Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Mason Greenwood impresses Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United defeat Leeds in Perth

Teenager nets in 4-0 win as manager admits he could feature in Premier League squad

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doubtful that Manchester United can win the Premier League this season, but he is quietly confident that he’s building a better team spirit and improving on the side he inherited in December.

Ahead of his first full season as the boss at Old Trafford, Solskjaer’s men won their second consecutive Australian pre-season friendly, beating old adversaries Leeds United 4-0 in Perth.

There was much for him to be encouraged by from his players: fast counter attacking football, quick interchanges, impressive movement and clinical finishing – when they didn’t hit the post twice in the first half.

Solskjaer changed his entire XI at the break as he continues to assess his full squad ahead of their opening league game on August 11 against Chelsea at Old Trafford.

Marcus Rashford, who looks far happier than at the end of last season, scored for a second consecutive game.

Andrea Pereira, who usually impresses in pre-season, showed a fine range of passing. Striker Mason Greenwood, 17, the club’s best youth player also scored in a first team shirt.

“That first goal can be a weight off his shoulders,” said Solskjaer. “He has movement, he has cleverness, he’s two footed, he’s going to be a very good player who can play across all the front positions.

"He takes a penalties with is right and with his left, you see a talented boy who has every opportunity to make it as a Man United player.”

Solskjaer believes Greenwood could start against Chelsea, so impressed is with the teenager.

“He’s capable, more than capable, he’s always around the box creating chances,” said the manager. “It’s difficult to keep players out who perform well.”

Solskjaer’s team play a 4-2-3-1 system with a lot of movement across the front three. The quick transition movements springing defence into attack are a priority for the manager and his plans are coming together.

Yet to the surprise of nobody, another striker Romelu Lukaku pulled up injured late in training and was not included in the squad that faced Leeds.

He is expected to move to Inter Milan, ironically United’s next opponents on their five game pre-season tour in Singapore this Saturday.

David de Gea, who United are optimistic of tying to a new contract, missed out as he was feeling ill.

Solskjaer would rather know where he stands with his players who want to leave. He doesn’t want to keep all the six current central defenders and wants to sign another.

He’s also unsure as to where Paul Pogba, who received a mixed reception from fans when his name was announced, will be this season.

If Pogba, who Solskjaer is considering making captain, departs, the Norwegian plans to bring in two midfielders. United feel that one major transfer move is likely to trigger several more among clubs.

“We’re trying to build a squad that has a long life,” said the Norwegian.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire rivals had not met since 2004 in a league game and 2011 in a cup game, but the edge among rival fans was evident in the city and around the near sell-out 55,274 stadium before the game.

There were more fans in Red shirts, though far more Leeds fans travelled from the UK to support their team 9,000 miles away.

True to Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking philosophy, Leeds attacked far more than an ultra defensive Perth Glory who Manchester United beat 2-0 in Saturday.

Bold though it was, a jet-lagged Leeds left plenty of space which their red opponents exploited.

The Premier League team named 24 players on the team sheet, the Championship side only brought 16 players in total.

Bielsa flew a day later to meet up with his players, directing their training sessions via wifi from the plane en route.

Leeds went one down after six minutes when new signing Aaron Wan Bissaka crossed for Mason Greenwood to stab past former Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

Rashford made it two after 27 minutes when Scott McTominay broke from midfield, carried the ball forward and set up the England striker.

The United No 10 went to shoot, took on his man, feinted, dragged the ball across his body with his right foot then swivelled as he opened his body up to strike home a low shot.

Phil Jones, beginning his ninth season at Old Trafford, made it three after getting across his marker to head a Pereira corner down after 51 minutes.

Martial found the bottom corner with a 69th minute penalty after the lively Tahith Chong was fouled.

While Leeds were serenaded with chants of “Marching Altogether…we are so proud we shout it loud, we love you Leeds, Leeds, Leeds,” Manchester United walked onto the field to the Stone Roses ‘This is the one’.

They’re far off being number one in England right now and pre-season friendlies are just that, as much about fitness and players familiarising themselves to the ideas of their coaches, but as they fly off to Singapore, United can be satisfied that their first visit to Perth since 1975 was a successful one.

“It was a good game, an open game, a good work out,” said Solskjaer. “Our squad is strong, we have strength in depth, we have young players. The fans have been amazing here, the stadium amazing.”

The clouds around Manchester United will take some serious results before they genuinely begin to lift, but the pre-season has done enough so far to let some sunlight through.

Updated: July 17, 2019 07:17 PM

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