbourne Victory. When they lost the ball, they tried to suffocate the opposition in the middle of the park and regained possession in no time.

Melbourne Victory defended deep but the Red Devils kept the ball well and moved it side to side in order to open up spaces. United struggled to find gaps in the first half before scoring twice in no time towards the end of the first half. But, in the second half, the A-League side got tired and Ten Hag’s side found it easier to play through. 

Manchester United will play against Crystal Palace and Aston Villa in their next two games in the tour before returning to Manchester. So, these two games will give a little idea of how the Red Devils will perform throughout the upcoming season. 

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