Manchester United won 2-0 against Arsenal in their third pre-season friendly of the season with Bruno Fernandes scoring in his first game as club captain.
The Portuguese playmaker was announced as the man to take over the armband from Harry Maguire earlier this week and produced a display worthy of the position.
Under Erik ten Hag, the Reds have been steadily improving their game. They will hope to improve upon their third placed finish in the Premier League last term with new signings Andre Onana and Mason Mount already in the building.
Much is said about Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign. Some too negative, some too positive; however, one thing that was stark during the time the Norwegian was at the helm was the way in which the team would set up in attacks.
They were less likely to be more rigid in shape and would instead be very fluid. This would either lead to United producing extremely exciting football or some lacklustre performances.
One thing that many hoped Ten Hag would bring to the team is a sounder sense of structure when the team would be in possession.
Slowly but surely under the new manager we’ve seen the team be much better in this respect. With regular patterns and rotations which still keep the team shape that Ten Hag wants.
This all worked out in Bruno’s opening goal against The Gunners. Tom Heaton started with the ball and waited to assess his options before sending a perfect launched pass to Kobbie Mainoo – he was sprinting down the right wing. Bruno had dropped deeper to cover his position and Antony had moved inside to occupy the position that the Portuguese then vacated.
Bruno then received the ball from his 18-year-old teammate with a deeper run that was not followed by Kai Havertz, who was not marking Bruno for much of the game but was here because of the positional rotations, and then the midfielder let out a powerful shot towards goal that should’ve really been saved by Aaron Ramsdale.
Nevertheless, United opened the scoring and it was mainly down to two things; the players’ rotations, but also ensuring that the shape was not abandoned. This was not the only instance of success with these two principles during the game. United found a lot of joy with Mainoo dropping into right-back with Aaron Wan-Bissaka progressing forward.
Fernandes, speaking after the game to club media, highlighted these two aspects during the build-up to his goal. “I was speaking with Tom [Heaton], there was a lot of space in behind of them. The rotation between me, Mason [Mount] and Kobbie was good,” he began.
“And we found ourselves in different positions but at the same time every position was occupied and it was good to create the goal.”
Ten Hag will be happy with how the team worked in that particular instance but will undoubtedly want to improve further. His attention to detail was highlighted by his new captain as Bruno stressed the importance of getting even better this coming term.
“We know how the manager is, he takes care of all details,” added United’s no.8. “It’s pretty tough to train with him but this is the result and we have to understand that it will be tough, a lot of training and a lot of work to do, but this is our second season so we have to get better and better.”
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