Manchester United were more than a little fortunate to beat Kristiansund on Tuesday night as they limped to a 1-0 victory in Oslo.
The Red Devils were on course to end their overseas travels with something of a whimper after Kristiansund, who are seventh in the Norwegian top flight, kept them at bay for long spells in Oslo.
A late Juan Mata penalty proved to be the difference after the Spaniard was fouled inside the area, but that will not mask concerns for Solskjaer after seeing what was a very strong starting lineup fail to make in-roads against their inferior opponents.
United were almost at full strength with only Paul Pogba, whose cameo from the bench showed why he will surely start against Chelsea a week on Sunday, not making the first XI.
Marcus Rashford spearheaded United’s youthful front line but neither he nor new recruit Daniel James could find a way past former Arsenal youth team stopper Sean McDermott in the first period. Despite peppering their opponent’s goal it was their Norwegian counterparts who had the best chance of the match early in the second half, when Sondre Sorli missed a free-header at the back post with the goal gaping.
After a goalless hour of play, Solskjaer decided to ring the changes wholesale and substituted his entire on-field XI.
On came Sergio Romero in goal, Diogo Dalot, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young in defence while Paul Pogba, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Juan Mata and Tahith Chong comprised the midfield, while Mason Greenwood took over up front.
Pogba introduced a much-needed creative spark and while it looked as though the second string were also set to be thwarted by United’s plucky opponents, it was a brilliant pass from the Frenchman that finally did the damage.
He slipped a ball through the inside channel into the path of Juan Mata, who was brought down by substitute goalkeeper Andreas Vaikla inside the area.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have concerns about his side’s performance, the United manager was able to see his son, Noah, who plays for Kristiansund’s B-team, make his first senior appearance for the club from the bench.
United will end their preseason against AC Milan in Cardiff on Saturday.