Manchester United’s final pre-season fixture of the summer ended in a 1-1 draw to Athletic Bilbao in Dublin, Ireland.
The fixture handed an opportunity to those outside the first team, and also to get more minutes into as many legs as possible ahead of what is going to be a long and hard season for the club.
The fixture was a little flat, and it was Nico Williams who opened the scoring, sending Bilbao into the lead at around 30 minutes.
Bilbao were handed a red card with 15 minutes to play and the Red Devils dominated proceedings from then onwards, and it took right until the final seconds for Facundo Pellistri to guide in an equaliser.
Here are five talking points from the game.
#1 – A couple of positions are still up for grabs
“For next week there are still one or two positions with considerations of who will start,” were the words of Ten Hag ahead of kick-off.
These two positions are pretty obvious: Who will start at right-back, and who will start at striker?
With Dalot starting against Lens, Wan-Bissaka did not play well enough to warrant a starting place against Wolves, and after Rashford’s double on Saturday combined with a lack of goals from the front line against Bilbao, it is safe to assume that the English forward will start up front next Monday.
#2 – Maguire continues to make errors
Bilbao’s first goal came with Maguire under pressure, making another wayward pass and losing the ball.
With a similar error occurring earlier in pre-season against Borussia Dortmund, Onana was able to save Maguire’s graces on that occasion, but against Bilbao Heaton was not able to do the same.
Maguire has already lost his place and his captaincy in the last 12 months, and with the England defender receiving bids to play elsewhere, it may be time for him to cut his losses.
It should be noted, though, that he did very well for United’s equaliser at the death, nodding the ball down to Pellistri.
#3 – Pellistri continues to shine
Facundo Pellistri has impressed this pre-season with his direct and brave performances.
The right-wing position is not quite nailed down, with Jadon Sancho and Antony both fighting for a place – but Pellistri could throw his hat in the mix.
He has been linked with a move away on loan, although Ten Hag has been singing his praises recently.
It was his finish that secured United a last-minute equaliser in Ireland, which will only do wonders for his position in the squad.
#4 – Van de Beek may have played his final minutes
Donny van de Beek’s Manchester United career has not had the trajectory that many had hoped for when he signed for a fee of £34 million from Ajax three seasons ago.
When Ten Hag joined United last summer, it was posed that Van de Beek’s career was set to take an upswing – but after Bruno Fernandes’ undroppable importance and a five-month injury, this was not to be the case.
The Dutch midfielder has been linked with a move away from the club this summer, with Real Sociedad entering into negotiations with both the player and United.
Van de Beek was substituted at half-time in favour of Hannibal – with the Premier League season kicking off at Old Trafford on Monday evening, Van de Beek might have just played his final minutes in a United shirt.
#5 – The minutes are more important than the result
There has been a lot of fuss around United’s pre-season tour, with a vocal minority overanalysing many moments across the last few weeks – but realistically, the scorelines do not matter.
“I think we are in the right direction,” said Ten Hag ahead of the tie. “Yes of course the games are different levels, but I think all over we are in the right direction. We are in a good place.”
United lost three, drew one, and won four of their eight pre-season fixtures, but beyond fixing the poor individual errors, Ten Hag will likely not be overly fussed about the results.
The games have been and will be used to improve the players, try new tactics, and blood the new signings into the team ahead of the start of the season in eight days; this is what is important.
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