Five things we learned from Manchester United 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Manchester United have now finished their fifth friendly game of pre-season 2022, against Atletico Madrid in Oslo.

Here is a look at five things we learned from the match…

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Ten Hag holds his new signings back

Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen played against Wrexham behind closed doors in midweek, with the Dane scoring a free-kick.

This was their first opportunity to play for United in more of a spectacle, but both players were left on the bench by Erik ten Hag.

That is probably a reflection of their lack of pre-season so far, compared to most of the other players in the squad.

Eriksen came on just before the 70 minutes while Lisandro did not get onto the pitch at all.

Photo by Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images

Atletico offer an intense challenge

United’s pre-season tour was fairly gentle, although of course they came up against Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard last time out.

Atletico Madrid offered a far more intense challenge, with bookings all over the field and histrionics when Jan Oblak went down late in the first half.

That was predictable and it was a noticeable step up in tempo and competitiveness to get United ready for their first Premier League match next weekend.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Fred blots impressive performance

Fred has been playing as United’s deepest midfielder during pre-season, dropping in alongside the central defensive duo when trying to build up play.

He was impressive in both aspects of the game here, especially in the first half.

Fred covered plenty of ground and coped well with Atletico’s physical challenge but also showed plenty of quality on the ball.

This is a slightly new role for the Brazilian and the signs are he is adjusting well, but he then got himself sent off just minutes before full time.

That does not have any real ramifications, but it just puts a dampener on an otherwise impressive display.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

First glimpse of how Bruno and Eriksen dovetail

It might have been wondered how Ten Hag sees Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes fitting into the same team.

Here, Eriksen and Donny van de Beek came on at the same time and took up the number eight roles either side of anchorman Fred.

That meant Bruno moved over to the left of midfield, with Marcus Rashford moving inside to play as the centre-forward.

This perhaps offers an idea of how Ten Hag sees the pair lining up next season, although it will be intriguing to see what he does when the serious action begins.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

United lose unbeaten record

United went into this game having not lost a game in Ten Hag’s first pre-season in charge of the club.

It would have been a 100 per cent record if not for Calum Chambers’ stoppage time goal for Villa last time out in Perth.

But United tasted defeat for the first time here when Joao Felix – who scored in Madrid in the Champions League last season – netted a winner with just minutes remaining.

Results are not important at this stage, and there have been reasons for optimism for United across the summer.

Perhaps the draw and a loss have been good reality checks and reminders that there is plenty of hard work ahead.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.