Manchester United started off the 2019 International Champions Cup with a win over Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri were a bit short handed, as they have yet to replace the outgoing talents of Radja Nainngolan and Mauro Icardi, but Antonio Conte’s men still put up a typical Conte defensive wall to keep United at bay. Samir Handanovic and co. held on for most of the match, but United’s enterprising attack managed to break through in the second half.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match.
Mason Greenwood is competing for the first team
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wasn’t lying, the kid is ready to play.
Mason Greenwood, United’s 17-year old wonder kid, has continued to impress on this preseason tour, and this time against some top European competition. Greenwood scored the game’s only goal, a brilliantly taken rebound effort through a crowd of defenders, which fooled Joao Mario in particular.
What a finish from 17-year-old Mason Greenwood! pic.twitter.com/tiPcr6mS03— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 20, 2019
Greenwood is relatively untested in competitive first team football, but he’s shown he’s not lacking in ability or confidence. He doesn’t seem nearly as raw as some of the other youngsters in the squad, and seems like a legitimate option to start on opening day against Chelsea.
Solskjaer doesn’t have his first-choice starting XI yet
Solskjaer continued to mix up the rotations in this match, and started what seemed to be a rough draft first-choice XI today:
For the most part United continued the preseason trend of pressing high and attacking, despite Inter being a clear level above Perth or Leeds, but Conte’s bus put up some serious resistance. When United did manage to get through on goal, Handanovic proved why he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Rashford and Martial swapped their regular positions, leading to a somewhat confusing reunion, and Daniel James look very much like a Championship player. Jesse Lingard had another underwhelming performance at no. 10, and Matic looked in midseason form with his mis-placed passes and scrambling recovery.
It is preseason, and chemistry issues will ideally be hammered out, but what is clear is that Solskjaer is not done working on his team. He is taking advantage of the time he has to figure out what works and what doesn’t, a promising sign, but a bit worrying considering some of what doesn’t work may need to be fixed by Ed Woodward in the transfer market (a notoriously unreliable option). He seems set on a 4-2-3-1 formation, he just needs the right pieces to fit the puzzle.
Whether or not he stays, Pogba isn’t going to force anything
The Paul Pogba transfer saga has been a dominant headline in Manchester United news this summer following the reveal of his desire for a “new challenge.” It has been a scary time for United supporters, who are unsure of the stability of a midfield that could potentially lose it’s two best players in one summer. However, Solskjaer, through words, and Pogba, through action, have reassured us that whatever he may want, if he stays he won’t play down his abilities.
Such abilities were on display today against Inter, with Pogba remaining involved in the buildup play throughout his hour on the pitch. He almost single handedly gave United the lead in the second half after taking on several Inter defenders and driving into the area, a play that simultaneously demonstrated the frustration of dealing with the Italian defense and Pogba’s remarkable ability on the ball. While this takeaway is more than just based on the performance, Pogba’s effort certainly helps make the case that he’s still committed to whatever team he’s on.
Pogba’s participation in United’s tour events and social media content and promotions indicate that he is, as Solskjaer has said, being a professional and fulfilling his duties at the club. He even seems to be enjoying himself, defeating the narrative that he is at odds with teammates and coaches over his committment to the team. He may very well be on the move in the future, but for now at least it seems he is very much a part of Solskjaer’s plans, and that he’s happy to oblige.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has elite defensive talent
Wan-Bissaka just continues to impress.
He’s not been put under pressure in a competitive fixture yet for United, but the brand new right back has wasted no time showcasing his arsenal of defensive abilities. His timing, positioning, vision, and athleticism has made him stand out in United’s back four, the weakest unit last season. He effectively shut down the left hand side of Inter’s attack, so much so that Dalbert began playing the ball out as soon as he could just to avoid another physical confrontation with the Englishman.
AWB again looked comfortable going forward as well, and was willing to take on the opposing fullbacks one on one. If he can continue to inspire such fear in his opponents as he has so far on the tour, United will be much better off than they were with Ashley Young as a converted fullback.
Antonio Conte needs a striker
Romelu Lukaku rode the bench yet again, out with an apparent injury, but has been front and center in transfer rumours. Inter Milan have supposedly been high on the Belgian striker since the arrival of new manager Antonio Conte, who tried to obtain Lukaku’s services two years ago at Chelsea. Inter were lacking in attacking talent today, and are ready to move on from the problematic yet prolific Mauro Icardi. United are reportedly willing to sell if Inter can match the massive fee paid for Lukaku’s move from Everton two years ago, but they’ve yet to do so, clearly.
Lukaku’s future will have pretty major implications for Solskjaer’s plans this season. The no. 9 hasn’t played a massive role under Ole so far, but will certainly continue to be given chances if he does stay. However, if he leaves, the club will need to look to the market to replace the lost depth at forward. There isn’t much time until the window closes for Premier League clubs, so decisions must be made ASAP.