United developing a pattern
Manchester United’s matches are becoming increasingly more predictable. Especially against the sides they should be beating. It starts with Mourinho’s side dominating possession and creating a few half chances which are one key pass away from a goal. That lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes before they run out of ideas and allow their opponents into the game. Then the ‘it’s going to be one of those nights’ feeling kicks in. Thursday was no different. It then goes one of two ways – a disappointing draw or an eventual comfortable win. Thursday evening was, frustratingly, the former.
De Gea situation
As The Independent reported this week, Real Madrid are stepping up their annual hunt for David De Gea and United are willing to let him go, should they receive a premium player in return. The Spaniard missed the win over Sunderland on the weekend through an unspecified injury but despite returning to the squad on Thursday night, he found himself on the bench. Is it a case of Jose Mourinho just rotating his goalkeeper for cup competitions or is there something greater here – because he was definitely fit. Time will tell.
Rashford must keep patient
The 19-year-old is so often United’s most dangerous player – as shown when his shot was palmed into the path of Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the opener – but he is also their most frustrating. His pace is terrifying and his direct running at defenders reminds you of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in his more raw Manchester United days. But so does his lack of end product. So often Rashford has worked the ball into the box, only to lose it with a sloppy touch or a wasteful pass. It will come, seemingly sooner rather than later, but he – and his teammates – must be patient in his development.
Keep Ibrahimovic should be United’s priority
He has a one-year extension on the table but the dotted line which is designed to bear Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s signature still remains blank. He is the focal point of all of United’s attacks as the pacier players move around him like they are stuck in the Swede’s gravitational field. Age is irrelevant with his style of play and he looks set to eclipse the 30-goal mark for his debut season in England. If his on-the-field presence is not enough to persuade the club’s hierarchy to give him an offer he can’t refuse, then his influence on the likes of Anthony Martial, Rashford and anyone else who is brought in in the summer should be.
Mkhitaryan loves the Europa
Mkhitaryan opened the scoring for United with an all-important away goal – his fourth goal in consecutive games for the Red Devils in the competition. He looks at home on the European stage despite taking so long to force his way into Mourinho’s plans after an uncertain start to life at Old Trafford. After an abysmal full debut against Manchester City where he was hauled off at half-time, he was exiled and was only given fleeting minutes in the Europa League to prove his worth. Since then, he has become, in Europe anyway, the creative fulcrum of the team. If he can transfer this form into his Premier League performances United could quickly find themselves with the type of player he was for Borussia Dortmund last season.