Lukaku and Rashford show promise for Man United and a two-striker system
HOUSTON -- Here's what we learned in Manchester United's 2-0 International Champions Cup win against Manchester City on Thursday night.
Lukaku and Rashford, a return to twin strikers?
It has been a while since twin strikers were the fashion, with false nines and solitary front men dominating the scene in recent years, but Jose Mourinho believes Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford can play together up front. The Manchester United pair backed up their manager's theory in Houston.
They both possess pace and power, with Rashford more inclined to work across the front line than his new £90 million teammate, but their first-half goals against Manchester City at the NRG Stadium also highlighted their ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
Lukaku's finish from a tight angle after goalkeeper Ederson had rushed out of his penalty area was sublime, world-class goal scoring, while Rashford was clinical two minutes later, shooting past the Brazilian keeper from 10 yards following Henrikh Mkhitaryan's pass.
Playing with two strikers went out of fashion because teams began to pack the midfield, leaving managers wary of being short in the centre of the pitch by having two players up front.
But as Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke proved by inspiring United to the Treble in 1999, when it works well, two up front can be unstoppable.
Defending an issue for both City and United
Vincent Kompany gave a defensive master class during his 45-minute outing in Houston, but the Manchester City captain is a rarity in the modern game in that he can defend and keep mistakes to a minimum.
John Stones looked shaky in the second half, while United's Chris Smalling was also unconvincing during the first half for Mourinho's team.
And Victor Lindelof, United's £30.75m summer signing from Benfica, struggled to impress, with the Sweden international careless in position and suspect positionally against Sergio Aguero.
At full-back, Kyle Walker impressed for City and looked a real upgrade on Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, but Eliaquim Mangala was given the runaround while playing out of position at left-back after the interval.
On the red side, Daley Blind continues to fill a gap at left-back, despite looking as though he would rather be somewhere else.
Mourinho was able to marshal United into a tight defensive unit last season, but with Marcos Rojo out until the autumn, they still look vulnerable at the back.
Ederson starts like Claudio Bravo
If Ederson could have had one wish before his debut as Manchester City goalkeeper, it would have been to make a better start than Claudio Bravo.
But just as the Chilean set alarm bells ringing during his first game for City in last season's derby win against United at Old Trafford, Ederson also had one of those moments to forget which could yet come back to haunt him.
The £34.7m signing from Benfica is regarded as Brazil's goalkeeper for the next decade, but he was reckless on 37 minutes when he raced out of his area in an attempt to intercept Paul Pogba's long pass forward to Lukaku.
Ederson missed the ball completely, 30 yards from goal, and left Lukaku with an open net, albeit from a very tight angle. Lukaku buried the opportunity, though, so Ederson's mistake was a costly one.
And although Rashford beat him with power and precision when scoring United's second, two minutes later, Ederson suddenly looked like Bravo -- the keeper who hardly saved any shots last season.
Ederson clearly has great potential, but his decision-making was exposed by Lukaku's goal, and only experience and maturity can fully eradicate that flaw.
Pep should give City kids a chance
Manchester City have begun to develop a production of bright young talent, but they are not getting the chance to shine at the Etihad Stadium.
While United's Rashford and Jesse Lingard continue to star for club and country, City's kids either find themselves shipped out on loan or forced to watch from the sideline as Pep Guardiola's expensive signings claim the first-team jerseys.
But against United in Houston, 17-year-old Phil Foden was arguably City's best player. The Stockport-born midfielder displayed great tenacity and movement in the middle of the pitch and also showed the ability to break forward.
Patrick Roberts, after two loan spells at Celtic, also showed neat touches, and he is just 20.
But unless Foden and Roberts are given a chance in Guardiola's first-team, their progress will stall and City and England will be denied seeing some of their best young talent grow.
Is Foden ready for the Premier League? Maybe not, but City will not know until they try him. And who knows? If he gets a chance, he might do a job and save them £50m the next time they go shopping for new players.
City need to sell some dead wood
Manchester City have spent big this summer, and the outlay is likely to keep rising, but they can also raise some funds as well by shipping out some of their expensive misfits.
Two of them, Samir Nasri and Mangala, played in the second half against United, but the likes of Wilfried Bony did not even travel to the United States, and he is available to anybody willing to take him off City's hands.
Fabian Delph and Jason Denayer are both surplus to requirements, while Kelechi Iheanacho, another youngster who perhaps deserved more opportunities, is off to Leicester City, raising around £25m for City's bank account.
Nasri showed some of his quality against United, but the Frenchman's consistency and work rate have also been his big shortcomings. Still, he is a creative player capable of improving most teams.
As for Mangala, the £42m centre-back was deployed at left-back by Guardiola -- a clear sign that he is not wanted and also a message to the club that, unless they sign Benjamin Mendy from Monaco, City may be forced to rely on Mangala as an emergency left-back next season.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_