Manchester United may have struggled in Andalucía on Wednesday night as Cádiz cruised to a deserved 4-2 win, but it wasn’t all bad news for Erik ten Hag.
The Dutch coach will have known before the match that he would not enjoy a smooth display like he might expect from his regular starting line-up, with at least 10 starters yet to return from the World Cup.
Despite the scoreline, however, there were still some players who could raise their hands and demand Ten Hag’s attention, as well as some who didn’t, and here Sportsmail takes a look at what we learned from United’s friendly defeat at Spain.
Despite the 4-2 defeat against Cádiz there were some players who gave a good account of themselves
1. Zidane Iqbal could be worth it
Manchester United’s Iraqi international midfielder was a player on many fans’ lips after some dazzling performances on the club’s pre-season tour over the summer, and it was a youngster who impressed on Wednesday night.
Zidan Iqbal was dynamic off the ball for United on Wednesday night
Iqbal was dynamic off the ball and resourceful. He drew both challenges and defenders throughout his first-half performance, and his quick feet earned United the penalty that allowed Anthony Martial the first goal.
The 19-year-old was one of United’s most positive midfielders in a half of football that saw them dominate possession but struggle to break through, and their ability to come up short between the lines, before turning back. he was a key facet of his team’s progressive approach game.
Starting alongside tonight captain Scott McTominay in midfield for Erik ten Hag’s side, he looked like a player who will at least equal the Scot’s tally of 188 games for the club in the near future.
2. Charlie Savage has metronome wood in midfield
For most of his Manchester United career, Charlie Savage will have been identified by fans as ‘Robbie’s son’, but if he can harness performances like the one on Wednesday night, he will soon make a name for himself.
The youngster, like Iqbal, constantly demanded the ball at the base of midfield in the second half, and it didn’t take long for him to assume the role of vacant leader that McTominay had left behind when he snagged at half-time.
Everything United did in the second half was through him, and he controlled the pace and tempo of his team’s game throughout its 45 minutes, proving like a metronome, rarely failing to miss a beat and propelling his team facing an increasingly apparent. overcome.
Yes, Savage was to blame for the fourth goal – his sloppy touch of Di’Shon Bernard’s square pass allowed Tomas Alarcon an almost open run into Martin Dubravka’s goal for his 77th-minute finish – but it had little to no effect. in the young .
For many 19-year-olds, such a bug would occupy the forefront of their minds for the rest of the game and cause more bugs to creep into their game. But Savage continued to hold his head high, which will have impressed Ten Hag more than his competent pace through midfield.
Charlie Savage showed courage and confidence by controlling United’s midfield in the second half
3. Anthony Martial can lead the line when called upon
Despite four goals and two assists this season, the statistic that stands out about Martial is the fact that he has only played seven games as injuries continue to ravage the career of a promising young striker at Old Trafford.
But at times on Wednesday night in Andalusia, Martial showed that he still has all the qualities a good center forward needs; He held the ball well, he played small passes behind the lines for midfielders and wingers to run and, perhaps most importantly, he showed that he still knows where the back of the goal is.
His shot was one of supreme poise and confidence, slotting the ball delicately into the middle of the goal after waiting for Jeremias Ledesma to dive to his right and watching the ball drift agonizingly into the open net for his team to return to. get into the game early. halftime.
Anthony Martial got the goal to show he can still contribute to this Man United team
Marcial is no Cristiano Ronaldo, and the club shouldn’t trust him to take over now that their forward ranks are shrinking, either, but against Cádiz, the Frenchman certainly raised his hand and made sure Ten Hag knew he was still in mix. .
He may not be the 30-goal striker United need to match the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City in the English soccer pecking order, but he can definitely step in when necessary and contribute 10-15 goals a season here and there. in a larger team unit.
4. Bruno Fernandes can’t come back fast enough
Surely Ten Hag’s mind will only be focused on the Netherlands’ clash with Argentina on Friday in Qatar, but the game he will quickly turn his attention to will be Portugal’s quarter-final with Morocco.
No player was expected to fill the boots of Bruno Fernandes on Wednesday night, but it was painfully clear that he was exactly what was missing from a team woefully unable to break down a low defensive block at times.
Fernandes brings composure, precise passing and, on occasion, outrageous examples of the artist he is with the ball at his feet, and against Cádiz he would have had a field day playing the back ball for the likes of Iqbal, Anthony Elanga, Alejandro Garnacho and even Marcial in that first half.
Bruno Fernandes’ return can’t be quick enough for United, who had no control in the final third
United often lacked that finishing edge, the one pass that unlocks the lock and sows panic in the hearts of defenders, and it was all too easy for Cádiz to defend poorly weighted crosses and misplaced passes on the edge of the ball. area that the Red Devils offered themselves instead.
Whether in dead ball situations or in play, Fernandes’ slick and crafty passing game was missed by Ten Hag and Co on Wednesday night.
5. Martin Dubravka is not a good enough endorsement
There was a period not too long ago when Martin Dubravka was talked about as one of the leading goalkeepers outside of the top six in his Newcastle days.
But sadly, those days seem to be long gone for the Slovak goalkeeper, who failed to seal his authority against Cádiz, where a poor defensive unit was not enough to shield him from criticism after conceding four goals.
The defense was poor at times in Andalusia, that cannot be denied, but Dubravka did not know how to put his experience and know-how on the table to try to calm the nerves of the young Bernard and Teden Mengi who were facing one of the most experienced of Europe. strikers in Álvaro Negredo.
Martin Dubravka struggled when called upon and was unable to bring his experience to a young defence.
The former Newcastle player had the hearts of United fans in his mouth as he jumped for a high ball and hit it all wrong, the ball slipping through his hands and bouncing dangerously close to the Cádiz forwards before remembering his lines and picking it up. on the second try.
When a team concedes four, it’s almost impossible to place all the blame on one component, but Dubravka was painfully unaware that he could have leveraged his experience and support for a defense that was clearly nervous from the start.
6. Victor Lindelof falls down the pecking order
Where Dubravka failed to put an arm around his young defenders, Victor Lindelof was equally at fault for failing to lend Mengi a hand or even acknowledging that perhaps he should have provided extra cover for a player he knew had little first-team experience.
What’s even worse is the fact that their own stunning defense gave Cádiz their first goal, after the Swedish defender sadly missed his header inside his penalty area in the opening eight minutes to allow Carlos García-Die Sanchez ducked and opened. the score
Victor Lindelof might drop down defensive pecking order after poor performance
Not only was he at fault for the first goal, but he was caught off guard in the box for the second, as well as being out of position to leave Anthony Lozano acres of space to finish low to Dubravka’s right just six minutes. after the first mistake of him.
Ten Hag will have been impressed by his youngsters, but dismayed by the likes of Dubravka and Lindelof.
With Harry Maguire impressing for Gareth Southgate and England in Qatar, it looks increasingly likely that Lindelof is falling into the “emergency cover” category if his Wednesday night performance is anything to go by.
There’s an argument that he performs better with a more experienced head at his side in the heart of defence, but that’s hardly belie a player at the top of his game, who needs someone to come to his rescue at times.
United won’t be willing to spend big on another centre-back, but in a game where he was given the chance to catch the eye of Ten Hag on Wednesday, he did exactly that. But maybe not in the way he had anticipated.