Marcus Rashford finished Bruno Fernandes’ move. Diogo Dalot immediately found his teammate after receiving the ball. Donny van de Beek provided an assist.
United’s identity crisis seems over now that they have a permanent manager who coaches the players. Erik ten Hag’s ratings rise daily.
Even after three months, be cautious. United’s players have adapted to Ten Hag’s demands and approach impressively, albeit against weakened teams. Palace were without Wilfried Zaha and other regulars, who tormented United in May.
In May, Ten Hag was at the MCG and United were unrecognizable. Last season, Fernandes would have immediately hit an inswinger. This time, he kept the ball moving, following Ten Hag’s possession-based strategy.
This United side bears little resemblance to Louis van Gaal’s soporific side. Dalot and Tyrell Malacia were once attacking midfielders.
United has a disciplined, decisive manager. Scott McTominay was the only player substituted at halftime, and Van de Beek scored within five minutes.
Even when things got tense as Palace softened up United’s regulars, Ten Hag was largely inactive. Other than a helpful exchange with Malacia, he left game management to the players.
The victory wasn’t perfect. David de Gea conceded softly, and Will Fish was ejected for blocking Victor Akinwale’s shot.
Fish, who was flown to Australia after Axel Tuanzebe withdrew, had his loan with non-league Stockport terminated early last season. Ten Hag patted him on the head at full-time.
Ten Hag removed almost the entire starting XI before noticing these flaws.
United’s slick style silenced the mutineers, as the captain was booed for the second consecutive preseason tour. Harry Maguire’s perverse treatment in Singapore will be remembered. Thousands of United fans cheered his removal against Atletico Madrid in March.
Maguire’s 45-minute game at the MCG was quiet. Perhaps the sloppy defense against Melbourne Victory or Erik ten Hag’s confirmation that Maguire is a first-choice pick agitated United fans in the cricketing Mecca. Maguire was confused.
Leicester fans chanted “F—k off Maguire,” and you wondered if United’s would too. Maguire’s name was announced to cheers and boos, and once the game started, only boos. Maguire’s second pass went into touch after the crowd’s reaction.
Soon after, he shielded the ball for a goal kick and Dalot high-fived him, aware of Maguire’s personal soundtrack. Loyalists cheered the kickoff. Ten Hag gave Maguire a thumbs-up when he passed to Malacia. He blocked Jesurun Rak-shot. Sakyi’s
The boos faded before Maguire’s shot on goal. The shooter’s identity drew applause, and Maguire had his best half in four months, not that it matters.
Maguire played right center back; Lisandro Martinez will play left once he’s registered. The crowd started a Mexican Wave in the 33rd minute, which may console Maguire.
Two United players enjoying good preseasons scored in 17 minutes. Dalot’s left-footed cross was clearly meant for Martial, and he converted a tougher chance than the one-on-one Butland had denied. Martial chested and volleyed.
Dalot grinned grimly at the crowd. He and Martial have excelled with no credible competition for their roles, and Dalot will start against Brighton in two weeks.
Should Cristiano Ronaldo return, Martial’s shadow would be large, causing him to go cold. Ten Hag has managed Martial well enough that he’s no longer a problem but a solution.
Sancho, another forward thriving on tour, scored again to make it 3-0 after Rashford’s balletic swivel on the halfway line. Red, white, and blue could be the new United tricolor.