Down The Wings

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Match Report: Manchester United 4-0 Liverpool

BANGKOK, THAILAND – JULY 12: Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United and Erik Ten Hag the manager / head coach of Manchester United holding the winners The Match Bangkok Century Cup 2022 trophy during the preseason friendly match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Rajamangala Stadium on July 12, 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

New manager Erik Ten Hag could not have asked for a better start to his Manchester United era, with the Red Devils running out 4-0 winners over fierce rivals Liverpool in the first match of the pre-season campaign.

How did United set up?

Although a whole host of players have been linked to United so far in the transfer window, Tyrell Malacia was the only new signing in the squad for the trip to Bangkok.

Reds fans recently learnt that Harry Maguire is to retain the captaincy ahead of 2022/23, but the Englishman was ruled out prior to the game with a small knock. Also absent was Cristiano Ronaldo, with the forward currently absent from the squad due to personal family reasons.

Ten Hag opted to utilise two different teams in the first half and second half as he looks to assess the wider squad.

First half lineup:

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Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Diogo Dalot (RB), Victor Lindelöf (CB), Raphael Varane (CB), Luke Shaw (LB), Scott McTominay (CM), Fred (CM), Bruno Fernandes (CAM) Jadon Sancho (RW), Marcus Rashford (LW), Anthony Martial (ST).

Subs: Tom Heaton, Ethan Laird, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Tyrell Malacia, Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal, Donny van de Beek, Hannibal Mejbri, Facundo Pellistri, Amad Diallo, Tahith Chong, Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony Elanga.

Second half lineup:

Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB), Eric Bailly (CB), Alex Telles (CB), Tyrell Malacia (LB), Charlie Savage (CM), Zidane Iqbal (CM), Donny van de Beek (CAM), Facundo Pellistri (RW), Anthony Elanga (LW), Amad Diallo (ST).

Subs: Tom Heaton, Ethan Laird, Tahith Chong, Hannibal Mejbri, Alejandro Garnacho.

How it went down

First half

De Gea was called into action in the opening minutes, with the Spanish shot-stopper clearing Isaac Mabaya’s drilled cross with an outstretched leg.

Fred and Sancho found themselves through against just the one Liverpool defender following Fernandes’ clever footwork, but Fred left fans frustrated after playing a poor ball that was easily intercepted in the 5th minute.

Luis Diaz called De Gea into action once more with a curling effort from the left flank, but the 31-year-old parried the ball away with relative ease.

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The opening goal came in the 13th minute through Sancho when captain Fernandes whipped a ball into Martial’s path from the right-hand side, with a feeble clearance setting Sancho up to drill the ball beyond Allison and into the far corner from close range. It was a tidy finish for the first goal of the Ten Hag reign.

The Merseyside club looked destined to equalise not long afterwards when Liverpool’s four attackers outnumbered United’s two defenders, but a scrappy sequence of play saw both Fabio Carvalho and Diaz hit the post, with the latter completely missing the ball from close range as the goal gaped.

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The Reds doubled their lead on the half-hour mark when Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos brought some Brazilian samba to the show; following Martial and Sancho’s sequence of play breaking down in the area, the ball was poked out to Fred around 22 yards out, who dinked the ball over the stranded goalkeeper effortlessly on his weaker right foot and into the net.

The lead was tripled just three minutes later when Martial showed great perseverance to provoke a Liverpool defensive error, with the Frenchman carrying the ball down the right flank and lifting it over Allison with ease in front of a 50,000 crowd at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Dalot hit the woodwork from a tight angle in the 36th minute before Liverpool made ten changes not long after as the first half drew to a close.

Second half

There were ten changes at half-time for the leading side, with the only player retaining their spot in the side being De Gea between the sticks. The no.1 took the armband in the absence of Fernandes, who was replaced by returning loanee van de Beek in attacking midfield.

The second half was in stark contrast to the first from a United perspective, with Liverpool dominating the ball and United struggling to retain possession and create chances whatsoever. This was understandable, however, with eleven players on the pitch who were not used to playing with each other; some were experienced like Bailly and Telles, some were inexperienced like Savage and Iqbal, some were returning from loan like Pellistri and Diallo, and there was a debutant in Malacia at left-back.

Jurgen Klopp brought on the big guns in the 65th minute as United seemed comfortable holding out their lead. The likes of Darwin Nunez and Mohammed Salah looked set to poise a threat to the second-string United side, but the threat was kept at a minimum.

De Gea made way for Heaton not long afterwards, with the former not moving as freely as he would have liked. Heaton was sent straight into the action as Nunez fired a volley straight at him from a tight angle not long after his introduction.

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The 77th minute saw some of the best football of the afternoon as Pellistri added United’s fourth of the evening. Bailly intercepted in the defence to stop the Liverpool attack, and the Ivorian went on to carry the ball beyond Thiago with a tidy step-over in the midfield. The makeshift captain then threaded through Pellistri who played a delayed one-two with Diallo on the right wing, escaping the sight of Virgil Van Dijk and poking home in the centre of the area. Perhaps it was harsh not to square it to Bailly, who had run the length of the pitch after impressively starting the move.

Salah hit the left post with a teasing curling effort in the 89th minute, but that was as close as the senior Liverpool players got to earning a consolation strike, with Nunez blazing the rebound over the bar.

Final score: Manchester United 4-0 Liverpool (Sancho 12’, Fred 30’, Martial 33’, Pellistri 76’)

Man of the match

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Considering there were two teams out in either half, it seems fair to have a man of the match for each.

In the first half, Sancho looked livelier than anyone on the pitch for large portions of the half. The Englishman scored a tidy goal with an accurate, drilled strike to put his side in front, and the 22-year-old looked composed in possession and energetic in the press as the players looked to implement Ten Hag’s style of play.

In the second half, Bailly was superb against a more senior Liverpool side. The 28-year-old has been linked with a move away from the club of late, yet the defender led by example to the mismatched second-half team, winning a whole host of duels and interceptions, as well as making a lot of clearances. He was the star man in the making of the fourth goal, too, after running the length of the field in Thailand.

The bigger picture

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As fans across the world have been quick to stress, the result is not one to get carried away with; the Liverpool personnel that was on the pitch in the first half was not reflective of the personnel that fans will see at Old Trafford on August 22nd in the Premier League. The game was a pre-season friendly, after all.

Although, there is a whole load of positives to take from the result and the performance. Ten Hag looked lively on the touchline, with the proactive Dutchman shouting orders from the first minute to the last as he looked to see his style of play implemented. Malacia made a solid showing on his debut, with youngsters Savage and Iqbal showing maturity beyond their years against Champions League and World Cup winners in the second half. Savage in particular was superb at just 18-years-old.

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There are big seasons ahead for the likes of Sancho and Martial, with both the forwards bagging on their first appearance of 2022/23, and their confidence should be done the world of good. Another player who faces a big campaign is Pellistri, with the Uruguayan on the scoresheet against one of the world’s best defenders and goalkeepers in Van Dijk and Allison.

And who can forget the emphatic coup of the Bangkok Centenary Cup? It was the first time fans have seen the team lift a trophy since 2016/17, but you would like to think that Ten Hag will lead United on to win bigger and better things during his time in charge.

One game, four goals scored, one trophy lifted and one bitter rival thumped. Not bad for the new boss in his first game in charge!

Next up for Erik Ten Hag and Manchester United is Melbourne Victory, taking place this coming Friday, 15th July. The game will kick-off at 11:05 (BST) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.

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