Man United opened their pre-season with a victory over Leeds as Erik ten Hag played with multiple young stars with a formation that hinted at transfer frustration.
The Red Devils ran out two-goal victors in their first pre-season outing as second half substitutes Noam Emeran and Joe Hugill both found the net. Hugill, 19, was the only striker in United’s squad for the trip to Oslo – highlighting the club’s lack of depth in the position.
United are ramping up their pursuit of Atalanta striker Rasmus Hojlund. The Red Devils are intent on signing at least one new central striker this summer following the expiration of Wout Weghorst’s loan arrangement – leaving injured Anthony Martial, whose future is unclear, and Marcus Rashford as the only recognized senior players in that position.
The flip side of United’s transfer inactivity was an opportunity for youngsters to star in this game with Emeran and Hugill among those to shine. Frenchman Emeran joined United in 2019 and scored five goals in 11 starts in PL2 last season for the Under-23 side, while Hugill has been prolific at that level for several years – and enjoyed a brief loan spell at Altrincham last season.
It was midfielder Kobbie Mainoo who shone the brightest of United’s youngsters – the England Under-19 international starred in the center of midfield after being handed a start by Ten Hag. Regarded as one of the nation’s most exciting young stars, he made three first-team appearances last season and appears to have a huge future ahead of him.
Spanish full-back Alvaro Fernandez – who spent last season on loan at Preston – also caught the eye, although he is unlikely to usurp Luke Shaw or Tyrell Malacia in the first-team selection next season with another loan exit likely.
The biggest surprise in the starting line-up was teenager Omari Forson. Capable of playing on either wing or as an attacking midfielder, there are high hopes for the talented youngster, who has spent the last four seasons playing for United having arrived from Tottenham .
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Matej Kovar – who spent last season at Czech giants Sparta Prague – produced a second half display that suggests he is ready to compete for a first-team backup at United. He appeared comfortable with the ball at his feet and playing from the back.
Perhaps the standout performer in the second half, despite not scoring, was Norwegian teen Isak Hansen-Aaroeen – who debuted for Tromso aged 15 and has impressed in United’s Under-23s since his switch later that season.
Another player to catch the eye was Charlie Savage – son of Robbie – who captained the second half XI, having returned from a loan spell at Forest Green Rovers. Comfortable on the ball, robust in challenges and capable of progressing the game through midfield, he appears to have a career at the top level ahead of him.