Manchester United got their pre-season campaign off to a winning start as midfielder Paul Pogba made his first appearance since declaring that he is ready for “a new challenge”.
United beat Perth Glory 2-0 at the Optus Stadium but all eyes were on Pogba, who played the second 45 minutes as speculation continues that he will sign for either Real Madrid and Juventus before the 2019-20 season begins.
Marcus Rashford’s 60th-minute goal and a late James Garner strike settled matters in Western Australia, and overall Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been more than happy with the intent of his side’s play regardless of how rarely they were able to break down Perth’s dogged defensive unit.
For Pogba, though, there was a mixed response from the Perth crowd – some cheering, some jeering – following his public pronouncement in June that he is ready to leave United, along with continued efforts by his agent Mino Raiola to prise the Frenchman away from Old Trafford.
Pogba was among 11 half-time substitutes as Solskjaer looked to give as many of his senior squad as possible the chance to stretch their legs. There was no sign of Romelu Lukaku, the subject of an official approach by Inter, but the United boss insisted that Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Lee Grant all missed out through nothing more than “slight niggles”.
New signing Daniel James was an immediate positive, with his desire to run at opponents almost paying dividends in the first couple of minutes as he forged a yard of space and sent a teasing low ball in behind the Glory defence. Unfortunately for United there was nobody alert enough to react in the box and Diogo Dalot’s snap effort on the far edge of the box went high and wide.
Jesse Lingard also looked occasionally lively playing in a No.10 role but didn’t provide the key to unlock the bolstered Glory defence, and while Axel Tuanzebe and Dalot were sharp United couldn’t break through in the opening 45.
After Solskjaer changed his entire XI for the second half there was a notable elevation in the pace of United’s passing and it wasn’t long before Rashford’s excellent spin and left-foot shot from a Pogba flick had put them ahead.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka looked steady in his first outing in a United shirt since arriving from Crystal Palace, while youngster Angel Gomes was a bright spot in the forward line and Mason Greenwood could easily have had a couple of goals having regularly found space in the final third. Pogba, meanwhile, always looked to be creative whenever he got the chance to take on a tiring Glory defence.
United wrapped up the win five minutes from time when Perth erred on the ball and James Garner lashed home from 20 yards having only moments earlier replaced Luke Shaw.
With the tour off to a winning start, the focus now has to be on deciding what happens next for the likes of Lukaku and Pogba. The success of Solskjaer’s United rebuild could depend on what happens in the transfer market over the next four weeks.