ARTICLES Match Reports Opinion

A Review of Manchester United’s 2021/22 pre-season

27 days ago, I published an article titled “What do Manchester United have in store for the 2021/22 pre-season?”. Pretty much, it discussed what Manchester United had in store for the 2021/22 pre season. Long story short, United had five games against a mix of Championship and Premier League opposition planned, as well as a training camp in Scotland. Here’s how it went down:

July 18th – Derby County (A)

Manchester United’s first game back after the 2021 Europa League final was never going to be a grand spectacle, however two goals from young wingers Tahith Chong and Facundo Pellistri secured a 2-1 victory and therefore first win in pre season for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men. At the start of the match, Derby definitely seemed the more lively of the two sides, coming out of their blocks fast, displaying real threat from the flanks.

Chong had a chance in the early stages of the game, however he couldn’t convert. Not knocked of confidence though, he soon scored in the 16th minute by stealing the ball off Derby midfielder Max Bird and slotting the ball home second time lucky after his initial chip shot was saved. Despite going 1-0 down, Derby County kept pushing, and this push accumulated in a brilliant chance for Tom Lawrence set up by former youth academy player Ravel Morrison, however the Welshman could not direct the ball on target and his header flew wide.

Solskjær made nine changes for the second half, keeping only centre-back pairing Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi on the field, and yet again Derby looked to start the half quickly, and not long after the restart striker Colin Kazim-Richards missed a great chance to pull the Rams back level. What came next was certainly the most impressive part of the game, as Pellistri, after being fed through by Shola Shoretire, rounded the keeper with a brilliant body feint and put United two goals up. Derby pulled one back via Kazim-Richards, however it was not enough as the match ended in a 2-1 victory for The Red Devils.

In the grand scheme of things, this game felt no more important than a kick about. Most United players on the field got 45 minutes of professional football back in their legs, and a couple of goals created by the young lads will never do any harm. Solskjær mentioned that pre-season would also be used as a way of showcasing the academy/young player talent we have on offer for the loan market, and as Chong and Pellistri have both secured loan deals to Birmingham City and Alaves respectively, as well as Tuanzebe going back on loan to Aston Villa and more lined up for further loans, you cannot say this angle taken by Ole wasn’t a success.

Read our full match report on the game here.

July 24th – Queens Park Rangers (A)

After an initial win at Pride Park, United next travelled to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium to play QPR. This match was not a pretty one. United started off very well, with the revitalised Jesse Lingard, who scored in the opening two minutes. The assist coming from Facundo Pellistri (a very nice first-time lay off) showed a definite increase in match sharpness from the Uruguayan, but this was definitely not the case for the rest of the side.

Just four minutes later, Charlie Austin was left completely free in the six-yard box to head home a cross for the equaliser. The match then fazed in to a pretty even match up with Mason Greenwood being United’s most potent threat, however neither side could break the deadlock going in to half time.

In the second half, United had another few chances, two coming at the feet off substitute Anthony Elanga, however one was collected by the keeper and the other was (wrongly) flagged as offside after he had the ball in the back of the net. Almost immediately after, QPR took the lead. Lyndon Dykes scored, and minutes later Moses Odubajo scored a wonder goal from 20-ish yards.

Elanga had a chance to pull one back, however failure to do so led to a break for QPR who hammered home their fourth of the match. Elanga did pull one back towards the end (assisted by Shoretire), however it was a little too late to have any real impact and United lost 4-2.

In the end, this match came as a little bit of a shock for both players and fans, but as always, it doesn’t matter if you lose during pre-season. The main positives to take from the match were the individual performances from Greenwood, Pellistri, Shoretire and Elanga, who all were really taking their chances at centre stage and showing both Solskjær and the fans what they were made of.

Read our full match report on the game here.

July 28th – Brentford (H)

After two matches against Championship sides, United turned to face Premier League opposition in the shape of newly promoted Brentford. After winning one and losing one, it felt only right for Manchester United to draw their third game of pre-season. With 30,000 fans back at Old Trafford as witnesses, the ever-impressive Elanga scored a lovely scissor kick volley to opening the scoring for United, only for Shandon Baptiste to equalise in spectacular for Brentford, making the sides equal at half time.

United had more sustained and dominant attacks against Brentford, which indicated a marked improvement from the opening two pre-season matches. In the second half, which saw the return of Diogo Dalot in to Manchester red, we saw what is my (and probably many others) pick for Moment of pre-season, a simply stunning volley from Andreas Pereira. After the ball was cleared in to the air by Brentford following a shot from Lingard, Andreas whacked an unbelievable volley from 25-yards first time straight in to the top corner, pinging off the underside of the crossbar on it’s way win. Sweet, sweet stuff.

Solskjær continued to make changes, bringing the likes of Daniel James and Donny van de Beek on for half an hour, but that didn’t stop Brentford from grabbing an equaliser, as Dalot was caught out by Bryan Mbeumo, who subsequently scored Brentford’s second of the game.

This draw against Brentford was another good workout for the United players and provided good entertainment for the fans, who witnessed four great goals. It was a first return to Old Trafford for many supporters since United trumped Manchester City mid-way through the 2019/20 season. There was one more tuning game to go…

Read our full match report on the game here.

August 7th – Everton (H)

With a Coronavirus scare in the United camp, The Reds were forced to cancel their penultimate pre-season fixture against Preston North End. This meant that many United players would only get a single match to warm up for the Premier League opener, however they managed to end the pre-season in style nonetheless.

A four goal match made it an exciting affair for the 55,000 allowed in Old Trafford, and it was even better considering all of them went in the Everton goal. Mason Greenwood, Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot were all on the scoresheet in a dominant performance from the hosts.

It was a return to action for many United men, including Fernandes and Maguire who both found themselves putting the ball in the back of the net. Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Victor Lindelöf, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay were the other names returning to action.

While Greenwood’s opening goal might’ve been due to defensive errors on Everton’s part, you could not say the same for either of Maguire or Fernandes’ efforts, both of which found the top corners – Maguire’s being a header from a corner and Bruno’s being a spectacular free-kick from 25-yards out. Dalot also topped off an impressive cameo with a headed goal which looped over the top of Asmir Begović in the last minute of the match.

A 4-0 victory was a great way to end the pre-season and gives United some confidence ahead of their encounter with Leeds at Old Trafford on Saturday. While new additions Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Varane didn’t get to have a pre-season with the side, and many first-teamers didn’t have much game-time, United are still very much more prepared for the season than they were last year.

Read our full match report here.

The season is upon us

After two wins, a draw and a loss in 2021/22 pre-season, United are now prepared for the Premier League season ahead of them. After having almost no pre-season last year, Solskjær will be appreciative of the warm up this time around, even it is is still not ideal.

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