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Three things Erik ten Hag learned from Atletico Madrid defeat – opinion

For many players, the 90 minutes against Atletico Madrid will be their last of pre-season as Erik ten Hag prepares to face Brighton in next week’s Premier League curtain-raiser.

One friendly remains – Sunday’s late kick-off against Rayo Vallecano. It’s highly unlikely that any of today’s starters will be named in the squad.

Instead, players who didn’t make an appearance in Oslo will be offered the chance to play for 90 minutes as well. That includes Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lisandro Martinez.

The defeat to Atletico Madrid was Ten Hag’s first in charge of United and although there were plenty of positives to take, he will have learned a thing or two about his side. We take a look at three things he might have caught.

Tyrell Malacia stakes his claim for the number one spot
Luke Shaw was left out of the squad due to illness but Malacia had been knocking on the door regardless. The young Dutchman impressed on tour and against Atletico Madrid, he was the best player on the pitch.

It remains to be seen if Shaw is sidelined for long but in Malacia, Ten Hag has signed an able replacement and the Netherlands international has already adapted perfectly to life at the club.

Malacia functions as an extra midfielder in possession and he’s hungry to close the opposition down – the quality Shaw has lacked most.

Read more: Eriksen makes debut: player ratings from Man Utd 0-1 Atletico Madrid

Christian Eriksen’s golden cameo
The 30-year-old only played for roughly 20 minutes but it’s safe to say that he made the most out. Almost instantly, he picked out Anthony Elanga with a perfect sliced ball and the young Swede nearly gave his side the advantage.

Minutes later, a beautifully whipped corner found Maguire and again, it should have been put away. Interestingly, Eriksen replaced Martial and not Bruno Fernandes, hinting that the plan could be to play the pair together.

Eriksen is unlikely to play 90 minutes tomorrow but he could feature again after missing most of pre-season. One thing’s for sure – he adds another dimension to United.

Jadon Sancho’s absence was telling
United’s attacking trio has, by far, been the most exciting aspect of pre-season and today was seemingly going to be the first time all three played for 90 minutes. But Sancho’s late withdrawal was a huge blow and his replacement, Elanga, failed to offer the same danger down the right-hand side.

Sancho cares for the ball and recycles it well. He also carries it more than any other player in the squad and is capable of adding the final touch in the final third. Elanga could develop into that player but he’s still very raw.

Sancho is a perfect fit for Ten Hag and on Saturday’s showing, the lack of replacements internally is worrying.

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