Erik ten Hag looks to be improving Manchester United based on a tiny sample size of only three tour matches.
Each of Anthony Martial’s, Marcus Rashford’s, and Jadon Sancho’s goals in United’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday were the result of slick and cute play that capped United’s most impressive performance of their pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia, following wins over Liverpool (4-0) and Melbourne Victory (4-1).
“We are happy with the improvement we see – we score some wonderful goals,” said Ten Hag.
“That is also the demand [press high]. We press all day, high on the pitch and if we can’t we do it on a low block. [We can still improve] the timing, when we start it, and also our quality on the ball. We play well, but you see when two, three-nil up the belief is increasing.”
This was a rather mixed experience for Harry Maguire though. He faced Palace with Ten Hag’s unwavering support as captain and “first-choice” player, but was met with boos from the crowd early on.
They were ultimately quieted by the England defender’s outstanding performance before he was removed in the second half.
Donny van de Beek, who helped create Rashford’s goal, defended Maguire. “I heard as well [jeering],” he said. “I didn’t know really what happened. But Harry was playing well – he was aggressive, he got so many balls, so that means he has a big personality.”
Maguire made many possible goal-saving interventions and unleashed long-range passes that had his boss yelling his name and showing a thumbs up at one point. The 29-year-old embodied the excellence on display in white.
United were a whirling danger until late in the game, when David de Gea let in Joel Ward’s header from a Palace corner at his near post.
But for long passages of play United offered fluidity and cleverness. Rashford exemplified this in two ways. The first was a swerve inside and goal attempt that reduced Matthews to a bystander. The second was a threatening cross from the left that split Palace’s backline and should have presented Martial with a second goal before halftime.
This was Palace’s first game in Australia – their 2-0 defeat to Liverpool the previous weekend was played in Singapore – and Vieira regarded his preparations as “not ideal” considering that he only had 10 senior players with him owing to injuries and players failing to fulfil admission criteria.
Among those who did not attend were Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze, Marc Guéhi, and Michael Olise.