CHRIS WHEELER: The duel between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid was anything but a friendly

Fred saw red, Anthony Martial picked up a worrying injury that could impact Cristiano Ronaldo and Erik ten Hag suffered his first defeat as Manchester United manager. It certainly wasn’t a walk in the Oslo sun for Ten Hag and his players.

A friendly against Atletico Madrid is one of football’s great contradictions and it came as no surprise that United were drawn into a rather bumpy pre-season battle with Diego Simeone’s side at the Ullevaal stadium, which was ended by a goal from Joao Felix in the 87th minute. minute was decided.

It ended with Fred being shown a second yellow card by referee Espen Eskas in the 90th minute after appearing to have planted his cleats in Alvaro Morata’s body when the Atletico substitute was down on the ground, having previously been due to of hacking by Angel Correa.

Manchester United were involved in a physical clash with Atletico Madrid on Saturday

Manchester United were involved in a physical clash with Atletico Madrid on Saturday

Despite the defeat, it was the ideal game for Erik ten Hag who wants to make his players tougher

Despite the defeat, it was the ideal game for Erik ten Hag who wants to make his players tougher

The number of warnings reached seven and it could easily have been a few more. Two of those went to Scott McTominay and Jan Oblak after a 20-man scuffle broke out in the Atletico penalty area just before half-time as the Spaniards reacted angrily to the United midfielder throwing their keeper to the ground.

If Ten Hag wanted to get his team tougher for the new season, then this was the ideal test. United have been forced to struggle at every turn and perhaps for a group of players who were at odds with one another last season, that might not be such a bad thing.

He said: “I like competitions but I always want to show respect because I don’t want to have injuries so you have to respect each other. I saw some duels that were maybe over the limit.

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When Ten Hag looked for more goals after scoring 13 in four games on the pre-season tour, the Dutchman was disappointed.

United had chances through Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire but failed to score for the first time under their new manager.

Fred received a red card in a less-than-friendly game against Atlético

Fred received a red card in a less-than-friendly game against Atlético

“You have to capitalize on creating opportunities,” added Ten Hag. “They created fewer chances and scored one, so I’m not happy from that point on. I told the team it’s not acceptable because you have to be sharp in both boxes.

“Even from set pieces we had a great chance from Harry Maguire so we had enough to win the game and that’s always our aim.”

Of more concern was an injury to Martial, who was treated just before the hour mark as Simeone made 10 substitutions and held his hamstring shortly after.

The Frenchman was one of United’s tour success stories, reviving his Old Trafford career with three goals and two assists to the point where he was pinned to lead attack in next weekend’s opening game at home to Brighton.

Martial looked lively again here and Ten Hag is hoping his injury is minor. If not, the manager will have to make a decision on Ronaldo, who has declared fit to play what is largely a second game against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford in Sunday’s final friendly.

United staff believe the 37-year-old is three weeks away from full fitness after missing all of pre-season due to family reasons, although his absence coincided with his agent Jorge Mendes trying to secure a move from Old Trafford to plan.

Ten Hag will likely seek other solutions within his squad if Martial is unavailable, but a dramatic return for Ronaldo cannot be ruled out at this point.

If there was any consolation in the departure of United’s No9, it was the arrival of Christian Eriksen as his replacement from the bench, making his debut after joining United as a free agent.

The Dane was given a warm welcome by his Nordic neighbors at the Ullevaal Stadium and in his 20 minutes on the pitch he produced a very promising performance here.

While United struggled to create chances against a typically stubborn Atletico side, Eriksen delivered an exquisite diagonal pass that dodged Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga by inches. Then it was his corner that Harry Maguire picked in front of goal but the United captain inexplicably failed to hit Oblak with a free header.

It proved costly when Joao Felix scored three minutes from time. The ball caught the Brazilian on the left and sliced ​​into Diogo Dalot before using the Portuguese as a shield to fool David de Gea with a low shot into his right post.

United had their chances, particularly early on when Rashford sped down the left flank on Bruno Fernandes’ through ball and Oblak tested his near post before Martial held a loose ball and shot wide under pressure from two defenders.

But Atletico could have scored twice in the first half as Angel Correra rushed past and Victor Lindelof recovered from a bumpy clearance to steal the ball off Geoffrey Kondogbia’s toes in front of goal. Second-half substitute Saul Niguez then missed from close range, catching a Joao Felix cross inside the box.

The tiny Brazilian, who was top scorer when Atletico threw United out of the Champions League in February, then came with the deciding set to hand the spoils to Simeone and give Ten Hag some food for thought while the clock runs up to next weekend’s big kick-off counting down .

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