On Tuesday, Manchester United travel to Kristiansund for their latest preseason test. It’s a Norwegian homecoming for Reds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer — and a quick breather for United before the weekend’s International Champions Cup finale. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the match.
(1) Last time out, Manchester United kept their perfect preseason record intact with a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in Shanghai, China. Goals from Anthony Martial and Angel Gomes — his first senior tally as a Red — made all the difference against last season’s Champions League finalists. Importantly (and that word is doing a lot of heavy lifting in this case), the result puts United in great position to win the ICC.
(2) A cool Tour 2019 stat: Every United goal has been either scored or assisted by a homegrown player. In a summer without major transfer activity — yet — this coming-out party by United academy stars bodes well for the season ahead.
(3) Martial, a somewhat forgotten man this summer, earned Man of the Match honors against Spurs with a strong performance. He hit the post, scored United’s first goal, and pressed effectively throughout the match. If Martial keeps it up at both ends of the pitch, this could be a big season for the 23-year-old.
Loving this Anthony Martial in pre-season. He's looking considerably fitter shutting down players and winning the ball back and looks way more comfortable as a striker than out wide with his great runs in behind and is always an option in possession!— The Man Utd Way (@TheManUtdWay) July 25, 2019
(4) Other than Romelu Lukaku’s odd, possibly transfer-related ankle knock, United had enjoyed a relatively healthy summer. No longer. Eric Bailly suffered a nasty-looking knee injury that will reportedly keep him sidelined for at least six weeks. “At first sight, it doesn’t look good,” Solskjaer said afterwards.
(5) Even before his injury, Bailly didn’t seem to be in the plans for Solskjaer’s first eleven. After a strong start at United in 2016/17, the Ivorian has struggled for both form and fitness ever since. With United still tipped to snag Harry Maguire before the window closes next month, Bailly’s best chance at a meaningful role keeps getting smaller.
(6) The weekend’s big news: Real Madrid feel “increasingly confident” in ending up with Paul Pogba this summer. Gareth Bale’s imminent move to China might open up enough financial wiggle-room to allow a late push for Zinedine Zidane’s top target. (Update: Or maybe not.) Even though the media are running with this update, the odds still seem rather long that Madrid will stump up that kind of cash for Pogba after already spending over €300 million.
(7) Lending some credence to that Pogba-to-Madrid rumor, though, are a flurry of new transfer links for United. Both Bruno Fernandes and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are reportedly close to joining the Reds, in what could be a two-for-one Pogba replacement. On the Lukaku front, Juventus might join the chase with Inter Milan by offering Paulo Dybala in a swap deal. If United pull that off, I’ll take back half of what I’ve said about Ed Woodward.
(8) Although Kristiansund are Solskjaer’s hometown team, the United legend never suited up for them. Ole played for Clausenengen FK, who merged with Kristiansund FK in 2003 to form the current club. The Owls play in the Norwegian top-flight (Eliteserien) and should provide United a good workout before AC Milan at the weekend.
(9) Kristiansund, currently enjoying a month-long summer break, sit seventh in the Eliteserien table and face a tough match with fifth-place Valerenga on Sunday. Because of United’s massive fanbase — and the excitement of welcoming home a favorite son — Tuesday’s match will be played at the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo.
(10) Ole’s 19-year-old son, Noah, could be in line for his senior Kristiansund debut as well. “I have a small role model in Michael Carrick,” the deep-lying midfielder said. “In the beginning, I started up front. But the longer it has gone on, I have gone further back in the side. I’m now more of a #6 in midfield than a #10. It would be nice to get in the game.”
(11) Alexis Sánchez is now back at Carrington after a post-Copa America vacation. It had been an encouraging summer tournament for the Chilean attacker, before ending with a hamstring injury in the playoff loss to Argentina. Solskjaer said that Alexis’s injury isn’t serious, but it’s still hard to see much of a place for the mega-bucks flop in this new-look United side.