Connect in the back of the net

Vishakh’s latest “The Manchester Musings” column.

When Bastian Schweinsteiger scored an injury time winner against Watford at Vicarage Road in November 2015, the overwhelming emotion for United fans was – ‘How good does this feel’ – late winners turning 1 point into 3, a draw into a win, and sending supporters into euphoria that had become a defining factor under the Ferguson era.

A year or so on, people will look back at the Manchester United – Hull City game and see that United won 1-0 with a Marcus Rashford injury time winner.

While that is a description of the game, that doesn’t even begin to tell half of the story. For the first 45 minutes, it was what the majority of fans expected from the game.

Hull City stayed nice and compact, United had most of the ball and were probing without creating many clear cut chances.

This gave Hull the opportunity to counter (which they did) namely by looking to target Adama Diomande, allowing Andrew Robertson to bomb forward, and Robert Snodgrass to provide a bit of magic from a set piece.

United’s main threat came from Antonio Valencia/Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and there were a couple of moments that United could (and maybe should) have scored.

No real concerns at half time from either side, and neutrals would have been pleased that Hull were giving it a good go and showing why they have grabbed 6 points out of 6 so far.

The second half was a completely different story. Man United came out the blocks and upped the tempo (no small feat in difficult/rainy conditions) noticeably – and there was also more a reliance on Luke Shaw to get forward in support.

Chances started to be created more – Pogba took a few shots, Ibrahimovic had a few shots, Martial dribbled past, Valencia beat his man, Mata buzzed about cutting infield, and the majority of play was definitely in the Hull half.

It hasn’t really happened yet for Anthony Martial this season – he has tried, but the cutting edge that was so prominent last year hasn’t come – and at the 60-minute mark Henrikh Mkhitaryan was called upon to break the deadlock.

A change of formation also ensued, Mkhitaryan played narrow meaning Luke Shaw entrusted with being both a left back and left winger at the same time – Blind/Bailly/Fellaini being the ones to mop up at the back.

The Armenian immediately made a difference – accelerating past players, drawing fouls, and quick one twos around the box.

Mkhitaryan... difference maker.

Mkhitaryan… difference maker.

By the 75th minute mark, it was quite clear to see where the game was going – Hull defending resolutely and impressively with Curtis Davies leading from the front and thwarting everything.

Pogba resorted to having shots from long range, Zlatan dropped deep to try and influence play, and Valencia started changing the style of crossing with every cross.

Enter Marcus Rashford.

He (along with Mkhitaryan) were so impressive in taking their chance.

A defining feature about Rashford’s play is his willingness to run at players and take them on, and he did that within minutes of coming on.

He also played quick one twos around the box, forced saves out of Jakupovic, and even put in a great ball that Ibrahimovic didn’t gamble on.

However just when it looked like the game was out of reach, Rooney burst past El Mohammedy down the left flank, and squared the ball into the six yard box past Jakupovic where the 18 year old was there to tap the ball from 2 yards out.

Cue absolute bedlam in the away end – 1 points turned into 3, a draw into a win, and supporters into euphoria.


Talking Points

  1. Jose Mourinho bringing Mkhitaryan/Rashford on showed the value in being proactive and forcing the issue. For the last three seasons, that game would have ended in a frustrating 0-0 .
  2. Daley Blind and Eric Bailly were very very good at CB. Sniffed out most of the danger, quick to win the ball on the halfway line, and didn’t dwell on the ball very long.
  3. Mourinho has a tough decision to make for the derby with Chris Smalling fully fit.
  4. Marouane Fellaini continued his improvement. Alongside Pogba, it’s clear that Fellaini is there as a destroyer – to break up play, win the aerial battle, and keep things simple and pass it forward. He is following his instructions to a T and it would be a genuine to see him dropped from the first XI unless injured.
  5. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is chomping at the bit to play – and showed why in his cameo. He was very very impressive with the ball at his feet, and will certainly force his way into the team sooner rather than later.
  6. How good is it to see Marcus Rashford? United born and bred and already providing key moments. Learning from two of the best in Zlatan/Mourinho should be so beneficial for his career.


Written by Vishakh Chandrasekhar

Follow Vishakh on Twitter @VishC24

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