Manchester United put on a dominant display against Lyon in Edinburgh and won 1-0 courtesy of a Donny van de Beek volley.
As expected, Erik ten Hag went with his stronger lineup in the first half. Three changes were made from the starting team in Oslo, with Matěj Kovář replacing Tom Heaton, Álvaro Fernández coming in for the injured Tyrell Malacia, and Antony returning in place of Omari Forson.
The second-half team continued this dominance, Kovar keeping his place. Marc Jurado impressed at right back, with Dan Gore and Van de Beek playing well in midfield. The Dutch midfielder scored an excellent volley to win the game for United.
There are three youth-team players two impressed in particular.
Hannibal Mejbri was one of United’s most impressive players against Leeds in Oslo and upped his performance level again at Murrayfield in an excellent first-half display.
His mix of technical quality, intensity out of possession and intelligence off the ball had Lyon struggling to cope with him, almost creating multiple goals.
One of the main purposes of pre-season is that younger players get the opportunity to play with the seniors and make an impression, and United’s midfield is likely to have space going into 2023/24. The Tunisian midfielder is staking a strong claim to fill that space so far.
An impressive ball-playing display with the second-half team in Oslo earned Kovář a starting spot with the seniors, and he did not look out of place. Erik ten Hag trusted him to play the full 90 minutes.
After a season of kicking long at every opportunity to gamble on second balls, it felt good to see Manchester United having a real foundation from which they could build out from the back and control games.
Kovář played many smart passes, particularly to Lisandro Martínez, and was brave in his passing. United have maybe a top three ball-playing goalkeeper in world football joining in the form of André Onana, and this display from Kovar with United’s first-choice centre-back pairing will only excite fans more.
Donny van de Beek’s finish for United’s only goal in Edinburgh was excellent, but how about that delivery from 18-year-old Daniel Gore?
With the ball bouncing, heading towards being out of play, last season’s U21 Player of the Year smashed a half-volley back into the box, finding its way perfectly into the path of his Dutch teammate. It was a pass that Paul Scholes would be proud of.
Throughout the second half as a whole, Gore shone. His technical quality and comfort playing under pressure were key to United’s dominance, and he showed himself to be a very comfortable player deeper.
Just 18 years of age, if United continue to develop him properly then he certainly has a future at the club. A loan move to the Championship could do wonders for the young midfielder.
Beyond the young guns, there were two more players who certainly stood out, and could be fighting for a place under Erik ten Hag’s guise next season.
Donny van de Beek
The timing of Donny van de Beek’s injury was unfortunate, as he was starting to find his feet in Ten Hag’s Manchester United side.
Now, six months on, he has finally returned to the Manchester United team and marked it with a winning goal against Lyon. The goal itself was marvellous, attacking the box just as well as he used to in Amsterdam before expertly volleying into the net. Van de Beek’s performance as a whole was good, he looked far more involved than he has previously for Manchester United and he played some clever passes.
There is a chance he remains at Manchester United this summer, with other midfield players likely on their way out. Now with Erik ten Hag really building the foundations to put his system in place, could we finally see the boy he loved so much at Ajax really start to thrive in a Manchester United shirt?
If you told Manchester United fans even three days ago that their centre-back signing for the summer would be Johnny Evans, they’d probably think you were playing some kind of prank on them. But when you think about it, it would actually be a sensible move – it’s a surprise, but a welcome one.
Evans is currently just here on a short-term contract, as he trains and builds up his fitness over the summer. But signing him for a year would make sense. Former club captain Harry Maguire looks like he may be on his way out, and as it stands is United’s fifth-choice centre-half. Eric Bailly is likely to leave too.
Evans would be free, would not command a high salary, brings a lot of experience and leadership to the dressing room, and played a role in the later years of the Sir Alex Ferguson era. With Kim Min-Jae now at Bayern Munich, United will not be signing a starting right centre-back this summer.
The plan is clearly for Varane and Martínez to continue together, with Victor Lindelöf backing up the Frenchman. Evans coming in for a year to offer some experience, and depth for cup games where key players need rotating, is not the worst transfer idea United have had.
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