Captain Bruno gets the job done! 6 things we learned as Man Utd skipper leads Red Devils to 2-0 win over Arsenal

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Bruno Antony
The newly-appointed captain marked his first game as skipper with a classy performance against league rivals Arsenal

Welcome, captain Bruno. You might just like this armband. The Manchester United captaincy is supposed to come with pressure and adversity, but it hardly seemed to weigh down on the newly-minted Fernandes, who scored one and was instrumental in another as Man Utd comfortably put away Arsenal in a lively clash.

This was an unusually animated contest for a pre-season fixture. Both sides had their chances in the early goings, with a Tom Heaton double save denying Gabriel Martinelli after 11 minutes. United made the breakthrough, Fernandes cutting onto his weaker left foot and curling a shot into the corner — an effort that Aaron Ramsdale will feel he should have denied.

United's second was equally avoidable. Gabriel misjudged a speculative pass, allowing Jadon Sancho to run in on goal and lash his effort through Ramsdale at the near post. United could've had more. Antony skewed one wide before narrowly missing the top corner. Numerous other attacks, started with Fernandes' expansive distribution, should have yielded better results.

And, in truth, this contest was done by the break. Both managers rotated after the break, and the fluidity that had defined the first half was swiftly lost. By that time, Fernandes was on the bench, sitting comfortably as his side, the one he now leads, locked up a 2-0 win.

GOAL looks at what we learned during the clash at MetLife Stadium...

  1. Arteta's new midfield falls flat

    Arteta's new midfield falls flat

    Arsenal have invested heavily in their midfield this summer, pouring nearly £200 million into Kai Havertz and Declan Rice to support Martin Odegaard. The trio had their inaugural start together on Saturday, a glimpse at the Gunners side to come. And it didn't quite work. Rice was reliable as expected, occupying space at the base of midfield, but his passing was lacking.

    Havertz, meanwhile, looked every bit a player who hasn't played in a central midfield role for three years. The big money signing struggled to get on the ball for most of the first half, his runs either a second late or wrong altogether. Arteta has promised that it will take time for the German international to settle into the spot, and that prediction rang true here.

    Even Odegaard, arguably the best player on this team, fell short. There was a wonderful clipped ball behind the backline, a shuffle into space to leave two defenders in his wake, a pass slid across the surface to Saka. But there was also the occasional mistake, missed passes and defensive lapses.

  2. The old Sancho (maybe) returns

    The old Sancho (maybe) returns

    Sancho's United career has been plagued by injuries and false dawns. The player they once spent £75 million ($95m) on has never really settled in Manchester, only showing his quality in fleeting moments. Here is an immensely talented footballer, who through two full seasons, still hasn't even flirted with his potential.

    But his performance here was encouraging. Deployed in an unfamiliar false nine position, Sancho wreaked havoc on the Arsenal backline. At times he dropped short, then drifted wide. Occasionally, he ran in behind, or drove from midfield.

    There might just be some sense to this to trying him out in this role when the proper gets going. Sancho, at his best, needs to be on the pitch. United are lucky to have a fine selection of wingers, but the former Dortmund man is better than all of them on his day. This was one of those magic showings; they just need to happen more often.

  3. United still need a striker

    United still need a striker

    United have pursued a number of striking options this summer, with Atalanta's Rasmus Hojlund among the top targets. The most recent reports suggest that the Red Devils have made progress, and the two sides have agreed personal terms on what could be an expensive move for the Danish international.

    Based on the evidence here, that deal can't happen quickly enough. United broke well and often, but with only Sancho through the middle, lacked a central finisher to complete their litany of flowing moves. It was a midfielder who provided United first, Fernandes' speculative strike bouncing off Ramsdale's palms and in. And although Sancho provided the second, this could have been 4-0 at half time.

    Rashford was the answer in the second period, occupying a more central role than he's best at. But even he fell flat, missing an easy chance at the far post. At times, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was the furthest player forward, making the occasional run that, if nothing else, emphasised United's struggles.

  4. Timber will take time

    Timber will take time

    The arrival of Jurrien Timber theoretically gave Arteta all kinds of tactical flexibility. A versatile defender capable of playing centrally or on the right, the former Ajax man projected to function as either a backup to William Saliba or extra competition for Ben White. And he took White's spot here, working in the inverted right-back role that the Englishman had excelled in last season.

    The results were mixed. Timber's quality on the ball was apparent, and some of his passing was as expansive as advertised. But there were some weaknesses, too. He lost track of runners on a few occasions and struggled to cope with United's press at times.

    This is allowed for a new signing who is yet to play more than 45 minutes for his club. And the presence of White means there will be little pressure on Timber to perform immediately. But this wasn't a performance that suggested that White should fear for his starting spot in the team.

  5. Captain Bruno shows up

    Captain Bruno shows up

    Fernandes was the obvious candidate to inherit the armband after Harry Maguire was stripped of the captaincy earlier this week. The Portuguese international has led the side a number of times over the course of his United tenure, and is, at this point, one of the longest-tenured members of the squad.

    But there were a few questions about his leadership to date. He was caught walking in United's 7-0 defeat to Liverpool earlier this year and has often been criticised for his body language. Indeed, this is not always a player known for his crunching tackles or outstanding leadership qualities.

    Here, though, he played the part perfectly. Fernandes was perhaps United's most influential player, pinging the ball around and getting himself on the scoresheet, too. It remains to be seen exactly what kind of captain Fernandes will be. But the pressure that comes with leading the Red Devils certainly didn't get to him.

  6. Sloppy Arsenal aren't ready yet
    Getty Images

    Sloppy Arsenal aren't ready yet

    Towards the end of last season, as Arsenal saw their 12-point lead atop the Premier League slip to a rampant Manchester City, the mistakes started cropping up. There were giveaways from Ramsdale against Southampton, tackling errors from Oleksandr Zinchenko against Liverpool, and a calamitous defensive showing against West Ham.

    And some of the familiar lapses showed up here. Ramsdale should have saved United's opener. Gabriel misjudged a clearance in the run up to the second. A wayward William Saliba pass almost led to a United third. Pre-season is a time for ironing out these errors, finding a vital rhythm that ensures they won't happen come the start of the campaign.

    Still, some of the blunders were eerily familiar, the same kind of lapses that saw the Gunners lose their grip on the Premier League last year.