Manchester United put a difficult build-up behind them to open their pre-season tour with a straightforward win in Perth.
The trip had been dominated by talk of Paul Pogba’s desire to leave Old Trafford for a second time following comments made by the club’s record £89million record signing and his agent Mino Raiola. United’s preparations were further disrupted on the eve of their opening game when first-team coach Mark Dempsey was rushed to hospital after falling ill at the team hotel.
MATCH FACTS MANCHESTER UNITED STARTING XI: (4-2-3-1) Romero; Dalot, Tuanzebe, Jones, Young; A. Pereira, Matic; Chong, Lingard, James; Martial SECOND HALF XI: (4-2-3-1) J.Pereira; Wan-Bissaka, Rojo, Smalling, Shaw (Garner 83); Pogba, McTominay; Greenwood, Gomes, Mata; Rashford
SUBS NOT USED: De Gea (GK) GOALS: Rashford (60), Garner (85) COACH: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
PERTH GLORY: (4-2-3-1) Reddy (Velaphi 78); Franjic, Mrcela, Lowry, Tratt; Kilkenny, Juande; Chianese (Popovic 76), Brimmer (Wilson 62), Harold (D’Agostino 62); Fornaroli
SUBS NOT USED: Bodnar, Brooks, Rawlins
COACH: Tony Popovic
REFEREE: Alex King
VENUE: Optus Stadium (Perth)
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side weren’t affected by the drama as they scored twice in the second half through Marcus Rashford and James Garner, with Pogba setting up the first goal after coming on as a half-time substitute.
Solskjaer made it clear before kick-off that he would change his entire line-up at the interval and also confirmed that Romelu Lukaku would miss the game due to a ‘small niggle’.
With formal discussions underway between United and Inter Milan over a transfer for Lukaku, it will do little to quell talk that the Belgium striker could soon be on his way out of Old Trafford. The pitch at the Optus Stadium had been converted overnight after hosting a big Aussie Rules game between West Coast Eagles and Collingwood on Friday evening, and if United still needed reminding that they were playing Down Under, they were treated to an Aboriginal welcome dance before kick-off.
There were 10,000 empty seats at the 60,000-capacity arena, which was 5,000 fewer fans than watched Chelsea face the Glory on a wet Monday night last summer. They witnessed a dominant performance by both United teams against a Perth side who are halfway through a five-month off-season and missing some of their best players.
Dan James, in particular, looked eager to impress on his first appearance since a £15million move from Swansea this summer.
The 21-year-old’s pace and energy down both flanks was a real problem for Perth in the first half, and he came in for some rough treatment from the home team. Joel Chianese and Neil Kilkenny flattened the Wales international, the latter foul giving Ashley Young an opportunity to produce the first real attempt on goal in the 19th minute when his freekick brushed the side-netting.
Tahiti Chong was also sent flying by Shane Lowry and it was left to Jesse Lingard to fight United’s corner with some robust challenges of his own. For all their domination, the Premier League side struggled to create many clear-cut chances.
Anthony Martial, caught offside too many times after being asked to lead the line in the first half, also hit the side-netting before Lingard went closest to a goal on the half-hour mark.
So a convincing, albeit predictable, win for United in the opening game of their summer tour. More serious challenges await, starting with Leeds here on Wednesday night.
Solskjaer’s side then faces Inter in Singapore, Tottenham in Shanghai and AC Milan in Cardiff. But the United boss will be happy that the first one is out of the way without any more problems.