Manchester United 2-3 Borussia Dortmund: What we learned
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 30: Erik ten Hag of Manchester United looks on during the pre-season friendly match between Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund at Allegiant Stadium on July 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

Manchester United were unceremoniously beaten 3-2 by German giants Borussia Dortmund, courtesy of a brace from Donyell Malen and a tap-in by 18-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko. The second and third goals for Dortmund, however, were a result of mistakes in United's first phase.

For Malen's second goal, it came as a consequence of Victor Lindelof being closed down quickly by surrounding Dortmund players, rendering him unable to successfully progress the ball past the press. His pass meant for Brandon Williams at LB was intercepted thus leading to an easy and composed finish for Malen, who netted ten times for Dortmund in all competitions last season.

The third goal, Moukoko's goal, came yet again as a result of poor retention in the middle third, as well as fluid counter-attacking from the Dortmund forwards - it was Aaron Wan-Bissaka's turnover which led to Dortmund's winner. Another key moment in the game was when Andre Onana, who played the full second half, was forced to make a save from point-blank range after Christian Eriksen had given the ball away, resulting in Onana yelling furiously at his teammates.

Even though Dortmund did have one more shot on target (eight) than United (seven), United's chances were far more clear-cut, and really should've been capitalised on.

Like all of United's pre-season games so far, Erik ten Hag would have undoubtedly taken the positives from the game more seriously than the result. 

Eriksen was a bright spark for United from minute one, proving yet again that when United have more control of possession, that control allows him to showcase his class on the ball, keeping the play ticking and splitting lines when necessary. Per Sofascore, Eriksen completed nine accurate long balls out of 10 attempts, as well as 42 accurate passes (84%). Had he scored the free kick which was saved by Dortmund keeper Gregor Kobel, it would've been the icing on the cake for a very solid performance.

21-year-old Uruguayan international Facundo Pellistri was easily one of the brighter sparks for United also, as he caused havoc for most of the sixty minutes that he played on the left wing. In what would've been seen by Pellistri as a chance to show what he can do when starting, he showcased great balance when dribbling with that ball, neat intricacy when linking up with the likes of Scott Mctominay, Donny van de Beek and Jadon Sancho in the final third and energetic counter-pressing. He completed all of his dribbles and won eight of his nine ground duels.

Ten Hag had previously said in interviews that Sancho in the false nine position had been an experiment he had wished to try during pre-season to see how he affects the game in central areas, and it's fair to say that the experiment so far has been fairly successful and insightful, as Sancho last night looked a lot more comfortable getting on the ball in central areas of the pitch more so than when he'd drift wide. From 40 touches of the ball, Sancho completed 27 accurate passes (93%), and while his dribbling wasn't great, at the end of the day that isn't why ten Hag values Sancho so much as a false nine.

Van de Beek was also a key performer in the first 60 minutes of the game, having rolled back the years to his Ajax days under Erik ten Hag playing in the 10 role, staying advanced and only dropping deep to get involved in play if he's needed to provide an outlet to outnumber the press. Van de Beek was very energetic in the final third, exemplifying what ten Hag wants from his advanced midfielders as he completed 15 accurate passes from 22 attempts, as well as two key passes in the final third which arguably should've resulted in goals.

Diogo Dalot played like he had a point to prove, and he arguably did have a point to prove considering that for the second half of the season he mostly played second fiddle to Wan-Bissaka. Dalot was easily the best full-back on the pitch, taking care of the ball and regularly inverting to join the midfield when Eriksen would drop into defence. He completed 31 accurate passes from 44 attempts (91.2%), three accurate long balls from four attempts and wasn't dribbled past once. He rounded off his relatively comfortable performance with a well-struck curler into the top corner.

Room for improvement?

Surprisingly, United's "B team" actually performed more admirably than the main starters. Wholesale changes (Bar Sancho and Antony) were made on the hour, and while more clear-cut chances were created, Man United failed to capitalise on them.

Man United's talisman of last season, Marcus Rashfordwas direct from the moment he stepped onto the field, but his tendency to dribble with his head down and not link up properly in and around the box was negatively affecting Man United's counter-attacking. Rashford was providing much more of a threat on his wing than the Brazilian international on the opposite wing however, as Antony failed in large parts to beat his man and progress play in the final third, recording zero key passes, zero crosses, zero long balls and one big chance missed, regardless of his equaliser.

Even though Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez were clearly building a relationship with Onana, the only defenders seeming to benefit from Onana's precise passing were Maguire and Martinez. Wan-Bissaka, Jonny Evans and Shaw failed to really stamp their appeal on the game as they never fully got out of first gear. The chemistry between Fernandes, Mason Mount and Casemiro in midfield left a lot to be desired as Casemiro in particular was failing to retain possession as well as he should have been doing.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 30: <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='' href=''>Manchester United</a></strong> celebrates a goal by <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='' href=''>Diogo Dalot</a></strong> #20 of <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='' href=''>Manchester United</a></strong> during the pre-season friendly match against Borussia Dortmund at Allegiant Stadium on July 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 30: Manchester United celebrates a goal by Diogo Dalot #20 of Manchester United during the pre-season friendly match against Borussia Dortmund at Allegiant Stadium on July 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)