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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Irish fans treated to a Man United victory on their Aviva Stadium return

The Premier League club edged out Sampdoria on their first visit to Dublin since 2010.

The Man United players celebrate Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal.
The Man United players celebrate Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

Manchester United 2
Sampdoria 1

Ben Blake reports from the Aviva Stadium

MANCHESTER UNITED WOUND up their pre-season preparations by beating Italian outfit Sampdoria thanks to a late winner at Aviva Stadium this evening.

After a summer tour that took them to the US and Norway, the Premier League club returned Dublin after a seven-year absence.

That day, Alex Ferguson’s side made light work of a League of Ireland XI and claimed a 7-1 victory in the first football match played at the ground since the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road.

The United team featured Ireland internationals John O’Shea and Darron Gibson as well as two players who have survived at the club to start tonight — stand-in skipper Antonio Valencia and defender Chris Smalling.

Ahead of next Tuesday’s Uefa Super Cup meeting with Real Madrid and their Premier League opener against West Ham the following Sunday, Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho understandably put out a strong line-up.

Latest signing Nemanja Matic was handed his debut after joining from Chelsea for £40 million earlier this week. Fellow summer arrivals Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof were also given the nod.

Manchester United starting team The United team. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Once a club who could boast household names such as Roberto Mancini, Attilio Lombardo, Juan Sebastien Veron, Jurgen Klinsmann and Ireland’s own Liam Brady, Samp aren’t the side they once were and finished a respectable 10th in Serie A last season.

Although the fixture was officially confirmed as a sell-out, the small blocks of empty seats strangely dotted around the stadium were noticeable as the first whistle went.

On eight minutes, there were gasps from the predominantly-red crowd as David De Gea had to scramble to palm away a wayward back-pass from Daley Blind. Referee Neil Doyle awarded an in-direct free-kick on the six-yard box, but an effort from Italian veteran Fabio Quagliarella was blocked by a sea of bodies on the line.

United immediately turned defence into attack and broke on the counter through Valencia. He fed Mkhitaryan, who in turn switched the play to Matteo Darmian in an advanced position on the left.

Mkhitaryan continued his run and bundled home the opener when the cross came in at the back post.

The Armenian could have had another on 22 minutes but Sampdoria keeper Christian Puggioni got across well to keep out his header. Lukaku wasn’t far away moments later with a curling shot that whistled by the post after taking a slight deflection.

Other than an attempted volley from Quagliarella, it was pretty much one-way traffic but the sides went in at the break with a solitary goal separating them.

Manchester United v Sampdoria - Pre-Season Friendly - Aviva Stadium Jose Mourinho meeting Irish fans. Source: Niall Carson

Matic had enjoyed a promising first 45 minutes for his new club with a several interceptions and other defensive work that often goes unnoticed in the deep-lying midfield role.

And the Serbian was one of four half-time substitutions as Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata were all given a run-out. As is often the case in friendlies, a raft of changes killed the tempo out of the game, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford also introduced on the hour-mark.

United had the ball in the back of the net shortly afterwards. Valencia crossed, it was touched down by Fellaini, and Herrera finished emphatically finished into the roof of the net.

The goal was ruled offside, however, and Sampdoria almost immediately went up the other end to equalise. Karol Linetty’s dangerous ball was cut out by Smalling and Belgian midfielder Dennis Praet had plenty of time to finish past De Gea.

At this stage, both benches were emptied out but the fans present didn’t seem to mind as they wholeheartedly took part in the Mexican wave that had just broke out around the ground.

With nine minutes on the clock, United found a winner. Martial attacked with intent on the left before squaring to Mata, who slotted into the bottom corner.

MANCHESTER UNITED: David De Gea (Joel Pereira 76); Antonio Valencia, Victor Lindelof (Phil Jones 77), Chris Smalling (Eric Bailly 77), Matteo Darmian (Axel Tuanzebe 77), Daley Blind (Anthony Martial 60), Nemanja Matic (Michael Carrick 46), Paul Pogba (Marouane Fellaini 46), Andreas Pereira (Ander Herrera 46), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Juan Mata 46), Romelu Lukaku (Marcus Rashford 60).

SAMPDORIA: Christian Puggioni (Andrea Tozzo 86), Jacopo Sala (Bartosz Bereszynski 76), Vasco Regini, Daniel Pavlovic (Nicola Murru 66), Edgar Barreto (Filip Djuricic 75), Gianluca Caprari, Karol Linetty (Ricardo Alvarez 66), Dennis Praet (Velerio Verre 76), Matias Silvestre, Lucas Torreira (Leonardo Capezzi 87), Fabio Quagliarella (Dawid Kownacki 87).

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Ben Blake

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