10 trending topics, United v Athletic Club

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Sunday 06 August 2023 18:15

Manchester United completed a final pre-season test on Sunday, with a closely contested 90 minutes against Athletic Club at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

A first-half goal by Nico Williams seemed to have secured victory for our opponents, but a dramatic late equaliser from Facundo Pellistri brought the house down. The Uruguayan found the net with almost the last kick of the game, and rewarded huge late pressure from United following a red card for Aitor Paredes with 23 minutes to go.

Beyond the respectable result, Erik ten Hag will be pleased to get 90 minutes into more of the squad – after many first-teamers played the entirety of Saturday’s 3-1 win over Lens at Old Trafford.

It was an intriguing day in Dublin, with plenty of notable talking points, as ever. We’ve rounded up all the tastiest topics below…


It’s impossible to start anywhere other than Ireland’s incredible love for United. This was our first match in Dublin since 2017, when we defeated Sampdoria 2-1 in another pre-season friendly. But our relationship with the Aviva Stadium goes back to the ground’s very beginnings: we took part in its very first football match in 2010, when we defeated a League of Ireland XI by seven goals to one. Within the stadium were Reds from all across the Republic and from Northern Ireland, and the fans clearly enjoyed the day out. Songs in tribute to Cantona and Solskjaer could be heard reverberating around the ground, along with plenty of the classic United chants.


Of course, a large reason for Ireland’s passion for the Reds is due to the incredible number of players to have represented us from the entire island. George Best (Northern Ireland) and Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland) are perhaps the most famous examples, but there are many more, from one of our early captains, Patrick O’Connell, to the legendary Johnny Carey through Norman Whiteside. Two of our top 10 all-time appearance-makers hail from the Republic (Tony Dunne and Denis Irwin), and the links continue right up to today, with Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) receiving great ovations both when he warmed up and as he entered the field of play (replacing Alvaro Fernandez) in the second half.


United left it very late, but finally grabbed a deserved equaliser when Harry Maguire’s powerful header teed up Pellistri to fire home in added time. It was a fine, composed finish when the Reds needed it most, and put the icing on an enterprising performance from the youngster, who had challenged the Athletic Club defence throughout the match. There was also a touch of redemption for Maguire, whose assist made up for a misplaced pass in the build-up to the opposition’s opening goal, scored by Nico Williams.

Because Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Lens at Old Trafford preceded this fixture by just over 24 hours, the manager had to refresh his starting XI. Plenty of senior players who didn’t get minutes against Lens were involved here, as was Jadon Sancho, who played the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s game. Tom Heaton captained an experienced back line featuring Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but there were exciting starts for Academy-reared youngsters Fernandez, Dan Gore and Omari Forson. All three acquitted themselves authoritatively.

A sloppy pass gave Lens the opportunity to open the scoring at Old Trafford on Saturday, and a similar mistake in our own half cost us here, when Maguire’s ball was intercepted by Inigo Lekue before Nico Williams was sent through for the opening goal. Pre-season is all about learning, but Ten Hag will be keen to see his side tighten up when the Premier League kicks off next week.

90 in 20: United v Lens Video

90 in 20: United v Lens

90 in 20 Watch extended highlights from our Old Trafford pre-season friendly…


There was a familiar face in the opposition team in the guise of former United midfielder Ander Herrera. The popular Basque player joined United in the summer of 2014, and made 189 appearances, scoring 20 goals, before departing for Paris Saint-Germain when his contract expired in 2019. He helped us win three major trophies, and was much admired for his tenacity, enthusiasm and crisp passing. The 33-year-old got a warm welcome when he came on in the second half, but was unable to prevent United getting on top during the final stages. Always a pleasure to see you, Ander, and good luck for the rest of the season.


Ander wasn’t the only Athletic Club player we’ve crossed paths with before. Like Herrera, Iker Muniain and Oscar de Marcos played in Athletic club’s famous 3-2 win at Old Trafford in 2012 – one of the finest performances by a visiting team in our stadium’s 113-year history. We first met the iconic Basque club back in 1957, losing 5-3 at the old San Mames in the first leg of the European Cup quarter-final. We then overturned that deficit with a rollicking 3-0 win at Maine Road, in what was arguably the Busby Babes’ greatest display. Poignantly, the victory came exactly one year to the day before the Munich Air Disaster.

Northern Irishman Jonny Evans got some huge bursts of applause from the Dublin crowd.


Jadon was the only senior player to feature in both of United’s two friendlies over the weekend, and he delighted the Dublin crowd with his close control and cleverness for much of this performance. Throughout pre-season we’ve seen him play in the ‘false nine’ position, given Anthony Martial’s absence. With Rasmus Hojlund also suffering from a small problem, he was asked to reprise the role at the Aviva Stadium. He was frustrated at failing to convert an early one-on-one with Unai Simon, but was a menace thereafter. How he might feature against Wolves is an intriguing thought, but Ten Hag will be delighted Sancho is looking fit to fire ahead of an important season for the forward.


Pre-season games can be sedate, but most of United’s matches in the last few weeks have contained plenty of intensity and competiteveness. We saw Lisandro Martinez bulldozing into Arsenal in New Jersey, and in Dublin we had the rare experience of seeing a player sent off in a so-called ‘friendly’. Paredes was shown a straight red for pulling back Hannibal with around a quarter of the game to go, when the Tunisian was within sight of the Athletic Club goal.

Pellistri levels with the last kick! Video

Pellistri levels with the last kick!

📽️ MATCH MOMENT Harry Maguire’s header finds Facundo Pellistri, who keeps his composure to equalise late on…


This fixture is, of course, the final one in United’s extensive pre-season campaign. We’re just over a week from that all-important Premier League opener against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford. Results have been mixed during pre-season, but as we’ve found before, that often has no bearing on how the team starts when the competitive stuff begins. Erik will be happy with the physical strides his players have made, and we saw some sublime attacking play at Old Trafford and in Dublin over the weekend. 2023/24 is almost here and we can’t wait!

  • Our first chance falls to Sancho Video

Our first chance falls to Sancho

📽️ MATCH MOMENT United would have been ahead inside the opening three minutes, but for a good stop from Unai Simon…
  • Pellistri has effort diverted behind Video

Pellistri has effort diverted behind

📽️ MATCH MOMENT Facundo Pellistri sees an effort blocked at close range, as United search for a leveller…
  • Paredes shown red card Video

Paredes shown red card

📽️ MATCH MOMENT Our opponents were reduced to 10 men when Aitor Paredes was sent off for hauling back Hannibal…
  • Eriksen produces a dangerous free-kick Video

Eriksen produces a dangerous free-kick

📽️ MATCH MOMENT This Christian Eriksen free-kick is the closest we’ve come to an equaliser in the second half…

Sunday 06 August 2023 18:15

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