A huge crowd was treated to some of the world’s best in action as Melbourne Victory gave United a scare. Meanwhile, a big name signing made a late cameo.

The red carpet was rolled out and thousands of passionate football fans filled the MCG to welcome Manchester United back to Australia for the first time in almost a decade, but the global powerhouses were given no easy ride by a plucky Melbourne Victory outfit.

While the contest was nothing more than an exhibition match and a pre-season tune-up for players looking to get up to speed before their respective campaigns, United were forced to come from behind to claim the win – emerging 4-1 victors.

74,157 fans were on hand to greet arguably the two biggest sides from their respective nations, with the Shane Warne Stand in particular resembling a patchwork quilt of red with a sprinkle of navy blue.

In only his second game in charge, new United boss Erik ten Hag wheeled out an almost full-strength XI, as the likes of captain Harry Maguire, Portuguese maestro Bruno Fernandes and star winger Jadon Sancho were among the starters.

World Cup winning defender Raphael Varane, star Spanish shot-stopper David de Gea and of course to the dismay of many in attendance, Cristiano Ronaldo, whose future at United remains up in the air, were among the absentees.

However, for most of the first-half it seemed as if a shock result was on the cards and the pre-game noise which reverberated around the arena when many of United’s favourite sons were read out was quickly drowned out.

Instead, Victory’s passionate supporter-base who were in the unfamiliar position of being the smaller contingent of fans in their home-city, were the ones screaming loudest when Chris Ikonomidis fired Tony Popovic’s side ahead off the back of a stunning counter-attack.

And for those 40 minutes and beyond, it was in-fact Melbourne’s fans who were the loudest for the majority of the contest – providing a sensational soundtrack and lightshow with a number of flares set off throughout the game.

Only until United finally stopped firing blanks as Scott McTominay’s equaliser off a deflection woke the dormant Red Devils supporters before Anthony Martial fired the visitors ahead just before halftime to restore parity.

And while the Mexican waves began to circulate the ‘G in the second half, United wrapped up the result with a tidy finish from Marcus Rashford and an unlucky own-goal by Victory youngster Edmond Lupancu to make it two wins from two under their new Dutch boss.

United fans, in the end, were sent home happy into the night and ultimately given their money’s worth, serenading their heroes with a rendition of ‘Glory, Glory, Man United’ at the final whistle and will be hoping for more to celebrate when the Red Devils return to the ‘G on Tuesday to take on Crystal Palace.

Victory, on the other hand, rolled out for the first time since its heartbreaking semi-final loss to Western United with a changed formation and a bunch of new faces.

Tony Popovic opted for the more defensive back five instead of his trusted flat four and handed starting debuts to new shot-stopper Paul Izzo and centre-back George Timotheou – with the former particularly impressive as United pushed for an equaliser in the opening-half – while also playing midfielder Jay Barnett as a makeshift wing-back to cover their defensive absences.

The biggest reception of the night, however, went to Nani who made his Victory debut off the bench and played the final few minutes of the contest against the side he played almost 150 times for throughout his illustrious career.

MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (Ikonomidis 5’)

MANCHESTER UNITED 4 (McTominay 43’, Martial 45, Rashford 78’, Lupancu (OG) 90’)


Originally published as Manchester United defeat Melbourne Victory 4-1 in MCG friendly

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