Manchester United take on last season’s Champions League finalists in Shanghai on Thursday. Mauricio Pochettino’s side should provide the stiffest preseason test yet for the unbeaten Reds. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) United made it three preseason wins from three with an impressive 1-0 victory over Inter Milan at the weekend. The scoreline might not flatter the Reds, but they bossed the Nerazzurri in every imaginable way. Mason Greenwood created the second-half winner with a nifty crossover in the box that freed up his left-footed shot.
(2) Unfortunately, both Victor Lindelöf and Tahith Chong departed early with injuries. Thankfully, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t sound too concerned. “We don’t know yet, but they should be okay,” he said afterwards. “Victor, we’ll have to assess him [on Sunday].” There’s been no update since, which hopefully bodes well for the Swedish center back. United can't afford to lose Lindelöf for any amount of time.
(3) Credit where it’s due: After shipping 54 Premier League goals a season ago, the United defense now has three straight clean sheets on tour. It’s just preseason, but that’s still hugely encouraging for the club’s beleaguered backline. New signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka looks incredible on the right side, producing eye-popping defensive highlights on the regular. No one’s scoffing at that £45 million price tag anymore.
(4) Over the weekend, Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones got United fans buzzing with this tweet:
United finally agreeing terms on the £80m Maguire deal.— Dean Jones (@DeanJonesBR) July 21, 2019
Mad amount of money to spend on him and Wan-Bissaka this summer but also very necessary
Important caveat: There’s been a distinct lack of corroboration for Jones’s scoop, so file this one in the rumor mill for now. But Harry Maguire — even at the crazy price of £80 million — would solve so many problems for United. He’s the perfect partner for Lindelöf, both powerful in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet. Sure, Maguire would’ve come cheaper last summer — not to mention probably averting the whole Mourinho meltdown — but what’s done is done.
(5) Jesse Lingard made headlines this summer for all of the wrong reasons. His accidental Snapchat miscue set tongues wagging around the football world, but all seems forgiven with Ole. “We’ve got players who like to press and be on the front foot,” the United boss said after the Inter Milan match. “I don’t know how many times Jesse won the ball, but he’s one of the best ones at that pressing football.” Whatever his faults, Lingard always brings work rate and defensive awareness. Count on a big role for him in this new high-press system.
(6) The last time United toured in China, the much-hyped preseason Manchester derby was washed out by heavy rain. Bad news: the forecast for Thursday doesn’t look great. But United aren’t taking any chances of another cancellation, dispatching groundsman Dave Lindop to Shanghai to keep a careful watch over the Hongkou Stadium playing surface.
(7) After making no signings last summer, Tottenham Hotspur have sprung to life in the transfer market. It all started with a move for Jack Clarke from Leeds, although Spurs turned around and loaned the teenager right back to the Whites for the coming season. The big splash, though, came with the club-record signing of Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon. Ndombele provided an assist with his first touch of the ball at the weekend in Spurs’ 3-2 win over Juventus.
(8) On the flip side, both starting fullbacks from June’s Champions Leagues final are headed for the exits. Kieran Trippier already left for Atletico Madrid, while Danny Rose was left out of the club’s touring squad in a not-so-subtle message that he’s surplus to requirements.
(9) It hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as Paul Pogba’s comments, but Christian Eriksen asked to leave Spurs this summer for “something new.” Eriksen has been training alone this summer — but as part of his recovery from an offseason medical procedure and not as punishment for asking out of the club. Although some reports linked him to Real Madrid and even Manchester United, Eriksen might just play out the final year of his contract and then move on via free transfer.
(10) For my money, the best news of the summer is that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been chatting with Roy Keane. The pair have been friends for years and Keane surely pulled no punches when discussing the current United squad. Ole would do well to consider his old captain’s thoughts — particularly his warning that some players could throw the new manager under the bus just like they did Mourinho. It’s hard to imagine a better unofficial consultant/sounding board/friend for Solskjaer than Roy Keane.
(11) And, while most of the Reds seem a likable bunch, there are a few who could use a dose of this: