Manchester United’s preparations for the Premier League’s restart stepped up a gear on Saturday, when Old Trafford staged a practice match between two sides of first-team players.
Club captain Harry Maguire led the ‘home’ line-up in the red kit, while Bruno Fernandes was among the opponents wearing the savannah-themed adidas away strip.
It was the first time the players had been at the Theatre of Dreams since 8 March, when United beat Manchester City 2-0 in the club’s last league game before the COVID-19 outbreak forced a long period of lockdown.
Previous appearances on the pitch date back even further for Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, who last played on 26 December and 15 January respectively and were still on United’s injury list when the campaign was paused, due to the pandemic, in mid-March.
The fit-again duo joined Maguire and the likes of Nemanja Matic and Brandon Williams in taking on a team comprising such players as Fernandes, Juan Mata, Fred, Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
David De Gea and his fellow goalkeeper Sergio Romero were also involved, in a game watched by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and excellently refereed by fitness coach Charlie Owen.
As well as bringing on the squad’s competitive edge, the practice match also gave the players a taste of things to come. There will be no supporters in the stands when Premier League football returns to Old Trafford with Sheffield United’s visit on Wednesday 24 June.
In fact, all of the remaining, rescheduled games will be played behind closed doors, starting with that eagerly awaited first trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday 19 June.