Manchester United faced off against Spanish opposition Atletico Madrid at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo, as Erik ten Hag looked to extend his unbeaten run in pre-season.
With just a week remaining before the start of the new campaign, Ten Hag fielded a strong team that many assume will start against Brighton in United’s opening match of the 2022/2023 season.
Former Los Colchoneros player David de Gea started yet again between the sticks. United skipper Harry Maguire was slotted in alongside Swedish international Victor Lindelof, as a center-back pairing. Diogo Dalot, who has seemingly cemented his place in the starting eleven, and new signing Tyrell Malacia played in the wing-back positions
Scott McTominay and Fred formed the midfield pivot, with Portuguese maestro Bruno Fernandes ahead of them. Anthony Martial led the line against Spanish opposition, with academy graduates Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga on either side of him on the wings.
The Red Devils started in a similar fashion, as they have throughout pre-season, with lots of possession, positional interchange, winning the ball back quickly, and creating a multitude of chances against a defensively stubborn Diego Simeone side.
United came close in the early stages with a brilliant Martial run behind the opposition defense to catch a Dalot ball, but the Frenchman who has been in excellent form on United’s tour misjudged his dink, sending the ball a few yards over the bar. Lindelof threatened again from a set-piece, connecting with Malacia’s whipped corner in the seventh minute, but failed to guide the ball home.
Martial proved to be a thorn in the side of the Spanish team’s defense, which could not deal with the number nine’s quick and tricky feet. As many United fans would have expected against a Simeone side, there were plenty of robust aerial challenges and cynical fouls that almost culminated in a brawl after McTominay clattered into the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper. The first 45 minutes ended in a goalless stalemate but was certainly not a dull affair.
United’s standout performers of the first half were Rashford, who seems to have rediscovered his best form, and Malacia. The pair who are building a formidable connection looked impressive on the left flank, something that will undoubtedly impress the boss.
The manager did not make any changes in the second half. The first half went on in pretty much the same manner as the opening 45. McTominay, who was already on a yellow and had his collar up in true Eric Cantona fashion was getting stuck in, rising up to the physical challenge presented by Simeone’s men.
United fans would have been scared after Martial went down just a minute shy of the hour mark after a challenge from Marcos Llorente that left the 26-year-old writhing on the floor. Luckily, he was soon back on his feet. Atletico Madrid made a raft of personnel changes bringing on the likes of Morata, Rodrigo de Paul, Felix, Griezmann, and Koke.
United’s first changes saw new signing Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek come on in place of Martial and Mctominay. The Dane wasted no time in reminding fans what he is capable of with his range of passing and crossing evident early on. Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri came on in the 76th minute for Elanga who never really had any impact in the game.
The deadlock was broken in the dying minutes of the game, with Joao Felix grabbing a goal for the Spanish outfit in one of the rare chances they created. Minutes later Fred was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence after a foul play on Morata.
With Felix clinching the win for Atletico Madrid late in the match, the game ended in defeat as Ten Hag suffered his first loss in the United dugout.