Manchester United fought back to secure a 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory in their blockbuster pre-season friendly on Friday night.
A crowd of 74,157 descended upon the MCG to witness some of Australia’s best take on one of the biggest clubs in world football.
The game could not have started better for Victory, who took the lead within the first five minutes.
Jay Barnett released Ben Folami down the right wing who executed a perfectly weighted cross into the path of Chris Ikonomidis for a simple finish past the goalkeeper.
A truly remarkable start for Victory which set the tone for an electric first half.
United unsurprisingly came back strongly having fallen behind, controlling most of the territory and possession in the period following the goal.
Nonetheless, Victory held firm and kept United at bay for the majority of the half.
Roderick Miranda was joined at centre-back by recent signing George Timotheou, who alongside Leigh Broxham formed a formidable centre-back partnership which proved difficult to break down.
Another new signing, goalkeeper Paul Izzo, also stood out with several strong saves. His best effort came when he denied Bruno Fernandes from close range 25 minutes into the game with a smart save down to his right.
However, it would be late heartbreak for Victory as United scored twice in the final few minutes of the first half.
First, Scott McTominay’s shot from just outside the box caught a major deflection, lifting the ball over Izzo and into the back of the net.
A moment of serious misfortune for Victory who had defended so impressively up to that point.
Then in the final minute before the break, Anthony Martial gave United the lead after the ball fell to him in the middle of the box following some strong build-up play down United’s right side.
A cruel double-blow for Victory, as United took the lead into half-time.
The visitors made 10 changes at the break, returning to the pitch with an entirely different set of outfield players.
United delivered a much stronger second half performance, settling into their rhythm and keeping Victory pinned back for most of the second 45.
Victory’s best opportunities came from counter-attacks, although it was Erik ten Hag’s side who were creating more of the chances.
Eventually, the pressure told as Marcus Rashford scored United’s third, before an own-goal added their fourth.
Victory’s highlight of the second half came in the form of Nani’s debut.
The Portuguese legend made his way onto the pitch for the final few minutes of the game, receiving a significant ovation from the substantial MCG crowd.
Ultimately though, United proved too strong on the night.
Nonetheless, Victory will be proud of their effort having given the English powerhouses a major scare, especially in the first half.
Several debuts and plenty of match time for younger players ensure there is plenty to look forward to in the season ahead for Victory fans.
What they said – Chris Ikonomidis
On the message heading into the game…
“We want to build week to week, game to game. Obviously the message before tonight was we respect our opposition, it is obviously one of the biggest clubs in the world, but we want to give it to them. I thought in certain moments in the match we had them under pressure and panicking and I think we can be proud of ourselves.”
On the atmosphere…
“It was electric. Super thankful to our supporters who showed up and battled the thousands of Manchester United supporters around the world, so just an amazing experience all around.”
Player in focus
George Timotheou was highly impressive on debut for the club.
Although a couple of late goals took away from the team’s defensive showing, Timotheou made several key blocks throughout the game and played a major role in ensuring Victory were tough to break down.
Melbourne Victory: 1 (Ikonomidis 5′)
Manchester United: 4 (McTominay 43′, Martial 45+1′, Rashford 78′, Lupancu (OG) 90′)
Melbourne Victory XI: Izzo (gk), Barnett, Broxham, Miranda, Timotheou, Nigro, Marchan, Brillante (c), Brimmer, Folami, Ikonomidis
Manchester United XI: Heaton (gk), Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Fernandes, Elanga, Sancho, Martial
Yellow cards: Miranda
Red cards: Nil