Anthony Martial during the match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace in Perth, Australia, July 2022.

5 Man Utd players that boosted their first-team chances in pre-season

Manchester United are looking to recover and move forwards following their disappointing 2021-22 season, which has meant plenty of opportunities for players looking to impress new manager Erik ten Hag – and five players, in particular, have done just that.

United have seen an incredible churn of players this summer; at the time of writing, the club have made three signings and dispensed with 15 of last season’s squad.

And, with Ten Hag looking to impose his style of football on his new charges, a number of players have grasped the opportunity to impress the United boss and force their way into his plans.

With pre-season over, and United looking to make a fast start to their Premier League campaign, we’ve taken a look at five men who boosted their first-team prospects during July.

Anthony Martial

Martial has been the main beneficiary of Ronaldo’s self-imposed absence, leading the line with distinction during United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.

The forward, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Sevilla, netted three goals in three matches and was particularly excellent during United’s 4-0 win over Liverpool.

Confidence, rather than an absence of talent, has always been Martial’s downfall but his form during July, and the likelihood that he’ll start the season as United’s main striker, should give the 26-year-old renewed belief that he can score consistently.

While he looked destined to leave Old Trafford at the start of the summer, it would be a major surprise if Ten Hag sold the 26-year-old now.

Karim Benzema celebrates scoring for Lyon against Manchester United in the Champions League. Old Trafford, Manchester, March 2008.

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Zidane Iqbal

Iqbal has long been regarded as an exciting prospect by United fans and his performances during pre-season have underlined his status as one to watch.

The 19-year-old, who made his first-team debut in 2021, demonstrated technical ability, press resistance and an effective passing range on United’s tour and supporters will be clamouring to see more of him at the base of midfield.

Having signed a long-term contract extension this summer, Iqbal has impressed Ten Hag sufficiently for the new United boss to keep the midfielder around to oversee his progress personally.

Charlie Savage

Savage made his first-team bow during last season’s Champions League tie with Young Boys and made classy appearances during United’s pre-season victories over Liverpool and Melbourne Victory.

It’s been a testament to Savage’s dedication and inclination towards self-improvement; The Times reported that the young midfielder studied United legends Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick during the 2020 lockdown in an effort to improve his strength.

But, with Iqbal’s impressive performances and United’s continuing pursuit of Frenkie de Jong, the 19-year-old will likely be limited to cup games and late substitute appearances regardless of his pre-season form.

Whether that’ll be enough to satisfy Savage’s desire for game time remains to be seen but his smooth passing and energy against Liverpool would have certainly impressed Ten Hag.

Diogo Dalot

Dalot ended last season as United’s first-choice right-back ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has reportedly been made surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.

But there were still doubts whether the 23-year-old has a long-term future with United or whether Ten Hag would look to sign another right-back this summer.

Dalot failed to provide a single assist last year, but he started all four of their matches on their pre-season tour and set up Martial for the opening goal against Crystal Palace in Melbourne.

While there’s still plenty of room for improvement, Dalot’s performances will have impressed Ten Hag and should earn him the chance to make the right-back slot his own.

Eric Bailly

Bailly has struggled for form and fitness during his six years in English football, even though that hasn’t stopped him from gaining cult hero status, and the signing of Lisandro Martinez could yet see the defender leave United this summer.

There is interest from AC Milan and Roma for the 28-year-old, who only signed a contract extension last summer, as United look to rebuild the defence that conceded 57 league goals last season – their highest total since the 1978-79 season (63).

But the Ivory Coast international would have given Ten Hag food for thought with his pre-season displays. His composure on the ball was eye-catching and his comfort in a high line could allow the new United boss to embed his new system more smoothly.

With Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe also on the fringes of the first team, Bailly’s assured performances may have earnt him a stay of execution.

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