Jadon Sancho stars as a false nine in Manchester United win over Arsenal in New Jersey

18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo already looks the part – but the pre-season friendly at the MetLife Stadium was not so friendly in the stands

Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-0 in their first match of their pre-season tour of the US at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Saturday night.

Bruno Fernandes scored his first goal since replacing Harry Maguire as United captain this week to open the scoring before Jadon Sancho doubled the lead with a fine finish.

Here Telegraph Sport looks at some of the talking points from the game.

Mainoo looks the part

It is easy to see why Manchester United have no intention of loaning out Kobbie Mainoo this season and Erik ten Hag is keen to have him in the first team fold. The midfielder, who hails from Stockport but whose family are of Ghanaian descent, may only have turned 18 in April but he has a mature head on young shoulders and his talents were on full display during an impressive showing against Arsenal.

Deployed in central midfield with Fernandes and Mason Mount either side, Mainoo oozed confidence and composure in and out of possession. It was from his pass that Fernandes was released to fire left footed past Aaron Ramsdale and give United the lead but his brightest moment came before then.

Mainoo looked composed on the ball and has physicality in his game

Mainoo looked composed on the ball and has physicality in his game Credit: USA TODAY

Dropping in between centre-backs Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, Mainoo nonchalantly sprayed passes side to side before space opened up and the teenager drove forward with the ball before clipping a superb pass in behind to send Antony rushing down the right. It was the start of a slick United move culminating in a blocked shot and had all started because of Mainoo’s vision. As well as being good on the ball, Mainoo is mobile and with a formidable build that belies his age.

Ten Hag is determined to see as much of the youngster as he can on United’s pre-season tour of the US and it would not be a surprise to see him getting opportunities over the forthcoming campaign, especially if the likes of Fred and Donny van de Beek are moved on. United are not blessed with natural alternatives to Casemiro and Mainoo could give Ten Hag another option in the middle.

Sancho stars as a false nine

For the third game running, Ten Hag opted to use Sancho as a false nine. The England player, a winger by trade, performed the role in the wins against Leeds and Lyon and he proved a handful here against Arsenal. After a mistake by Gabriel following a long pass forward, Sancho stole possession and showed a real turn of pace to race away from the Arsenal defender and then a cool head to fire a superb finish high into the corner of the net.

United players celebrate after Sancho doubled the lead in East Rutherford

United players celebrate after Sancho doubled the lead in East Rutherford Credit: GETTY IMAGES

With United yet to sign a striker this summer, Anthony Martial still recovering from a hamstring injury and Wout Weghorst having left the club after his loan expired, Ten Hag has been forced to get creative in attack. Marcus Rashford played through the middle in the second half but his repeat use of Sancho centrally suggests it is a role he has potentially earmarked for the former Borussia Dortmund player, at least until he lands the new striker he desperately craves or Martial returns.

United are still willing to listen to offers for Sancho but the 23-year-old has a lot to prove and a big season ahead of him if he remains at Old Trafford, which seems likely. Sancho spent three months away last season to work on his physical and mental condition but struggled after returning to the team. He favours the left wing to the right but Ten Hag has Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho as options in that position and the manager seems to have resolved that he can get more out of Sancho centrally.

Penalty practice

In something of a novel move, a penalty shoot-out was held at full time even though United had won the game. Ten Hag and his Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta felt it was a good opportunity to practise penalties in front of a big crowd and decided it would be a useful part of their preparations for the new campaign.

Bruno Fernandes bursts clear of new Arsenal signing Declan Rice

Bruno Fernandes bursts clear of new Arsenal signing Declan Rice Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Aaron Ramsdale did not cover himself in glory for United’s first goal as he allowed Fernandes’ shot to spill under him and the Arsenal goalkeeper was unable to keep out any of United’s penalties as Ten Hag’s side won the shoot-out 5-3. Fabio Vieira missed Arsenal’s third penalty with Christian Eriksen converting the winning free-kick for United.

Fighting in the stands

There was a capacity crowd of 82,262 in the stunning MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets NFL teams, a record for a football match at the venue.

That was still considerably less than the US record, which was set in 2014 when United played Real Madrid in front of 109,318 fans at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The match was watched by a record crowd for a football game at the MetLife Stadium

The match was watched by a record crowd for a football game at the MetLife Stadium Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The MetLife packed to the rafters is some sight as United and Arsenal fans mixed freely but it was not all smiles, with fighting briefly breaking out in one section of the ground in the second half.

The trouble passed fairly quickly but still came as a surprise given the carnival atmosphere in the stadium.

No love lost on the pitch, either

This may have been a friendly but, in keeping with the stormy history of this fixture, there were no punches pulled on the pitch. Lisandro Martinez was booked for lunging in on Bukayo Saka shortly before half-time. Martin Odegaard took exception to Martinez’s heavy challenge and confronted the United defender as tempers flared. A mini scuffle ensued with William Saliba, Mount and Luke Shaw rushing over and getting involved.

Asked about United’s physical approach, Arteta said: “They are here to compete and to win as we are. It’s the job of the referee to stop it. You asked me yesterday about how difficult or easy the season will be. It’s going to be more difficult, more challenging.

“The level and the preparation of every team is excellent. We knew today. They played two games before this one. We knew that the test was going to be really demanding just as it will be on Wednesday against one of the best teams in the world (Barcelona).”