In an impressive final showing of pre-season, Manchester United smashed Everton 4-0 at Old Trafford.
What did we learn?
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1. Greenwood’s growth
Mason Greenwood’s haul of 12 goals last season was a comedown from his spectacular debut campaign where he bagged 17. The season was still full of improvement, however, and he ended it in such good form (8 goals in his final 14 appearances) many expected him to go to the Euros with England – only for injury to rule him out.
However that may have been a blessing in disguise as a summer of rest and full pre-season has left Greenwood looking great, much to Everton’s chagrin. The Englishman was in fantastic form at Old Trafford and opened the scoring with a lovely bit of pressing that led to him being perfectly placed to tap home following Jordan Pickford’s mistake.
What was interesting was how Greenwood didn’t even have to look up to know where the goal was. Despite being at an angle he slotted home calmly, which was the start of an impressive performance where he repeatedly ran through the Everton side, dribbling with confidence and moving the ball so intelligently.
Greenwood was a constant threat against Everton and unlucky to not add to his goal. As much as signing Sancho and retaining Cavani will be huge for United’s attack, the continuing growth of Mason Greenwood could be just as huge for any success at Old Trafford.
2. #BabyArms is back
Jordan Pickford was almost flawless at Euro 2020. The goalkeeper defied fan concern to have a fantastic tournament, saving two penalties in the final shootout including an outrageous save to deny Jorginho. However we saw none of that form against United.
In fact what we saw will concern Everton fans, as Pickford looked sluggish and slow to basically everything. Alright this was his first game back since the Euro final, but the season starts in a week and Pickford was at fault for every United goal. Alright the handling issues that led to Greenwood’s opener you’d expect him to prevent in future but the way in which he was unable to get close to Maguire and Fernandes’ strikes despite neither being dead in the corner does not bode well for his form come next week’s season opener.
3. Donny’s time to shine
This friendly win was a game of two-halves, and as impressive as the first-half was the second was chaotic and reminiscent of United at their worst last season. The difference? Donny van de Beek went off at half-time.
The Dutch midfielder was an epic misfit at Old Trafford last season, barely playing in a debut season that was also riddled with injury. But he has played regularly in pre-season and tonight put in a performance that shows just why The Red Devils paid so much for him a year ago.
Van de Beek was everywhere, in a positive sense. He was passing, pressing and helping the likes of Wan-Bissaka to close down opponents too, and when he got the ball he moved it forwards quickly and intelligently. Along with Nemanja Matic he controlled the middle of the park and controlled the game, keeping it at a tempo and rhythm Everton couldn’t live with.
Once he and Matic left the field, that control vanished. Making it abundantly clear that both men need to start next week against Leeds.
4. The England Connection is stronger than ever
One standout feature of Euro 2020 was the way in which Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw dovetailed so well on the left side of defence, both offensively and defensively. That connection which had been forged last season is only getting stronger now.
In defence both men shut Everton out, with The Toffees only joy coming from an early corner and one cross that caught out Viktor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. In attack they were constantly raiding forward with runs and passes, Maguire in particular looking ridiculously eagle-eyed with his passes through the lines.
And of course both men linked up for United’s second goal, with a Shaw corner flying into the box and allowing Maguire to escape markers, stoop low and head the ball up and over Pickford. If United can get Maguire to score regularly from set-pieces it will make a massive difference to their overall threat level.
5. United looking ominous
Manchester United beating Everton 4-0 at Old Trafford is one of those results that can just happen sometimes, but the manner of United’s win, in particular the first-half, sets a tone that will leave many in the Premier League feeling uncomfortable.
United looked good. Bruno Fernandes was in harmony with Mason Greenwood and the pair were well supplied by Donny van de Beek and Nemanja Matic. The defence was mostly solid as well and David de Gea didn’t transmit panic. They were great!
And all this with Anthony Martial just sort of looking ok. And the injured Marcus Rashford absent while red tape holds up Raphael Varane’s signing. And the likes of Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho given extended holidays to fully recover from their summer exertions with their nations. Solskjaer is looking to have a squad as well-rested and physically healthy as possible; ideal preparation for the long slog of 2021/22.
Manchester United beat a Premier League team 4-0, playing magnificently for stretches, and they can get better. They can get much better.
Duck and cover, sports fans!