Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left with plenty to ponder as Manchester United were beaten 4-2 by Championship club Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
While it was far from a full-strength United team, with plenty of their stars yet to return from their holidays after Euro 2020, it was a result and performance to suggest worries over a lack of squad depth haven’t gone away.
There were some positives, such as Jesse Lingard’s early goal and the performance of Facundo Pellistri, but the way United’s youthful back line allowed QPR to score three times in seven minutes early in the second-half was alarming.
On the day Solskjaer signed a contract extension until 2024, it was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted ahead of the new season.
We take a look at five talking points from the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
It was an afternoon to remember for Queens Park Rangers as they defeated Manchester United 4-2 at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday afternoon
A dejected Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata kick off after one of the QPR goals in the second-half
Steep learning curve for young defensive duo
It was a nightmare afternoon for United’s young central defensive pairing of Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi as QPR’s forward ran them ragged.
In fact, you can bundle both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams into that shambolic display at the back because they all looked significantly off the pace.
There are high hopes at United for Mengi, 19, who signed a new contract until 2024 during a loan spell at Derby towards the end of last season and he’s been involved with Solskjaer’s squad for some time.
Teden Mengi suffered a chastening afternoon as QPR’s strikers caused plenty of problems
But he was given a real schooling here, not least when leaving Charlie Austin completely unmarked for QPR’s equalising goal after seven minutes.
Austin is a wily customer but United left the back door open and Lee Wallace’s cross picked him out in acres of space at the back post.
Tuanzebe, 23, appeared in 19 matches for United last season and has been around the scene for a couple of years now since his loan spells at Aston Villa.
The highlight was his display in the Champions League win away to Paris Saint-Germain last October but many remain unconvinced by him.
Axel Tuanzebe attempts to keep tabs on QPR’s Ilias Chair as Facundo Pellistri watches on
Brandon Williams is kept at arm’s length by Albert Adomah on a difficult afternoon for United
He certainly struggled to get a grip on proceedings here and was too slow getting out to Lyndon Dykes when he scored QPR’s second shortly after the break. Dykes had all the time in the world to get his shot away.
Neither suggested they’re going to be pushing to become Harry Maguire’s regular centre-half partner in the season ahead.
Wan-Bissaka struggled in the first half to keep tabs on Wallace and the slippery Ilias Chair, while Williams’ poor challenge allowed Dykes through to fire home the fourth goal.
United’s defenders – and Pereira – stand off Moses Odubajo as he fires home QPR’s third goal
Lingard offers a timely reminder of his quality
It didn’t take too long for Jesse Lingard to open the scoring and he seems to be carrying on the fine form from that West Ham loan spell that resuscitated his career.
It was a well-taken goal and well-timed as United prepare to make a decision on Lingard’s future.
There is no shortage of interest in him – from West Ham and reportedly also Everton, Leicester and Atletico Madrid.
Jesse Lingard celebrates opening the scoring for Manchester United three minutes in
Now the confidence has been restored to Lingard’s game, he’ll clearly be an asset to anyone in the Premier League even if there’s clearly no room for him to play regularly at Old Trafford.
There would have been plenty of scouts keeping tabs on Lingard in this game and he did himself plenty of favours with the early goal and a couple of other breaks afterwards.
Although he would have loved to have been part of England’s Euro 2020 campaign, it might prove a blessing in disguise to get a full pre-season under his belt.
Lingard, on this evidence, will hit the ground running when the new season starts – wherever he ends up playing.
Lingard was in impressive form in his 62 minutes of football as interest in signing him grows
Electric Pellistri deserves a chance this season
Having scored a lovely goal against Derby last weekend, it didn’t take long for Uruguayan forward Facundo Pellistri to make an impact here.
His deft touch sprung Lingard into the clear to open the scoring inside three minutes and it was obvious from Pellistri’s lively performance that he has a point to prove.
The intention from Solskjaer had clearly been to send the 19-year-old, who came over from Penarol in his home country last October, out on loan again after he spent time in Spain with Alaves.
Facundo Pellistri impressed once again and should be given a chance rather than loaned out
Solskjaer said after the Derby game: ‘I can see a loan deal for him, there’s been loads of interest and for his best interests a loan would be what we look for.’
Pellistri begged to differ, however, telling MUTV: ‘I went on loan to Alaves, I feel good, now I’m here trying my best, always pushing forward.
‘I would like to stay here but I’m still working hard, improving and continue working.’
Now there’s talk of a u-turn from Solskjaer and it isn’t difficult to see why. Pellistri has bags of skills and electric pace.
Pellistri rounds the goalkeeper to score United’s second goal against Derby last weekend
As well as his early assist, he almost created another goal with an electric burst down the right side and also slipped Lingard through a second time before going off at the break.
He’s shown enough to force a rethink about what happens this season as he could make a real impact off the bench. Problem is, Jadon Sancho plays in his favoured position.
What becomes of Andreas Pereira?
With the blonde streak in his hair, Pereira certainly stood out in the centre of midfield for United. It’s been a while since he started a match for them, having spent last season out on loan at Lazio.
It’s all a far cry from the 2019-20 season when the Brazilian started 18 Premier League games in a United side that could be described as transitional at best. Solskjaer seemed to always turn to him thought mainly through want of anyone else.
Unfortunately, the 25-year-old just isn’t a United calibre player and isn’t likely to be hanging around too much longer with a better choice of attacking players in the squad now.
Andreas Pereira was bright and busy but the games was played around him at times
Pereira has spoken of his wish to return to Lazio, even though he mainly played off the bench, and feels at home in the city of Rome.
He’s an obvious candidate for any squad thinning that takes place this summer and surely United would tout him around for a permanent transfer rather than another loan.
Pereira showed plenty of energy and running here, shutting between the two penalty areas, but looked off the pace of the game at times as the ball was passed around him.
He was nowhere near Moses Obubajo when the QPR full-back breezed past him to find the top corner from 25 yards.
A couple of late tackles also confirmed the suspicion, realised by many a couple of years ago, that the pace of Premier League games is a bit too slick for him.
The Brazilian spent last season out on loan at Lazio and he looks certain to leave Old Trafford
Old school pre-season beneficial for United… despite the result
It’s a very unconventional pre-season for United with a set of fixtures against purely domestic opponents in order to tune up for the new campaign.
They’ve already played Derby County, winning 2-1, and after this meeting with QPR they’ll play Brentford, Preston North End and Everton.
This line-up may well lack the glamour of trips to China, Australia and the United States of previous summers but it may prove more beneficial.
Instead of the usual slow-paced friendlies against weak local opposition in sweltering heat or fellow heavyweights barely back on the training ground, Rangers offered a high-tempo, worthwhile contest.
There were 3,000 Man United fans in the away end at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
Mark Warburton’s side had been cherry-picked by United as friendly opponents as early as April because their manner of playing closely matched that of many Premier League rivals.
And this one certainly wasn’t anywhere near the classic pre-season pace with two goals in the opening seven minutes, six in all, both sides taking turns to attack and players snapping into tackles.
Last season, United lost three of their opening six Premier League games and were really out of the title race before it had even started.
Solskjaer can’t afford for his team to start as sluggishly this time around with a favourable opening set of fixtures and so these type of friendlies, plus minimal travelling, should ultimately help them when the real business gets underway despite a pretty embarrassing result here.
Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer share a joke in the away dug-out in west London