Manchester United’s pre-season campaign kicked off on Wednesday with a friendly against Leeds United in Oslo, Norway and it will continue with Man United set to face French side Olympique Lyon in Scotland next week.
The Red Devils travelled to Norway with a youthful squad, with the majority squad consisting of Academy players apart from a few seniors. The regulars are still enjoying their holidays, but are scheduled to be back at Carrington soon. New signing Mason Mount played his first 45 minutes in a Man United shirt since signing from Chelsea, and fans were satisfied with his lively display. The Red Devils ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in the end, thanks to impressive strikes in the second half from Academy graduates Noam Emeran and Joe Hugill.
Manchester United showed the riches of their famed youth setup on Wednesday, with the second-half team consisting fully of players from the Academy. They were up to the task, playing in front of a big crowd and did not shy away from putting their stamp. Noam Emeran ended the game with a goal and assist, and has been hailed by many as the next star to emerge out of Carrington.
Isak Hansen-Aaroen and Hannibal Mjebri were equally impressive in their midfield roles, with the former pulling the strings and creating chances while the latter alongside Kobbie Mainoo was the most influential player in the first half. Many of the youngsters have staked their claim for a place in the squad heading to the US for the rest of the pre-season, and may feature in the upcoming season if they can impress the manager.
Olympique Lyon’s preseason started off with a win over Dutch third-division side De Treffers on Friday in Netherlands in front of a crowd of around 4000 people. The first half between the two ended goalless, despite Lyon starting off with a strong side. First-team stars like Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso got minutes in their legs, as they gear up for another grueling season of football.
Lyon manager Laurent Blanc and his next opponent Man United are familiar with each other, with Blanc having played for the Red Devils from 2001 to 2003. The Frenchman arrived at Old Trafford at the age of 35 and ended his football career with United, having won the league title with them. His side are now gunning for a top-four finish this season, having missed out on European qualification for the last two seasons.
Lyon finished seventh last season, and the pressure is on Blanc now to deliver a European spot this season. The French side have already signed Clinton Mata and Skelly Alvero in a bid to strengthen their squad, with more arrivals as well as departures expected before the start of the season.
WHEN & WHERE?
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Date: Saturday, 19th July 2023.
Time: 2.00 pm BST
Several of Manchester United’s first-team players, who were involved in international fixtures over the break, are expected at Carrington on Saturday the 15th, but are not expected to travel to Scotland for the friendly. While Man United continue their pursuit of goalkeeper Andre Onana, the deal has not been finalized yet and the squad should remain the same, with the youth players getting some precious minutes under their belts.
Lisandro Martinez returned to action for the first time since his season-ending injury in mid-April, and did not seem out of place at all, playing with the same intensity and fire that the United faithful have come to love him for. He will be expected to partner Varane in Ten Hag may make some changes to the lineups with players like Matej Kovar, Isak Hansen-Aaroen, Noam Emeran and Joe Hugill, who starred against Leeds could be set to start the game.
Lyon unlike United did not have many stars on international duty and Laurent Blanc will have most of his squad available to him. Central defender Dejan Lovren was substituted with an injury within the first 10 minutes of their friendly on Friday and it remains to see how bad his injury is.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
The 18-year-old Norwegian midfielder has been highly rated by his youth coaches and his reputation received a further boost last week when Erik ten Hag admitted he was left impressed by his display against Leeds United. Playing in front of his home crowd on Wednesday, Hansen-Aaroen was named in the second half lineup and he took his opportunity to shine. He provided Noam Emeran with an assist for the first goal, and was very influential in the midfield. His talent on the ball and vision for passing was there for all to see including his manager who commended his skills.
However, ten Hag refused to confirm if he would be a part of the US tour, and if the youngster puts up a similar display against Lyon, then it will be hard for the gaffer to overlook the Norwegian.
Another one of United’s midfield talents, Mainoo has all the makings of a future star. Against Leeds, he was deployed alongside Hannibal Mjebri in a double pivot, and Mainoo had the look of an experienced star playing for the umpteenth time. He was very comfortable on the ball and his passing and positioning were a joy to watch. It is almost rare for a midfielder to possess both physical and technical prowess at such a young age, but the 18-year-old has shown that he has both, which makes him one of the most exciting talents. Similar to Hansen-Aaroen, his place in the tour is not confirmed, but all signs indicate that he will be included on the plane to USA.
Manchester United predicted lineup: Matej Kovar; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Alvaro Fernandez; Kobbie Mainoo, Hannibal Mjebri; Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Noam Emeran; Joe Hugill.
Olympique Lyon predicted lineup: Anthony Lopes; Clinton Mata, Sinaly Diomande, Mamadou Sarr, Achraf Laziri; Johann Lepenant, Corentin Tolisso; Tino Kadewere, Mohamed El-Arouch, Jeffinho; Alexandre Lacazette.