Here are some of the main talking points as United kicked-off their Champions League campaign with a relatively comfortable win over Basel at Old Trafford
Profligate Mikki frustrates
The Armenian’s creativity has never been in doubt, but his composure in front of goal has often let him down. ‘Mikki’ should have put United ahead before the eventual breakthrough. Jose (suggested the forward needed to work on his finishing) wouldn’t have been impressed by the casual misses – as the “Playstation” comments partly suggest. United ultimately won comfortably, but every opportunity has to count in the tougher games.
Young’s crossing missed
Young had a decent return to the first team assisting the opener
Wayward crosses have often let United down, however, Lukaku and Fellaini’s goals came from delightful deliveries from the fullbacks. Young’s assist in particular could have been scored by either Belgian, and his quality could yet prove instrumental to United’s success this season. In the opening weeks, Blind and Darmian have played LB, but neither has provided the same level of threat offered by Valencia at RB. Young could easily switch to LB, and on evidence of his impact against Basel, having both he and Valencia in the fullback positions will increase the likelihood of United capitalizing on the height in attack – more so with Fellaini likely to deputize for Pogba in the coming weeks.
Pogba injured but United thrive
United’s captain on the night left the field clutching his hamstring and should be out for a couple of weeks. The midfielder has been instrumental to the club’s early season form, but his replacement on the night (Fellaini) surprisingly proved equally as effective in the middle of the park. The game was deadlocked when Pogba left injured, but his teammates managed three unreplied goals in absentia. You could be forgiven for suggesting the team appeared more fluid in the Frenchman’s absence. Regardless, United need Pogba back for the many challenges ahead. But while he remains sidelined, Jose can call on any of Herrera, Fellaini, Carrick, McTominay as well as Blind. However, Fellaini looks odds on to start against his former team on Sunday.
Fellaini continually justifies manager’s faith
Hate him or love him, the Belgian continues to prove his worth
The Belgian was a doubt for the game, prompting Jose to declare he felt weaker without his midfielder. This follows on from the manager’s refusal to entertain the idea of the midfielder leaving for Turkey. His decision to stick with the Belgian has often reaped rewards, and did so again, with the midfielder influential in United’s win. Goal aside, Fellaini complement Matic and did a lot of good work in midfield. Of all the managers who have tried to utilize Fellaini at United, Jose has managed to get the best – using psychological motivation. The towering midfielder appears to be ahead of Herrera currently, and should fill in for the stricken Pogba over the coming weeks.
CBs not convincing despite clean-sheet
The Smalling/Lindelof partnership looks solid on paper, yet is anything but in reality. Basel did not create many opportunities, but on forays forward, appeared to cause some level of panic in the Red Devil’s rearguard. In fairness the pair had relatively quiet games, but Lindelof could have given away a penalty for a needless sliding tackle in the box. Tim Sherwood (while speaking in the SuperSport studio post-match) suggested United go all out for V.v.Dijk to improve the club’s chances of challenging the likes of Juventus and Barcelona for the CL trophy.
Lukaku making the stepup to United and CL football
Any lingering doubts over the Belgian’s ability at a higher level are quickly dissipating. Lukaku was (and perhaps is still) seen as a flat-track bully, yet the striker has scored more goals in his first 6 games than any other striker in the club’s history has managed in as many games. His price-tag now looks a snip in relation to his impact, and the crazy nature of the transfer market. There will be bigger tests, but he passed his first CL audition. Asides the goal, Basel found it hard to keep up with his movement and strength upfront, which was used expertly to create chances for other forwards.
Rashford delivers but Martial subdued
Rashford celebrates after putting icing on the cake
The Frenchman remains inconsistent despite his unarguable talent which wasn’t evident against Basel. He attempted a few unsuccessful dribbles and was unlucky not to connect properly with Fellaini’s delightful cross. His performance will likely see him return to the bench against Everton, especially with Rashford’s impact. The young England forward capped an effervescent cameo appearance with an intelligently taken goal. The healthy competition between the young duo is reaping rewards for United. Martial appeared to be shading the conversation earlier in the season, but Rashford has roared back over the last few games, and may have edged ahead of Martial in Jose’s reasoning. United are blessed to have both.
Jose keeping players grounded
The manager has played a lot of mind games in his time, and this was perhaps another example. After the win the manager complained that his team had resorted to ‘Playstation’ football. Some may find his methods strange, but the message was clear; he expects professionalism (not showboating) regardless of the team’s result/position. It would be a shocker if he was not genuinely impressed by his team’s performance.
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