Matchday 3: 8/27/2016 Manchester United 1–0 Hull City
Starting XI: De Gea, Shaw, Blind, Bailly, Valencia, Pogba, Fellaini, Mata (Rashford 71’), Martial (Mkhitaryan 60’), Rooney (Smalling 93’), Ibrahimovic
Mourinho’s men finally break through the Hull City defense in extra time as super sub Marcus Rashford scores the dramatic winner to continue the Red’s winning record.
It was a rainy day in Hull, and United nearly had to settle for their first negative result of the season, but Rashford saved the day as he did so often last season. Mike Phelan had his squad well organized and it nearly paid off, keeping United at bay for 90 minutes and looking the entire game like they wanted a draw, making little to no effort to attack aside from the occasional half-hazard counter attack. It was indeed an onslaught, with United making 281 passes in the attacking third of the field compared to Hull’s 79, ending the game with 62% possession, 29 shots (9 on target) to Hull’s 8, 6 corners to Hull’s 1, and suffered 9 fouls to their own 6 as Hull’s defense did all they could to keep the Reds from going through on goal. Shaw and Valencia did their part to add to the attack, with both players spending more time in Hull’s territory than their own and combining to top the list of pass combinations to another player, in this case with Pogba and Fellaini respectively. While United weren’t exactly bereft of good chances early in the game, as was evident in Juan Mata breaking Andrew Robertson’s ankles leading up to an opportunity, the offense was struggling a bit until the tone of the game completely changed with the substitutions of Rashford and Mkhitaryan. Their pace and positioning immediately led to some better chances and it only felt like a matter of time before they broke through, and indeed Rashford finally did after some sideline brilliance from Rooney. What was almost a frustrating draw ended up an invigorating victory, resulting with the Reds being tied on 9 points with Chelsea and City, neither of whom seem to be showing any signs of slowing down. The Manchester Derby is up next after the international break, providing the Reds an opportunity to slow City down themselves.
Offensive Player Spotlight:
So, I’ve decided to go from a MVP/LVP format to picking an offensive and defensive player to look at in more in depth, mainly because I figure I’ll never end up picking a defensive player for MOTM, but also because I’m starting to feel bad about always criticizing Martial, who certainly would have been in the “Room For Improvement” section again this week. The player in these spots won’t necessarily be the MOTM for offense/defense each week, but will just be someone that I think had an interesting game and deserves a more in depth look.
Anyway, we’re looking at Mkhitaryan this week. He got a bit more playing time for this game, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before Mourinho finally lets him start, which I feel he certainly deserves, especially with Martial struggling recently. Micky completed 22 of his 25 passes, had two long attempts at goal, and completed 2/4 take-ons, including one particularly blazing run that resulted in him getting fouled in order to stop his advance. He really showed off his pace and creativity in this game, and I can’t wait to see him get more playing time.
Defensive Player Spotlight:
I don’t think I’ve given Bailly enough credit for the work he’s done this year, but I want to look at what Blind has been doing first. A midfielder by trade, Blind was practically forced into a CB in the LvG era and instead of putting up a fuss about it, he has quietly become very reliable in the back, enough so that Mourinho has let him keep starting instead of the more pedigreed defender Smalling. This week, in addition to helping keep the clean sheet, Blind got to work a bit more in the attacking game again due to Hull’s stonewall defensive tactics. He only misplaced 2 of his 57 passes and completed his only recorded tackle, in addition to completing 4 of 5 attempted clearances, 4 interceptions, and both of his take-ons. He’s been an effective distributer from the back and has yet to show much weakness this season aside from being a step slow to cover Bournemouth’s goal in the opening fixture, the only one to be conceded on the squad in season play thus far. Having said that, he has yet to face a truly exceptional striker opposite him this year, and he may have to wait a bit longer if Aguero is ruled out of the Derby for his aggressive actions against West Ham. Granted, he did face Vardy and Mahrez in the Community Shield, and would have kept them both out of the net if not for Fellaini’s mishap, so perhaps he’s shown that he’s more than capable of providing a reliable CB performance each week.
Up Next: Manchester City comes to Old Trafford Saturday, September 10th. It’s time to send a message