Manchester United maintained their perfect pre-season record with a 4-1 over Melbourne Victory on Friday, giving Erik ten Hag his second win from as many games.
United followed on from a rather surprising, pre-season opening 4-0 victory over Liverpool in Singapore on Tuesday by kicking off the Australian leg of their tour with an equally convincing result.
Ten Hag again used two mostly different sides in each half of the game, giving the likes of Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage a chance to shine in the second half as they did against Liverpool three days earlier.
It wasn’t entirely plain sailing from the first whistle, as the Red Devils fell behind after just five minutes when Melbourne winger Chris Ikonomidis fired his side ahead on the counter attack.
Two quickfire goals from Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial turned the game on its head on the cusp of half-time, though, before a resilient Melbourne shut up shop once more after the break, with a compact low block.
United’s performance against Melbourne
The hosts were happy to cede possession, which allowed United‘s second half XI to mount waves of attacks and show off what they had picked up so far under the tutelage of the new manager. It was a solid showing from Melbourne, but United’s advances and fatigue setting in ultimately saw them weaken as the game grew on.
Marcus Rashford was introduced for the second half having started the game on the bench, and it was his strike after 78 minutes that reopened the floodgates as he made it 3-1, before an own-goal forced by Tahith Chong added a fourth in the closing moments of the game.
It was another impressive performance for the Red Devils, who were without both David de Gea and Raphael Varane, as they continue to prepare for a 2022/23 campaign which must improve on a dismal 2021/22 season.
Another brilliant display from Bailly
But, while fans were obviously delighted with the performance and result, it was defender Eric Bailly who stole the show following his introduction for the second 45 minutes.
Bailly, whose future at United remains uncertain despite only signing a new contract last year, has been unable to nail down a regular spot in the starting XI since signing in 2016 due to consistent injury and subsequent inconsistency.
Fans have been frustrated by the 28-year-old’s patchy fitness record, but his performance against Melbourne was just the reminder fans needed to believe in the Ivorian once again, even if it was a little rough around the edges.
The Ivorian was all over for United in the second half in a showing that oozed confidence and raw ability, playing on the very edge and taking plenty of risks. Bailly led the charge at the back with big tackles and spells of possession, one or two of which almost saw him dispossessed and would’ve set Melbourne clean through on goal.
Man Utd sign Eriksen (Football Terrace)
But we aren’t here to talk about that. What we need to address is the assist he provided for Rashford, whose well-taken finish simply would not have occurred if it wasn’t for Bailly being, well, unhinged as ever in possession.
After his antics in bringing the ball out against Liverpool which led to Facundo Pellistri’s goal, Bailly was at it again, stepping out into the opposition half, shrugging off challenges from opposition players, and then rifling an inch perfect, grounded pass to Rashford, splitting the lines of play seamlessly.
WATCH: Eric Bailly’s sublime assist for Marcus Rashford
Honestly, how does he do it?
Bailly is the most unapologetically chaotic footballer around right now, and we love it. Let’s take a look at what United fans had to say about the assist…
Truly outrageous stuff from Bailly who, for all the jokes made about him, very clearly has the minerals to be a genuinely top class defender.
It’s a real shame that injuries have ravaged him so often since joining United in 2016. But, with players getting a fresh start under Ten Hag and Bailly standing out as one of the strongest performers in pre-season so far, there’s no reason why he can’t enjoy a career revival in the coming season.
That is if he sticks around at the club, with United looking likely to try and offload a defender or two amid the news from Fabrizio Romano that a deal for Lisandro Martinez is nearing completion.