Manchester United will go head to head with Aston Villa at the Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia on Saturday. It will be the final pre-season match in Australia with United returning to Manchester afterwards. Erik ten Hag’s side do still have two pre-season matches left this summer with Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano still to play.
There is a fortnight left before the Premier League season starts with United welcoming Brighton and Hove Albion to Old Trafford on Sunday 7 August with the season starting a week earlier because of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in the winter. Ten Hag’s squad will seek to perfect in style of play in the final match before returning to Manchester.
United will then have a few days to get over their jet lag then be back in training ahead of the Atletico Madrid match which will be played at the Ullevaal Stadium in Oslo before facing Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford just over 24 hours later. It will be in those matches that Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez could feature for United for the first time.
United have played three matches of their pre-season tour so far, winning all of them; beating Liverpool 4-0, Melbourne Victory 4-1 and Crystal Palace 3-1. United have scored 11 goals with Anthony Martial scoring three times, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho both scoring twice and Fred, Scott McTominay and Facundo Pellistri each scoring a goal – plus one own goal.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Malacia;
Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has shown signs of improvement this summer, especially with his distribution. Although he was shouted at by Ten Hag in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace on Tuesday – but mistakes will always be made as we are human. However, that will not appease the goalkeepers critics who seem to think he’s a lame duck for some reason.
United are better with De Gea, although at some point in the next year or so, United will have to move on without him. Dean Henderson could be the player to stake his claim for the number one shirt at the club but that remains to be seem. This season e will be on loan at Nottingham Forest, so it depends what happens there.
Against Villa, Would expect Ten Hag to select De Gea once more, perhaps playing 60 minutes, maybe even the full 90 minutes as in the final two matches of the summer, Tom Heaton will get his chance with United playing those last two matches just over 24 hours apart. It has been a positive pre-season and it could be a good season – but we shall have to see how it starts first.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia
United’s defence has seen some improvement this summer and that is before new signing Lisandro Martinez has met up with his new teammates. Diogo Dalot played well against Crystal Palace, showing his ability doing well in both defence and attack. That assist for Anthony Martial was impressive.
Tyrell Malacia has settled in too after mixed performances before he faced Palace. The ability he showed in playing the ball into Dalot who then assisted for Martial will be great to see as the season starts. He was signed for a reason and strengthening the left-back position was that reason. He will get better as the season progresses.
In the centre of defence, despite being booed, Harry Maguire quickly found his feet and put in a good performance against Palace, having some involvement at either end of the pitch. Raphael Varane has been missing since the Liverpool match with an injury, which seems to be the story of his United career so far – perhaps he can start in this match and retain his fitness?
Midfielders: Fred, Scott McTominay
The midfield is a work in progress but once again the duo of Fred and Scott McTominay has been picked by the third manager in a row, meaning that the dog have some uses. McTominay played well in the first half against Palace, with Fred also doing well. The pair may not be world class players but they have their uses.
Obviously, with the likes of Donny van de Beek, James Garner, Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal also seeking to get minutes, there will be some challenges to overcome for them to get minutes when the Premier League starts. Ten Hag is still hoping to sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona this summer, which will bench McTominay or Fred or both.
With three matches played in pre-season so far this summer, United have looked good in the midfield, especially with Savage and Iqbal on the pitch, who have taken the chances that they have been given. United have some good players in this area but it could be so much better for the club should they sign De Jong.
Attacking Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
These attacking midfield positions are the ones where you would expect the goals and assists to come from. Both Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have two goals a piece this summer with Bruno Fernandes still seeking to get on the scoresheet. That said, they have all adapted positively to the new style of play and seem to be enjoying themselves.
Sancho could well find his feet at United this season, playing some of his best football on pre-season but not being successful all of the time, which is t be expected in this game. Rashford has started well, getting two goals in the last two matches, seemingly seeking to turn the corner ahead of the news season, winning his place back in the team.
There are amble substitutes to be used in this match and Facundo Pellistri should get more of a chance in this match, seeing as he scored against Liverpool. I don’t like what I have been seeing from Anthony Elanga – I don’t feel his output is up to par based on what Sancho and Rashford have done so far in pre-season.
Forward: Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial has started this pre-season campaign in high spirits with a new love for the game. Or at least that is what it looks like. With Cristiano Ronaldo out of the picture at this time, Martial is the main man in this squad, easily being the best striker in the squad – being the only main striker at the same time.
It is reported that Ten Hag will be seeking to keep Martial as the main striker heading into the new season and based on what he has been doing so far in pre-season, over the last three matches – scoring in all three of them, something major would have to happen to change that. Obviously, there may have to be competition for him coming to the club this summer.
If Ronaldo stays at United, I’m not sure he will walk straight back into the squad as a starting player, which will not appease him. But it looks like he could leave the club with him seeking an exit. That said, it will be good to see what becomes of Martial this season. He could well break his best season at the club, which would be good to see.
With De Gea expected to start, Ten Hag will have Tom Heaton, Nathan Bishop and Matej Kovar to rely on in goal, should a change be needed. In defence, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Will Fish and Ethan Laird could all be called upon – but the main players will be seeking more minutes.
The midfield and attacking midfield places have a lot of talent in this squad this summer and there could be many changes with the likes of Amad Diallo, Facundo Pellistri, Donny van de Beek, James Garner, Hannibal Mejbri, Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal all seeking another chance in the final match of the Australian leg of the pre-season tour.
In the attacking positions, Anthony Elanga, Tahith Chong and Alejandro Garnacho could all find themselves getting some action. Of this tour squad, only Kovar, Bishop and Garnacho have yet to play this summer. I would like to see what Garnacho could bring to this team as he is a big fish in a small pond in the youth set up.
Written by John Walker