It has largely been dubbed the ‘friendly’ of the summer as Manchester United locked proverbial horns with traditional rivals Liverpool at the Rajamangala Stadium in Thailand — and it certainly lived up to the hype.
This historic fixture needs few — if any — subplots or off-field dramas; the two names sitting side by side alone provokes a sense of excitement and wonder. But this fixture did carry several subplots, not least this being Erik ten Hag’s first game in charge of the Red Devils.
It was a chance to impress the new boss, and there are certainly plenty of players in this current Man Utd set up who need to do just that if they are to justify ample first-team opportunities next term — and not just the fringe players, but also superstars who struggled in 2021/22 (of which there are plenty of candidates).
Manchester United 4-0 Liverpool FT:
⚽️ 12' Sancho
⚽️ 30' Fred
⚽️ 33' Martial
⚽️ 76' Pellistri
Job done for Erik ten Hag on his first match as Manchester United boss. pic.twitter.com/joUYN3ozjm
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 12, 2022
Anthony Martial is one such player and he made good on his Ten Hag debut by breaching Alisson’s net in the 33rd minute as Man Utd raced into a 3-0 lead following Jadon Sancho’s deadlock-breaker and Fred’s outrageous right-footed chip on the half-hour mark.
These are familiar names to the Old Trafford audience, who have endured mixed success down the years. But one player that has largely flown under the radar, and that is simply because he is yet to make an appearance for the club, is 20-year-old Uruguay international Facundo Pellistri.
The promising forward put the gloss on a 4-0 triumph over the FA Cup and League Cup holders in the 76th minute, turning up on a stage when it perhaps should have been another Uruguayan who stole the show after his compatriot, Darwin Nunez, made his Liverpool debut.
It was a memorable moment for Pellistri, who has so far endured two loan spells away from Old Trafford at Alaves, but those stints have proven far from succesful as he failed to score in 35 games for the club — a notion he was defiantly quick to recognise recently.
“I didn’t leave Alaves very happy, because I hardly played in any games,” Pellistri told Ovacion earlier this month.
“I left with a wonderful club, a wonderful group of people, a wonderful medical team and a wonderful staff. In that sense, even though it was complicated in terms of football, that whole period in Vitoria was wonderful.
“They never gave me a reason, but well? Every manager is different. Maybe they liked different things to what I could give them, and that’s totally respectable.
“It’s up to the coach to decide. I always gave my best, I trained 100%, and I was ready to play. The balance is negative. I would have liked to play more.”
It’s that final point (“I would have liked to play more”) that Pellistri will be aiming for next term, but the 20-year-old needs to build on this most recent goal against Jurgen Klopp’s men.
If he is to fashion a career for himself at Old Trafford, then now is the chance to prove his worth, particularly with Cristiano Ronaldo currently absent and Ten Hag still assessing his frontline options.