Man Utds four best players in Atletico Madrid friendly defeat and five things we learned

Erik ten Hag: More new signings vital to Manchester United

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Manchester United continued their preparations for the new Premier League season with a 1-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid on Saturday. Erik ten Hag’s side huffed and puffed for 90 minutes. However, they were unable to return to winning ways after drawing with Aston Villa last time out – and Express Sport assesses United’s performance after their first defeat under their new boss. 

Four best players

It was a good test for United, with Atletico typically dogged at the back.

But four players still managed to impress despite the Red Devils slumping to defeat. 

Victor Lindelof was composed at the back, with a tackle on Geoffrey Kondogbia preventing the France international from finding the net.

Tyrell Malacia was similarly impressive in defence, making a big impact at both ends of the field.

Scott McTominay was a slick operator in the middle of the park, while Marcus Rashford was a menacing threat throughout with the England international clearly starting to get back to his best.

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Atletico will never change

While Simeone is still Atletico manager, it’s clear things at the club will never change.

Given it’s a pre-season friendly, you’d expect the La Liga side to lower their intensity. Alas, it doesn’t seem that’s in the club’s DNA.

Atletico were their usual snarling selves against United, making cynical tackles all over the field.

There was some play-acting, too, with Jan Oblak receiving a yellow card after making the most of a clattering from Scott McTominay.

Atletico may not be football’s most entertaining team – but they’re certainly one of the sport’s hardest to beat. As shown their late winner. 

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United still need De Jong

United’s top transfer target this summer is Frenkie de Jong.

They’ve spent nearly three months trying to land the Netherlands international from Barcelona and, though a fee has been agreed, a deal continues to hang in the balance.

And United clearly need him.

While Fred and McTominay stood tall amid the heat of the battle, for the most part, United require somebody who can help the game tick along and provide the foundations for the club’s forwards to shine.

In Ten Hag’s eyes, that must be De Jong – with the duo previously working together at Ajax.

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Elanga quiet

With Jadon Sancho sidelined through illness, this was a chance for Anthony Elanga to make his mark.

The Sweden international flourished last season and was one of the only shining lights from Ralf Rangnick’s turbulent spell in charge.

But, against Atletico, Elanga looked flat.

The 20-year-old was an anonymous presence on the pitch and clearly needs more minutes in order to become fitter and sharper.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him benched when United open their Premier League season against Brighton on August 7.

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Fernandes less angsty

United saw Bruno Fernandes blow hot and cold last term, like many of his team-mates.

But, with his favoured No 8 shirt on his back, the Portugal international appears to be regaining his mojo.

The former Sporting Lisbon star was a threat during the game, with his creative instincts clear for all to see.

He produced some marvellous passes in the second half and, even more importantly, no longer looks as angsty as he was last term.

Ten Hag wants United players to get their body language right and Fernandes appears to have fallen in line with this command.

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Van de Beek still a distant figure

Back in the summer of 2020, United signed Donny van de Beek.

But, two years on, and the Netherlands international continues to struggle for regular action.

Van de Beek was left on the bench for the match with Atletico – a place he’s become accustomed to being during his two years in English football.

And he still doesn’t appear set to be a regular in Ten Hag’s team.

Whether things change, however, is something only time will tell with Van de Beek still having the potential to come good.

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