Six things we learned from Manchester United 2-2 Aston Villa
Manchester United have now finished their fourth game of pre-season 2022, against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa in Perth.
Here is a look at six things we learned from the 2-2 draw…
Van de Beek gets his big chance
Scott McTominay trained before this game but was not fit enough to be part of the squad for the final game of the tour.
As expected, that gave Donny van de Beek an opportunity to start for the first time during pre-season.
We wrote earlier this week that the Dutchman needed more minutes with United’s best players on the pitch to show Erik ten Hag what he can do.
He got that here, but it was a quiet display, especially in the first half, despite the fact that United played well overall and were dominant.
Van de Beek was replaced amid a flurry of substitutions on 66 minutes, leaving him to reflect on what was potentially a missed opportunity.
Sancho shining more and more
Jadon Sancho picked up a goal and an assist before half-time, as he continued his impressive pre-season, where he has got better as it has gone along.
He took his volleyed opener clinically after a fantastic team move of simple pass and move football, finishing a cross from Luke Shaw.
Then, he laid on Marcus Rashford, who scuffed his shot but it still found its way into the net to make it 2-0 via Matty Cash.
Sancho is looking like the answer to the conundrum on the right of United’s midfield, and a proper pre-season seems to have done wonders for him.
At 2-1, he countered well and fizzed across a centre which was nearly turned in for a second Villa own goal of the game, only for Robin Olsen to save.
United travel around the world to find Manchester weather
The game was in doubt pre-kick off because of the amount of rain which had fallen on the pitch in Perth and needed to be cleared off the grass.
United did well in the first half to construct passing moves on a pitch which kept cutting off in the torrential downpour which likely reminded the players of Manchester.
It was not the best pitch in terms of being heavy on the players’ legs while Ten Hag tries to build up their minutes and it got worse as the game went along.
That meant it was not an ideal runout, but it was a test for United’s players, especially as Villa came out much improved in the second half.
United fail to withstand Villa comeback
The second half was United’s toughest test of pre-season as Villa were sent out with a flea in their ear from United’s bitter rival Gerrard.
Leon Bailey scored soon after the interval before David de Gea flapped at a cross and Harry Maguire had to produce a great block to prevent the Jamaica international making it 2-2.
Villa had the better of the second half, but United withstood the pressure well, even with a makeshift team for the final 20 minutes or so on a worsening surface.
It will not always be plain sailing and it was good for this new-look United to get a taste of not being the ones in control of the game.
Unfortunately, United were not able to hold out and their 100 per cent pre-season record disappeared when Calum Chambers headed home in stoppage time, and that will give Ten Hag plenty to consider.
Garner gets first pre-season chance to shine
One of the players who came on when Van de Beek went off was James Garner, who got his first chance to impress during pre-season.
This could have been a huge summer for the Englishman amid United’s failure to – so far – sign a new central midfielder but injury has held him back.
Belatedly, he got an opportunity to shine here, and wasted no time getting his foot on the ball and putting himself around.
Garner will hope for a start in one of next weekend’s two friendlies and if Frenkie de Jong does not end up coming, he could be the big winner.
Another new role for Telles
When Axel Tuanzebe left the tour injured and Will Fish was not there yet, Ten Hag redeployed Alex Telles as a left-sided central defender this summer.
When he made changes here, Telles was put into the anchorman role at the back of midfield, which was another new position for the Brazilian.
United have four left-backs now after the arrival of Tyrell Malacia, which means that some players may need to reinvent themselves.
Telles seems to be the main player that applies to, although Ten Hag could just as easily be sending a message to the club hierarchy along the lines of ‘look what I have to work with’.
The Brazilian has done fairly well during pre-season, adjusting to different positions within makeshift teams, but as it stands, he is nobody’s idea of United’s new elite holding midfielder.
The changes also saw Hannibal play as a false nine, which is something Ten Hag may also give consideration to given the Cristiano Ronaldo situation and lack of impending new attacking recruits.