Teenager Mason Greenwood fired Manchester United to victory against Inter Milan on a night that saw Ashley Young subjected to loud and frequent jeers by fans in Singapore.
The build-up to Saturday’s International Champions Cup clash at the National Stadium has been dominated by the Serie A side’s public interest in Romelu Lukaku.
But as a knock ruled out the Belgium striker for a third straight friendly, 17-year-old Greenwood again underlined his quality by coming off the bench to seal Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United a 1-0 victory.
The forward also hit the bar after coming on with a third of the game remaining – one of 10 changes made at that stage in sweltering Singapore.
Young, who captained the side for the majority of last season, was another to be brought in and heard his named booed loudly when it was read out by the stadium announcer.
The 34-year-old continued to be jeered on a night that ended with United racking up their third pre-season win. A sea of red welcomed the sides at a sold-out National Stadium, where Solskjaer’s name echoed around the ground as United made a positive start.
Marcus Rashford started well and Luke Shaw went agonisingly close to opening the scoring with a fizzing, low drive.
Anthony Martial and Rashford were denied by Samir Handanovic as United continued to edge proceedings that included a water break on the half-hour mark.
Daniel James wasted a good chance and Martial had an attempt, with Danilo D’Ambrosio going closest for Inter as David De Gea, making his first appearance of the tour, flapped.
Martial got fans on their feet before Lingard saw a strike cleared off the line, while Nemanja Matic hit the post.
Pogba was impressing and Aaron Wan-Bissaka cleared off the line when Inter jolted into life, with former United target Ivan Perisic going close soon after.
Victor Lindelof was replaced by Phil Jones after appearing to pick up a slight hamstring issue and Solskjaer soon made sweeping changes.
Young was among those brought on and his named was booed when it was read out. The full-back continued to be jeered and the only respite appeared to come when he had a shot, including the free-kick that led to Greenwood’s second United goal.
Handanovic could only parry Young’s attempt, with the 17-year-old taking the loose ball and then a smart touch away from danger before firing home a lovely left-footed strike.
Greenwood soon saw an effort clip the top of the bar after meeting a cross from Tahith Chong, who was among numerous players getting rough treatment without protection.
Solskjaer did not look pleased on the touchline – unhappiness that only grew when Chong fell to the deck in pain after a few minutes.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has refused to put a timeframe on how long Wayne Rooney will be absent for after confirming his captain had suffered a knee injury, with reports suggesting it could be up to two months.
A number of British newspapers reported the 30-year-old striker had sustained knee ligament damage that could sideline him for a couple of months, handing United a heavy blow in their pursuit of a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Rooney was not included in the travelling squad United announced yesterday for tonight’s Europa League last-32 first-leg clash at FC Midtjylland.
And Van Gaal said in his pre-match press conference: “We have 13 players injured and Wayne is one of them. It’s difficult to say but he’s injured in the game versus Sunderland and has a knee problem. We have to wait and see how long that takes. I cannot say.
“He scores a lot of goals so he is very important for us. We know that but we have to cope with that. Certainly in 2016, he has scored and that’s why we had a good run in matches until Sunderland. But we have to cope with that. Everybody can be injured and also the captain can be injured.”
If Rooney is facing a sustained period on the sidelines, it will be a significant setback both to his club and country. United are currently fifth in the Premier League, six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City with 12 rounds of top-flight fixtures to go.
And Van Gaal, whose position has been under increasing scrutiny, admitted after Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Sunderland that winning the Europa League was looking the most viable route into the Champions League for his side.
Meanwhile, England have a double-header of international friendlies next month against Germany and Holland as they continue their preparations for this summer’s Euro 2016 finals.
Three Lions head coach Roy Hodgson said on Saturday that skipper Rooney – England’s all-time record goalscorer – will be “a player we need to depend upon” at the tournament in France.
Rooney has netted three times in four appearances for England this season, and is United’s top scorer this term with 14 goals in all competitions.
Louis van Gaal does not know whether he will be at Manchester United next season if he fails to qualify for the Champions League.
United are six points shy of fourth-placed Manchester City with 13 matches of the season remaining.
When asked whether failure to make the top four or qualify for the Champions League via the Europa League would cost him his job, the United manager said: “It’s not a question for me, it’s a question for the board, you have to put it to them. I have a contract for three years and you know that.”
Van Gaal insists he has no problem with United’s failure to back him publicly. Speculation has been swirling around Van Gaal ever since United slipped out of the top four and exited the Champions League.
Unlike when David Moyes was under pressure, United have failed to intimate that Van Gaal has their backing. Some have taken that as a sign that Van Gaal has lost the faith of the board and that they are considering replacing him with Jose Mourinho.
But Van Gaal says he does not mind that the club have not made a statement backing him.
“I am not agreeing with that,” the Dutchman said when asked if he was disappointed about any lack of public backing from the club. “Because I have said many times that not all the media, but a lot of media, is inventing stories and you don’t have to answer on invented stories. I agree with this policy of the club.”
A winless run of eight matches towards the end of the year left Van Gaal’s position under scrutiny. United’s form has improved since the start of the year as the Red Devils have lost just once in 2016 and sit fourth in the form table.
Victory over Sunderland on Saturday would move United within three points of the Champions League places as the top four are all playing on Sunday.
Unfortunately for Van Gaal, eight of his players are absent through injury. Long-term absentees Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ashley Young remain sidelined while Phil Jones, Adnan Januzaj and Guillermo Varela all suffered injuries in the Under-21s’ 7-0 win over Norwich on Monday