What Manchester United’s loss to Cadiz in a friendly taught us

What we learned from Manchester United's friendly defeat vs Cadiz

Despite the World Cup break, Manchester United returned to play on Wednesday with a 4-2 friendly loss away to Cadiz.

The game was the first time the Red Devils stepped to the field since their late victory against Fulham before the club’s season ended in November and the first time since Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from the club was announced.

As predicted, there was enough to take from a six-goal setback for Erik ten Hag’s side, who would’ve undoubtedly hoped to have a victory under their belt before returning to play on December 21.

So, with that in mind and the goals out of the way, here’s what we learned about Manchester United after an enthralling 90 minutes in Spain.

Martin Dubravka is still alive.

Dubravka has had little effect at Manchester United since joining on loan from Newcastle in the summer.

That may not seem shocking, but since Dubravka compilations were going around Twitter when the purchase was finalized, it implies something. That occurred.

The 31-year-old put on the jersey for the second time as a United player against Cadiz after his debut in the EFL Cup third round against Aston Villa, also by a 4-2 scoreline.

However, he did not bask in the glory. While Dubravka could not prevent either of the first two goals, his performance in the second half was shaky. Hand tremors shanked kicks, and two more goals were surrendered.

United should probably get in some competition for David De Gea as soon as possible.

Zidane Iqbal keeps shining.

During the club’s pre-season tour in preparation for the 2022/23 season, United fans got a firsthand look at what Iqbal is all about.

Iqbal played many minutes, often alongside Charlie Savage, and appeared to be a natural in the first-team squad.

That carried on here and then some. On a night when many first-team players looked off the pace, the 19-year-old put in another strong performance. He won the penalty that brought United back into the game, was always available to receive the ball, and moved it intelligently – whether by picking out an intelligent pass or driving forward.

He’s spent a lot of time training with the first team, but he hasn’t gotten ahead of Christian Eriksen and Casemiro. On the other hand, Iqbal appears to be more than ready for a regular taste of senior football, which United should be able to provide in some capacity.

A loan move in January would be ideal for the energetic adolescent.

Full-back is still a problem position.

Ten Hag is desperately trying to get something out of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams at the World Cup, while Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw shine for Portugal and England, respectively.

Both Wan-Bissaka and Williams have become mainly forgotten figures at United, and the reasons for this were displayed against Cadiz. Sure, the game marked the pair’s return from a lengthy injury layoff. Excuses aside, neither looked confident in possession or out of it.

However, this is only half the battle. It’s been clear for some time that neither is at the required level – a concern is given that Wan-Bissaka was signed for around £50 million – and yet they are still the second choice to United’s starting candidates.

Injuries to Dalot or Shaw could land United in hot water, with full-backs crucial to Ten Hag’s evolving style of play. The department requires profound reshaping and recruitment as soon as possible – there is no way back.

Youth isn’t always the best solution.

With this essentially being United’s second pre-season, wholesale changes and opportunities for youngsters to get a runout seemed unavoidable.

Ten Hag made ten substitutions in the second half, with the team resembling one from the FA Youth Cup. While they would never be perfect, the difference between the men and the boys was evident, ultimately winning the game for Cadiz.

Again, the bigger picture is essential here. When club football returns, United’s fixtures will be thick and fast. It’s easy for supporters to demand that young players be given their opportunity all at once, but finding the right balance is crucial. There were some encouraging signs against Cadiz, but United’s second-half XI seemed out of their depth for the most part.

The youngsters will undoubtedly benefit from it, but United cannot afford to throw them all in at the deep end in competitive matches such as cup events. Football doesn’t function like that.