Both teams kicked off the exhibition period with opening wins, as the Red Devils put two unanswered goals past Leeds United while Les Gones edged past Dutch outfit De Treffers.
With a host of Man United’s international representatives recovering from their recent exertions, the stage was set for Erik ten Hag’s up-and-coming proteges to lay down a marker in Oslo, as Man United and Leeds embarked on a Scandinavian sojourn for their opening pre-season friendly.
Following a scoreless 45 minutes, Ten Hag made his inevitable plethora of changes during the half-time break, and youthful attacking duo Noah Emeran and Joe Hugill both found a way through in the second 45 to seal a 2-0 win for the EFL Cup holders last Wednesday.
That comfortable success over their long-time adversaries also saw new arrival Mason Mount make his non-competitive debut for the 20-time English champions, who are expected to bolster their ranks further this week with the capture of Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana, reuniting Ten Hag with his former Ajax number one.
While the powers-that-be thrash out the final details to bring the Cameroonian shot-stopper to Old Trafford, Ten Hag’s existing troops gear up for their sole friendly on British soil before their transatlantic flight to the USA, where Arsenal, Wrexham, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund provide a quartet of intriguing opponents.
Lens and Athletic Bilbao will also test the Man United mettle before the new Premier League season commences, and while the Red Devils are showing the first signs of restoring the glory days of yesteryear, the same cannot be said for their French counterparts.
Previously dominating the French football landscape while Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United ran the show in England in the 2000s, Lyon have since found it impossible to keep up with the Paris Saint-Germain financial juggernaut, while Lille, Lens, Monaco and Marseille have also asserted their dominance over the seven-time Ligue 1 champions.
A significant period of change both in the dugout and boardroom saw long-serving president Jean-Michel Aulas step down from his post after 36 years of service, while Peter Bosz’s turbulent tenure was brought to an end in October, allowing ex-Man United man Laurent Blanc to take the reins.
Despite a largely positive run of form after the turn of the year and the unexpected Alexandre Lacazette hot streak – which saw the ex-Arsenal man net 27 goals in Ligue 1, only two behind Golden Boot winner Kylian Mbappe – Lyon once again fell short in their efforts to return to continental competition, ending up in seventh place.
During a brief stopover in the Netherlands, Lyon dropped down the divisions to meet amateur outfit De Treffers, and Blanc’s side were indebted to a late Jeff Reine-Adelaide penalty for their 2-1 win, after Tino Kadewere had initially cancelled out Coen Maertzdorf’s opener.
The friendly run-in does not get any kinder to Blanc, whose side also take on Molenbeek, Celta Vigo and Crystal Palace after the Frenchman’s homecoming with Man United, who most recently posted a 2-1 aggregate win over Les Gones in the 2007-08 Champions League en route to European glory.
Manchester United friendly form:
Lyon friendly form:
We say: Manchester United 1-1 Lyon
With Ten Hag already cutting a pessimistic figure over the availability of his side’s international players for Wednesday’s friendly, a makeshift Red Devils XI may not have it all their own way at Murrayfield.
Lyon were far from excellent in their opening pre-season battle as well, but with more experienced options available to Blanc, we can envisage the former Red Devil holding his old employers to a score draw.