Manchester United take on old rivals Leeds United in their second pre-season fixture in Perth on Wednesday (GST 15:00).
The Red Devils started their tour Down Under on a high with a 2-0 win over A-League side Perth Glory on Saturday – Marcus Rashford and James Garner scoring fine second-half goals to rubber stamp a routine victory.
There were also encouraging performances from new signings Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, as well as youngsters Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes.
Despite being pre-season there is unlikely to be anything friendly about this fixture between two historic rivals.
TOO RASH TO JUDGE
Considering he’s a home-grown product, Marcus Rashford could be forgiven for harbouring thoughts of a move away from Old Trafford before signing his bumper new contract this summer.
The Wythenshawe wonderboy memorably burst onto the scene against Midtjylland in the Europa League in February 2016, yet because he hasn’t transitioned into Kylian Mbappe in the ensuing three years, United fans are very much undecided about which side of the fence they stand on with him.
Forty five goals in 170 United appearances is not bad, but not brilliant either. But he’s still only 21. He has more senior goals than both Alan Shearer and Andy Cole at his age and has reportedly been told by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he will be United’s first-choice striker this season.
When you’ve got £75 million of talent waiting in the wings in Romelu Lukaku, that’s encouraging. Rashford does have to make that next step at some point and showing confidence in him is the way to coax him into it.
He came off the bench in the pre-season opener against Perth Glory and scored with a crisp left-footed shot. He should get the nod to lead the line against Leeds.
CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Victor Lindelof is set to make his first appearance of pre-season on Wednesday and that could give United a glimpse of their future.
Solskjaer has already confirmed David De Gea will start after Sergio Romero and Joel Pereira shared the custodial duties against Perth, and new signing Wan-Bissaka is likely to start at right-back having impressed on his debut in the second half.
United are said to be very close to signing Harry Maguire from Leicester and a back four of him, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw for 2019/20 suddenly transforms United’s defence exponentially.
Shaw is unlikely to be risked after coming off against Glory with a hamstring injury so Diogo Dalot could start on the left, while promising Axel Tuanzebe – who shone on loan as he helped get Aston Villa promoted back to the Premier League last term – could be given a start alongside Lindelof.
After years of profligacy, United’s defence all of a sudden seemingly has plenty of potential.
WAR OF THE ROSES
United and Liverpool are the bitterest of rivals, while Manchester City’s rise has also seen that feud fire back into life in the last decade, while in the early Premier League years, it was Arsenal and the Red Devils always battling for supremacy.
Some newer or fair weather United fans may know nothing of the bitter rivalry that exists between them and Wedensday’s opponents from across the Pennines.
They both carry the name United, but there is no element of togetherness about the relationship between both sets of fans. From the strong enmity that has long existed between the historic counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire to Eric Cantona’s bitter move to Old Trafford from Elland Road in November 1992, there is no love lost.
Solskajer even alluded to the rivalry in his pre-match press conference when he said: “If you make the effort to come here and support your team, football is the reason you are here.”
It was in response to fears of disorder as there have been a couple of stand-offs between small groups of supporters in different locations in the Australian city, but no actual clashes.
Victor Lindelof has reaffirmed his commitment to Manchester United after the defender’s agent raised doubts about his future.
Having endured a difficult first season at Old Trafford following his arrival from Benfica in 2017, the 24-year-old’s impressive, consistent performances saw him finish runner-up in the club’s Player of the Year vote for 2018-19.
Lindelof’s form led to reported interest from Barcelona and agent Hasan Cetinkaya said his client “is in the orbit of a great European club, but leaving United depends on the English club”.
But at a time when the future of several big names is up in the air, the Sweden international appeared to rule out a summer departure.
“I’m very, very happy to be a Manchester United player,” Lindelof said in Perth.
“I’m excited for the new season to start. That’s my answer. I’m very happy here.”
Lindelof is set to make his first pre-season appearance against Leeds on Wednesday as the centre-back looks to build on an impressive campaign.
“It’s my third season here now, I’ve been through it,” he added. “I know what it is to sign for this club and to play for it, and of course to get a little bit of criticism sometimes. That’s part of the game.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suggested David De Gea is on the brink of signing a new contract with Manchester United.
After demands around the deal saw negotiations stall last season, PA understands that the Old Trafford giants upped their offer to the 28-year-old in an attempt to finally secure his future.
There is now a growing belief within the club that De Gea will sign a new and improved deal that could well make him the best paid goalkeeper in the world.
Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid – a club he was so close to joining in 2015 – have been linked to the Spain international, but Solskjaer is confident he will remain at United.
“Yeah, he will play tomorrow (against Leeds),” the United manager said. “And hopefully we can agree (a deal) with David, as I’ve said a few times.
“I think that’ll be up to David and the club to announce if that happens. If and when.”
De Gea joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and he has won the club’s Player of the Year award on a record four occasions.