Home ยป Three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat against Real Madrid

Three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat against Real Madrid

by Derick Kinoti


Manchester United faced off against Real Madrid at the NRG Stadium in Houston as part of the club’s pre-season campaign in the early hours of Thursday morning BST.

Erik ten Hag named a strong starting XI against the Spanish giants. Andre Onana was handed his United debut and had a defensive quartet of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw ahead of him.

In midfield, Ten Hag went for Casemiro, Kobbie Mainoo and Mason Mount.

Marcus Rashford started upfront with Alejandro Garnacho and Bruno Fernandes on either wing.

Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat vs. Real Madrid.

Kobbie Mainoo injury setback

Alongside Onana’s unofficial bow in front of the United fans, much of the hype heading into the game was centred around Mainoo being in the starting XI.

The youngster has produced very impressive displays on tour and most supporters were excited to see him line up alongside the senior players against tough opponents.

Ten Hag himself has repeatedly waxed lyrical about Mainoo and his high potential if well-nurtured and developed.

However, just three minutes into the match, the 18-year-old sustained an injury and had to be taken off the pitch while limping and in visible pain.

A tackle by Casemiro on Rodrygo sent the Brazilian forward tumbling to the ground and in the process, fell squarely on Mainoo’s knee.

Medics rushed onto the pitch to offer treatment but it was quite clear the midfielder could not carry on.

A devastated Mainoo was consoled by Ten Hag on the touchline. To make things worse for United, Real Madrid broke the deadlock just two minutes later while they were reduced to 10 men, courtesy of Jude Bellingham, who chipped the ball over Onana.

Undoubtedly, everyone will be waiting with bated breath to find out the extent of Mainoo’s injury. Hopefully, it is nothing serious and he gets back to action in no time.

In the unfortunate scenario that he is laid off, such a setback would be a massive blow to the academy graduate who was rapidly making a name for himself as the pre-season’s breakout star.

Onana a huge game-changer for United

Certainly, most eyes both in the stadium and those watching at home were trained on Onana and the shot-stopper did not disappoint.

The Cameroonian showed exactly why Ten Hag and United pushed hard to sign him.

Onana’s ability on the ball was instrumental in how the Red Devils played out from the back and built play. A fantastic distributor, he hardly misplaced a pass and found his intended targets with almost every attempt.

His willingness to come out of his line and participate in proceedings helped his teammates push high and in instances, constrict Real Madrid to their own half.

If there were any doubts about the 27-year-old’s saving, these concerns were definitively put to bed. A number of crucial saves at certain points of the match were vital in keeping United in the game. A notable one came in the first half when he got a strong left hand on a powerful strike from Vinicius Jr that seemed destined to fly into the back of the net.

He made an equally significant intervention during the second period when he used his feet to keep out a shot from Joselu.

His cross-claiming and commanding of the box were also impeccable to say the least.

It’s evident that Onana’s input and what he injects into the team will be crucial in raising performance levels at the club.

Still plenty of work to be done before the new season

United’s defeat at the hands of Los Blancos should serve as a timely reminder that there is still much to be done on the training ground before the Premier League season kicks off in slightly less than three weeks.

If anyone harboured illusions of Ten Hag’s men being the complete article, a relatively mixed performance at the NRG Stadium should be enough proof that there is room for improvement.

The 20-time English champions could have done better in controlling possession and fashioning more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities.

The passing was also a bit sloppy, which is undoubtedly an aspect of play Ten Hag will be keen to address.

The United boss like a number of fans, will be looking out for a more rounded, spirited and inspired display when they come up against Borussia Dortmund on Monday.

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