Eriksen is more than a squad player… FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED as Man United lost 1-0 to Atletico

Manchester United suffered their first defeat of pre-season as Joao Felix’s late strike secured a 1-0 victory for Atletico Madrid in Oslo.

It was a fiery encounter and a friendly only by name, with United midfielder Fred sent off in the closing stages for a second bookable offence moments after Felix’s ferocious strike broke the deadlock.

New United boss Erik ten Hag selected a team that is likely to start against Brighton next Sunday for the encounter, as they underwent their final preparations.

Manchester United suffered a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in a pre-season friendly in Oslo

Manchester United suffered a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in a pre-season friendly in Oslo

New United boss Erik ten Hag selected a team that is likely to start against Brighton on Sunday

New United boss Erik ten Hag selected a team that is likely to start against Brighton on Sunday

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN IS MORE THAN A SQUAD PLAYER

Christian Eriksen is destined to be much more than a squad player at Manchester United judging by his debut in the defeat to Atletico Madrid at the Ullevaal Stadion.

Danny Murphy made that prediction when United confirmed Eriksen was joining them as a free agent earlier this month. The Dane may have cost nothing but that doesn’t reflect on his ability in any way.

United have been admirers of the Dane for many years and didn’t hesitate to make a move this summer after his impressive spell at Brentford in the second half of last season proved that he is fully recovered from his cardiac arrest at the European Championships a year ago.

United have been admirers of Christian Eriksen and didn’t hesitate to make a move for him

United have been admirers of Christian Eriksen and didn’t hesitate to make a move for him

Eriksen came on for Anthony Martial in the second half in Oslo and immediately created a chance with a superb diagonal pass that just eluded Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga. 

He then whipped in a corner that presented Harry Maguire with a golden opportunity in front of goal, but the United captain headed wide.

Whether Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes can play in the same team – certainly if United sign Frenkie De Jong as well – remains to be seen, but he can clearly still be a force at the highest level.

PHYSICALITY

United’s lack of physicality was bemoaned by interim boss Ralf Rangnick on a number of occasions last season, but Erik ten Hag has been working on his players’ fitness this summer and the new manager seems to have added a bit of steel as well.

No-one can condone Fred’s stamp on Alvaro Morata that led to his dismissal for a second booking in the 90th minute but, typically, Atletico had been dishing out enough punishment of their own in what was meant to be a friendly. Anthony Elanga, Martial and Maguire all needed treatment at different stages of the game.

Scott McTominay didn’t hold back either when he barged into goalkeeper Jan Oblak before half-time, sparking a 20-man melee and earning a booking for both men. It’s high time United added a little bite to their game, and if it can be channelled in the right way then Ten Hag won’t be too unhappy.

United’s lack of physicality was bemoaned by interim boss Ralf Rangnick last campaign

United’s lack of physicality was bemoaned by interim boss Ralf Rangnick last campaign

FAILED TO SCORE 

After netting 13 goals in four games on tour, this was a reality check for United as they failed to score for the first time under Ten Hag.

The Dutchman won’t have got carried away by the wins over Liverpool, Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace. A full-strength Aston Villa were a step up when United were held to a 2-2 draw in Perth, and Atletico were on another level again.

Ten Hag knows his team will have to be clinical against top opponents like Diego Simeone’s side, and United fell short in Oslo where Martial, Rashford and Maguire were all guilty of misses.

It proved costly when Simeone made wholesale changes on the hour mark and sent on the likes of Antione Griezmann, Saul Niguez and Joao Felix who fired the 87th minute winner.

United can point to the fact that Jadon Sancho – one of their top performers in pre-season – was missing after falling ill at the team hotel overnight, but Ten Hag knows they must be more clinical.

After netting 13 goals in four games on tour, this was a reality check as they failed to score

After netting 13 goals in four games on tour, this was a reality check as they failed to score

LEFT-BACK COMPETITION

Left-back is sizing up to be a fascinating battle between Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw this season.

With Alex Telles and Brandon Williams well down the pecking order now, Malacia will provide the main competition for Shaw.

The new £14.6million signing from Feyenoord started in Oslo in what is meant to be Ten Hag’s first-choice team with the likely exception of Sancho for Elanga on the right.

Malacia played well again and had a hand in United first chance in the second minute when he got out of trouble close to his own box and played the ball to Fernandes who sent Rashford away down the left to test Oblak at his near post.

It’s unclear whether Shaw missed the game through injury, or if he will feature for the second string against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford on Sunday. But it’s already apparent the England international has a fight on his hands from his Dutch counterpart.

Left-back is sizing up to be a fascinating battle between Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw this term

Left-back is sizing up to be a fascinating battle between Tyrell Malacia and Luke Shaw this term

DIOGO DALOT, A SUCCESS STORY

Diogo Dalot has been one of the success stories of United’s pre-season, establishing himself ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka as the first-choice right-back at the club.

The Portugal defender has been excellent going forward and got an assist for Martial against Crystal Palace in Melbourne. 

However, Dalot needs to improve his defensive work and that was found wanting again when Joao Felix fired Atletico’s winner in Oslo.

He stood too far off the Brazilian who cleverly used his opponent to disguise a shot inside the near post, giving David de Gea no chance.

United know how dangerous Joao Felix can be after he scored against them in February as Simeone’s side knocked them out of the Champions League. 

But they will come up against plenty of world-class forwards in the Premier League this season too, and Dalot has to remember that is first job is to defend.

Diogo Dalot (pictured) has been one of the success stories of Man United’s pre-season

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