Manchester United continued their impressive start to pre-season with a ruthless display of attacking football against perennial Pennine rivals Leeds United in Perth.
After a decent but profligate display in their 2-0 opening win against Perth Glory on Saturday, United changed gear against Marcelo Bielsa’s Championship side – 17-year-old protege Mason Greenwood stylishly opening the scoring before Marcus Rashford’s sumptuous second.
Rashford and Daniel James both rattled the woodwork in a rampant first-half display, United controlled the second half too with Phil Jones powering in a header and Anthony Martial confidently dispatching a penalty after a clumsy foul on Tahith Chong.
Whether justified or not, Rashford is a man under pressure coming into 2019/20.
On the one hand he’s another gifted local lad off the United conveyor belt. On the other, he’s a figure of frustration who still needs to hone his finishing and lacks the killer instinct all good strikers possess.
But after an ice-cool finish to open the scoring against Perth Glory in the pre-season opener, on his weaker left foot, Rashford roared from the off against Leeds, thumping the post after 92 seconds following a lung-busting run from Victor Lindelof.
The 21-year-old tormented Leeds throughout the opening 45 minutes, showing searing pace and ingenuity – with his deft drop of the shoulder to flummox two defenders and composed finish to make it 2-0 world-class.
For a man who allegedly wants out of the club, he is conducting himself like a perfect professional during the early throes of pre-season.
Of course, his displays could also be construed as come-and-get-me pleas to would-be suitors. But you can’t help but be buoyed by another masterclass, if you’re a United fan.
The Frenchman was in the running for United’s best player against Perth and he was the best player on the field against Leeds – attracting attention from a hoard of markers who he cast aside like a toddler manhandling his toys.
A stunning threaded pass behind the left-back set up Aaron Wan-Bissaka who teed up Greenwood for the opener, before he flashed a long-range free-kick just wide of Kiko Casilla’s goal.
He then flung Adam Forshaw away before forcing a save from the Spaniard, firing just wide again soon after, having picked up a loose pass and advancing.
His final highlights of the opening 45 minutes was a sprayed pass to release Rashford who stung Casilla’s palms again before another smart pass to the burgeoning striker led to James hitting the post.
TWO NOT SO GOOD
We almost feel bad for including him in this article for the second game in a row, but it’s not unjustified targeting of the erratic Argentine defender, who endured a difficult first half.
United’s crisp, rapid distribution and movement across the pitch was a feature throughout the opening 45 minutes, but some of the La Plata-native’s passes left a lot to be desired.
After taunting Leeds with a series of keepie-uppies on the left touchline he fired a hospital pass into Juan Mata that saw him floored by Kalvin Phillips.
Even when United were largely poor last season, Rojo stood out as one of the worst players. In a vibrant squad than has been putting in high-energy performances so far this summer, he looks horribly out of place.
A fantastic servant for United for many years, he has had the club captaincy bestowed upon him for the upcoming season – one in which he is sure to see a significant reduction in playing time from the 38 games he played last season, only seven players featured more.
Impressive at left-back against Perth, working in tandem with James, he was part of the second wave against Leeds and was less effective.
Caught up the pitch on several occasions and leaving Jones exposed, while also getting into a late altercation for a typically robust challenge on Barry Douglas – though in reality there seemed little wrong with it.
A model pro and useful squad player, but Wan-Bissaka’s energetic, eye-catching first two displays are proof that Young will very much play second fiddle this season.
Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford put Manchester United on course for a comprehensive pre-season win against Leeds in Australia.
Just 37 miles separate Old Trafford and Elland Road, but it was Perth’s mammoth Optus Stadium that played host to these sides’ first meeting since September 2011.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Championship promotion hopefuls Leeds showed flashes of quality but were eventually rolled over, with the Red Devils winning 4-0 despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completely rotating his side at half-time.
A fine move involving the impressive Paul Pogba and new boy Aaron Wan-Bissaka led to 17-year-old Greenwood’s first senior goal, with Rashford doubling that advantage with a fine strike after a dizzying turn.
Rashford and Daniel James – so nearly a Leeds player in January – hit the post in the first half and United continued in the ascendancy after the break, with Phil Jones heading home before Anthony Martial slotted home a spot-kick in front of 55,274 fans.
The atmosphere and competitiveness was unlike most friendlies, which United follow by heading to Singapore to face Inter Milan – the side attempting to sign striker Romelu Lukaku.
The 26-year-old was again conspicuous by his absence after picking up a new knock on the eve of the game, but the striker was not missed in Perth.
Bielsa, who took his place on his trusty blue bucket after arriving Down Under on Tuesday, saw his side overawed for the most part, with Rashford hitting the woodwork inside two minutes.
