Erik ten Hag has had just over a month and six friendlies to assess his Manchester United side and now, pre-season has been wrapped up following the visit of Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford.
The Spanish outfit held their own at the Theatre of Dreams and leave with a deserved draw but the result won’t matter to Ten Hag, who will have learned more about his squad in the last 48 hours than at any other time.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to the side was one of the main talking points on Sunday and Ten Hag could draw a couple of conclusions from the 90-minute affair. We take a look at three.
Ronaldo’s presence was harmful
Ten Hag has indicated that Ronaldo would be the focal point of his side if the 37-year-old stayed put but his 45-minute audition did little to convince fans of that.
He dropped far too deep on numerous occasions, harming the balance of the side and clogging the area just in front of the penalty area. As a result, Donny van de Beek had to push wide – an area he is least effective in.
Ronaldo showed no inclination towards adapting to Ten Hag’s requests and thus far, Anthony Martial is a better fit for the Dutchman. Seemingly, Ronaldo is short of offers and if he does end up staying, it will be fascinating to see how Ten Hag handles it all.
Alejandro Garnacho proves his worth
Ten Hag made the most of his 31-man squad over the club’s tour of Thailand and Australia but curiously, Garnacho was one of the players who did not feature once. His repeated absence was especially odd considering he was knocking on the door of first-team football under Ralf Rangnick, who gave him his senior debut at the end of last season.
Nevertheless, the blow of not being able to impress on tour certainly did not affect Garnacho. The teenager was vibrant and fearless against Rayo Vallecano, comfortably ending the game as his side’s best player.
Considering United’s lack of options, there’s a real chance that Garnacho could become a crucial first-team regular this season.
Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen impress fans
It’s taken quite a while but United fans finally had the chance to see their latest recruits in action. Martinez played roughly 60 minutes in his Old Trafford bow and his assured performance means that he could start next week’s game against Brighton.
The 24-year-old read the game to perfection and was comfortable with the ball at his feet. His impressive stats echo that statement.
Eriksen’s brief cameo against Atletico Madrid just 24 hours earlier was encouraging and the Dane picked up right where he left off in Oslo. He nearly opened the scoring with a disguised curler in the first half and overall, he will be happy with his first week at the club.
It will be interesting to see if Eriksen starts alongside Bruno Fernandes next week, with just one deep-lying midfielder behind them. That was the case against Vallecano at least, with Donny van de Beek occupying the advanced position next to Eriksen.