Romelu Lukaku on target as 10-man Manchester United down Real Salt Lake

  • Real Salt Lake 1-2 Manchester United
  • Antonio Valencia shown red card; Juan Mata forced off with injury

Against the stunning backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains, Romelu Lukaku scored his debut goal but Manchester United’s evening soured when Antonio Valencia was sent off for scything down Real Salt Lake’s Sebastian Saucedo midway through the second half of the tourists’ 2-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium.

United’s right-back clattered through the back of Saucedo and after a word with José Mourinho, the referee, Allen Chapman, showed Valencia, who was captaining United’s second half side, the red card.

Mourinho, as might be expected, was not particularly impressed. Earlier, the manager aimed the same emotion directly at Saucedo after his challenge on Juan Mata forced the Spaniard off. While United signed off on a victory – their second of the tour – it will not be a case of all ending well if Mata’s injury proves to be serious.

For this second tour outing, Mourinho gave Lukaku a first start, at the tip of an XI that featured a conventional defence in a 4-3-3 shape. This followed the trio of centre-backs system the Portuguese sent out in Saturday’s 5-2 defeat of Los Angeles Galaxy.

As expected Real fielded three differing outfits during this friendly and so an exercise in gaining sharpness and avoiding malady for United was to go awry regarding the latter count.

In the opening exchanges, Timothy Fosu-Mensah made a couple of forays from right-back and Scott McTominay slid a shot wide of Nick Rimando’s right post. For Mike Petke’s side Albert Rusnak, who was at Manchester City until two years ago, dashed towards Joel Pereira’s goal and hit the side-netting.

Next Joao Plata skated past Paul Pogba, flipped the ball to Luis Silva, and raced into United’s area for the return. It required a sliding Fosu-Mensah to clear the ball.

Real had beaten the Galaxy 6-2 in their previous outing and were showing why. They were a far more high-octane proposition than the sluggish opponent United beat in Carson City: Real came at Mourinho’s men with a swagger that belied a third-bottom position in the MLS’s Western Conference, two points behind Galaxy, with two matches more played.

A baking hot Salt Lake day that morphed into thunder and lightning before skies cleared made this a pleasant night for the encounter. The Real supporters’ drum-led band kept up a regular tattoo, and now they watched as Joao Plata zoomed into the area and forced Jesse Lingard to concede Real’s second corner.

This derived nothing but Real were about to strike. They did so with a slick one-two punch that stunned United. Jefferson Savarino roved forward and slipped the ball to Silva. He didn’t break stride and beat Pereira coolly. Cue the Rio Tinto hitting party mode. And United hitting back almost instantly.

It was as smooth and simple as Real’s goal: Pogba fond Lingard, who fed Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the Armenian beat Rimando from the edge of the area.

Soon after came the second completely fresh Real outfit, as advertised: the reason being their trip to Portland in 48 hours for an MLS fixture.

On 38 minutes Lukaku notched his first finish and had Mkhitaryan to thank for a precise through ball that placed him clear. After a shoe-shuffle in the area that removed a defender and the keeper, Lukaku hit home and that was a lead United would not surrender.

As he did at the StubHub Center, Mourinho sent a new side out for the second stanza. With Marcus Rashford now leading the line the 4-3-3 formation remained but the fare that followed was disjointed and so opposite to that which entertained before the break. More materially, Mata was forced off on the hour following Saucedo’s tackle.

Valencia’s removal caused United further disruption yet when they upped tempo Real faced a problem, although not enough to break through again.

Near 90 minutes Kyle Curinga made Romero save low to his right and Matteo Darmian required treatment, though he was waved back on by Mourinho.

Man Utd (4-3-3): Pereira J (Romero, ht); Fosu-Mensah (Valencia, ht), Lindelof (Bailly, ht), Jones (Smalling, ht), Blind (Darmian, ht); McTominay (Fellaini, ht), Carrick (Pereira A, ht), Pogba (Herrera, ht); Mkhitaryan (Mata, ht), Lukaku (Rashford, ht), Lingard (Martial, ht) (Tuanzebe, 90))

Red card: Valencia (68)