Solskjaer’s side required just five more to open the scoring as Pogba’s defence-splitting pass found Wan-Bissaka, whose first-time cross was prodded home by Greenwood.
Pogba bossed the midfield in the first half and had several attempts to score, while Sergio Romero – in for the ill David De Gea – somehow kept out Patrick Bamford with his feet in a positive period for Leeds.
That spell jolted Man United into life. Greenwood went close before Scott McTominay surged forward and fed Rashford, whose stunning drop of the shoulder left Gaetano Berardi on the deck and was followed up by a cool 28th-minute finish.
James hit the post after Rashford and Pogba linked up well, with Solskjaer’s side continuing strongly despite 11 half-time changes.
Andreas Pereira saw a shot from distance tipped over but Jones scored from the resulting corner after losing Kalvin Phillips to head home in the 51st minute.
Angel Gomes had an attempt as the match became a little stop-start, with the Leeds fans in fine voice despite seeing their side fall further behind.
Tahith Chong’s turn fooled Liam Cooper and earned a penalty that Martial dispatched in the 69th minute, sending Kiko Casilla the wrong way.
Jesse Lingard directed wide and tempers frayed following an Ashley Young challenge as United’s 100 per cent start to pre-season continued.
Sir Alex Ferguson transformed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer into a winner, and the current Manchester United manager intends to do the same with his players during his rebuilding process.
Jose Mourinho’s tempestuous spell in the dugout ended in December, when the Old Trafford hierarchy finally grew tired of background backbiting and on-field problems.
Solskjaer, a 1999 treble hero, was the surprise appointment as caretaker manager but his record-breaking temporary stint earned him a permanent chance to shine in his dream job.
After landing that three-year deal, Solksjaer’s tenure then went awry, yet reflection and countless discussions have allowed him to “come up with a plan”.
“We talked about what is expected, what is required, the standards, what we have to do every single day,” Solskjaer said during his most in-depth interview as United manager to date.
“The little margins that get you wins. The little tactical tweaks. It is great being a group together from day one.
“We know the plan, and this is the way we are going to do it. We have agreed to that. The first couple of weeks have been encouraging.
“Of course, you always expect people to come in for the first couple of weeks with fresh energy and focus.
“They have not moaned – maybe that is a bad thing. Maybe we have not worked them enough.
“But I think we have just worked enough so we are fitter and maybe more robust when the season starts.”
On the patience required from fans, he said: “Well, you’ve got to be patient, you have to know that to build a team and rebuild a squad, it will take time.
“I am not going to ask for too much time because as the manager you’re also under pressure to get results straight away.
“Or maybe not results but maybe the way we want to play football, so I hope with the way we approach the games now, the fans will see what we’re trying to do, and the results will come.”
Solskjaer admits United did not have enough energy “mentally or physically” during a jarring end to the campaign.
Fighting for Europa League glory and pushing beyond fourth are targets next season as they look to move along a path back to the top – a place they were accustomed to until Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
Solskjaer laughed when asked if he gets bored of questions about his former manager, maybe because he is aware of the Scot’s impact on his personality and style.
“I think after having to work for him for 14-and-a-half years – 11 as a player, three-and-a-half as a coach – it’s natural that I’ve learned from Sir Alex,” said the former striker.
“The biggest part of my football career I’ve spent under him.
“I’ve been transformed more or less from the day I went from Molde to the day I left Man United, as a person, as a winner. He’s installed that into many of his players.
“Now, of course, I speak to him after the game. I go up to his lounge. I think what has been written and said, loads of things, are not true.
“He’s been to the training ground twice since I’ve been there, so it’s not a lot he could manage to do with the boys those two days!”
Put to him that sometimes it is made to sound like Ferguson is with him every day, Solskjaer said with a laugh: “That wouldn’t be fair on him, would it?
“He’s at a different stage of his life now and it’s great to speak to him after the games and to see him so fit and healthy and well.
“And of course we send texts to each other when we don’t meet. He answers me, my texts, every time I ask him for something. He asks me for a few favours and it’s great.”
You can certainly see many of Ferguson’s traits in Solskjaer, with discipline key among them.
Those expectations extend to behaviour away from the field and social media, something that reared its head when Jesse Lingard posted some ill-advised videos during the summer.
“That is what you sign up for at this club,” Solskjaer said. “You are always under the spotlight.
“I am a big believer in self-discipline and discipline within the group. I would never have made it as a footballer if I didn’t have that discipline and made the most out of my talent.
“The day you are not at Man United you realise you should have done this or that.
“I know I should have asked the gaffer to be taken off against Wolverhampton when (Cristiano) Ronaldo was running down the wing.
“But I was stubborn enough to say, ‘I want to show Ronaldo that I am up to it’.
“That decision changed my life because I got injured when I shouldn’t have.
“That is the one piece of discipline I didn’t have.”