‘Last chance saloon’ - Five Man Utd players who must impress in friendly games vs Cadiz & Real Betis

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This week may just be warm-up camp for Manchester United, but the double header in Spain could prove hugely significant for several players.

Like most of England’s top sides, Manchester United’s preparations for the second part of the 2022/23 season will be hugely impacted by the World Cup in Qatar.

From Erik ten Hag’s current first-team squad, 13 players have been involved in the tournament with their respective nations. As many as 11 could participate in the last-16 stage and, with United returning to competitive action just three days after the final, their starting XIs in matches during the latter stages of December could have an experimental feel to them.

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The success of the Red Devils stars in Qatar is also evident when looking at the squad that travelled to Spain for this week’s two friendly matches against Cadiz and Real Betis. There was no Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro or Bruno Fernandes named in the 29-man roster named by United, a situation that may prove advantageous for other first-team members.

The absence of such key stars will hand fringe players and youngsters an opportunity to impress and potentially force their way into Erik ten Hag’s plans. But for others, there’s a different feel, and there are several players who desperately need to perform well in order to prolong what seem like dwindling United careers.

We’ve picked out five who must make an impression for the Red Devils before the season reconvenes.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

It’s less than two years since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer referred to the former Crystal Palace man as ‘one of the best one-against-one defensive full-backs in the world’, and since the Norwegian’s dismissal from Old Trafford, Wan-Bissaka’s form has plummeted.

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The right-back has fallen behind Diogo Dalot in the pecking order and his lack of attacking impetus means that serious questions must be asked about his suitability to a Ten Hag team. He’s played just five minutes this season due to injury and poor performance, but should be given game time in Spain with Dalot at the World Cup. It may be a last chance for Wan-Bissaka to show the United manager why he deserves a place in his squad.

Brandon Williams

Not dissimilar to Wan-Bissaka, Williams has endured a tough few years that have seen him suffer with injuries, poor form and a lack of game time. The academy product desperately needs a run of matches after missing the entire season to date through injury.

Dalot, Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia being in Qatar should hand Williams the opportunity to play in the full-back roles against Cadiz and Betis, and the 22-year-old’s versatility and attacking skill could give him a slight advantage over Wan-Bissaka in the battle to impress Ten Hag.

Williams training with United in Spain. Credit: Getty.Williams training with United in Spain. Credit: Getty.
Williams training with United in Spain. Credit: Getty.

Scott McTominay

From the squad in Spain, no outfield player had more on-field minutes than McTominay in the first part of 2022/23. Yet, he started just one of the last 12 matches prior to the break, and that came in the Carabao Cup.

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The Scotland international fell behind Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Fred over October and November and Ten Hag appears to have doubts about McTominay’s suitability to sit in front of a defence. Two good performances in Spain could see him start when competitive action resumes on 21 December, especially with the aforementioned trio playing at the World Cup.

Donny van de Beek

Ten Hag’s appointment at Old Trafford was supposed to herald a new era for United’s no.34, but it’s been more of the same for Van de Beek this season. An inability to impact matches was again the common theme across a trio of consecutive starts against Real Sociedad and Aston Villa (twice) in November, and he was replaced around the hour mark in all three.

Could Van de Beek’s time at Old Trafford be drawing to a close? Credit: Getty.Could Van de Beek’s time at Old Trafford be drawing to a close? Credit: Getty.
Could Van de Beek’s time at Old Trafford be drawing to a close? Credit: Getty.

The midfielder has retained a surprising level of support with fans despite consistently underwhelming since his 2020 move, but this feels like the last chance saloon for the 25-year-old.

Shola Shoretire

Since making his first-team debut in February 2021 the winger’s development has slowed somewhat and he made just two senior appearances last season, while he’s yet to feature at all for Ten Hag.

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The United manager has no shortage of young wingers to choose from, with Anthony Elanga Amad, Facundo Pellistri and Alejandro Garancho providing competition for Shoretire. Yet Pellistri and Amad won’t be in Spain, nor will Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford or Antony, meaning Shoretire should be given an opportunity to impress the United boss.

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