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Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic was proud of his players’ efforts after their 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
The reigning A-League premiers went into the contest with an understrength squad but kept the Red Devils at bay until the hour mark when Marcus Rashford found the net.
James Garner fired home a second for United in the closing stages as a crowd of 50,206 watched on.
“To see them fight so hard, and defensively they were excellent so yeah, very pleased,” Popovic said.
With the likes of Andy Keogh, Chris Ikonomidis, Diego Castro and Matthew Spiranovic unavailable, Glory’s options from the bench were limited and the list of substitutes included two 15-year-olds in Gabriel Popovic and Joshua Rawlins.
“We needed to stay strong, stay disciplined, fight the fatigue and the challenges that brings,” he said.
“In the end, although they created a lot of good openings, we lost the ball twice and I believe that shows you the quality that they have – you lose the ball twice and they punish you.
“That’s the level of the Premier League and that’s the level of Manchester United but I believe that we should all be proud of that performance.”
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was happy to get a win in their first preseason game and he took a moment to praise Glory for their efforts.
“We played against a very well organised team which made it difficult for us to create too many chances, but we did enough in the end,” the Norwegian said.
In truth, the Premier League giants could have been a goal or two ahead before half time as Ashley Young’s free kick hit the side netting and Jesse Lingard forced a stunning fingertip save from the evergreen Liam Reddy.
United had the luxury of bringing on 11 fresh players at the break while Glory persisted with those who started the game, and there were some heavy legs in the changing room afterwards.
“They’re tired but I’m sure deep down they’ll reflect tomorrow on the level of Manchester United and the challenges that gave us but also the willingness for us to try and play,” he said.
“We tried to play out from the back, we made it more difficult by trying to do that but under extreme pressure that’s the best way to get better.
“I’m delighted that they kept trying to do that throughout the game.”
Glory’s rare forays into the United half of the pitch yielded very little, and they failed to have a shot on target all night.
Defensively, however, they were set up as well as you would expect a Popovic team to be in a 3-4-3 formation.
“It would have been different if we opened up and made it an exhibition game, the score might have been seven, eight, nine, ten because they can score at any moment,” he said.
“Our players are not equipped to deal with that at this stage and the young players that we’ve got cannot physically play that open where they have to do repeat sprints and runs; we defended very well.”
Many fans got their first look at marquee man Bruno Fornaroli, as well as fellow new boys Jacob Tratt and Nick D’Agostino.
Glory’s next game is in the FFA Cup at the beginning of August when they play host to Western Sydney Wanderers at Dorrien Gardens.