Manchester United’s friendly match with Preston North End this Saturday has been cancelled.

United confirmed the club took the decision to pull out of the match, citing positive Covid tests.

United did not state how many, and whether the tests relate to players or staff, or both.

The club statement read: “Following routine testing of the first-team training group today (Thursday), we have identified a small number of suspected positive cases. This has led to those people isolating, pending further tests.

“As a precautionary measure based on COVID protocols, we have taken the difficult decision that we will not now be able to play the friendly match against Preston North End this Saturday.”

Manchester United v Brentford - Pre-season Friendly
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

What impact will this have?

United were originally due to have four friendlies, before the Preston match was added later, upping the number to five. Now we are back to four.

The intention of the extra friendly was to help United’s players who are returning late for pre-season.

Donny van de Beek was one of the players in line to start this game, along with Diogo Dalot, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the club website.

Bruno Fernandes was also likely to make his first appearance of the pre-season, most likely from the bench.

The match cancellation denies young players like James Garner and Anthony Elanga an additional chance to stake a claim for a first team squad place this season.

This leaves just one more pre-season game before the season proper begins.

That will take place at home to Everton at 12.45pm on August 7. United are likely to have first team starters back, including a potential start for Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire, and possibly Raphael Varane.

The problem United face, unrelated to the Preston cancellation, is that this leaves just one match to get up to speed before the season begins against Leeds on the 14th. This quite conclusively proved to be insufficient last season.

So there could be a mixed line-up against Leeds, with players like Jesse Lingard playing a role, because he has had extra game time to build his fitness.

It is possible United look to arrange a friendly for early next week, but this may depend on how serious the Covid situation turns out to be. Once again, despite the extra time this summer, it is turning out to be a challenging pre-season for United.

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