Manchester United travelled to Spain for training before club football returns after the World Cup.
The Red Devils faced La Liga side Cadiz. Erik ten Hag fielded a blended team that consisted of a healthy mixture of youngsters and experienced professionals.
Martin Dubravka started in goal, with Victor Lindelof partnering Teden Mengi ahead of him. In the full-back positions, the Dutch boss started Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams. Scott McTominay, Zidane Iqbal and Donny van de Beek formed the midfield trio.
Anthony Martial led the line for United, with Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga on either side of him.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s defeat at the hands of their Spanish opposition.
Sluggish first half
United were poor in the opening 45 minutes which saw them concede two goals.
The Reds were not as adventurous going forward, as has been the norm under Ten Hag. The team failed to fashion any clear-cut opportunities for large parts of the first half.
To put this into context, Cadiz had more shots and more shots on target compared to United.
The Spanish outfit registered three shots, with two being on target. United on the other hand had only two shots with one being on target.
In possession, several players were sloppy and gave the ball away under unforced circumstances. Defensively, the side lacked urgency and as a result, Cadiz grabbed two goals before United came up with a reply.
It was not until Martial calmly slotted in his penalty after Iqbal was forcefully brought down inside the box that the players seemed to grow into the game.
Nevertheless, Ten Hag would have undoubtedly been disappointed with that showing in the first half.
Zidane Iqbal is ready for regular first-team action
In the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, Iqbal proved to both supporters and the manager why he deserves more of a look-in with the senior team.
Alongside Martial, Iqbal was the outstanding player in the first half where his qualities shone through.
The academy graduate was impressive both on and off the ball and displayed his comfort in tight spaces.
He showed up to receive the ball and always looked to provide an option for the defence in the middle of the park.
It was therefore fitting that Iqbal won the penalty that enabled United to pull one back. He skilfully bypassed the Cadiz defenders with his silky feet before he was illegally impeded.
On the evidence of tonight, it is clear the 18-year-old is ready for regular first-team minutes. He can more than definitely hold his own with the big boys!
The future is promising
Despite United’s defeat at the hands of Cadiz, there were a lot of promising signs from some of the youngsters.
In the second half when Ten Hag changed all the outfield players for the youngsters, the club’s young stars came against Cadiz’s experienced players.
#mufc second-half: Dubravka, Jurado, Fredricson, Bernard, Murray, Savage, Mainoo, Hansen-Aaroen, Emeran, Shoretire, McNeill
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) December 7, 2022
Kobbie Mainoo did well and even managed to grab a goal early on after his introduction. He showed glimpses of his talent that will encourage fans.
Shola Shoretire and Charlie Savage also did well, coming up with steady showings.
On a night of defeat, watching the youngsters who gave it their all should give fans a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
Hopefully, they learn from this disappointment and become better players for it.
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