How Man Utd's inability to kill off opponents continues to harm them... this is not bad luck, it's pure profligacy

James Ducker
The Telegraph
Paul Pogba spurns his chances again - Rex Features
Paul Pogba spurns his chances again - Rex Features

This isn't bad luck, it's wastefulness

Another day, another game when Manchester United paid the price for failing to kill off an opponent. The story is now so familiar that it has become less of a case of bad luck than an issue of quality in front of goal.

Paul Pogba’s frustrations are more pronounced than most in that regard. As well as hitting the woodwork on nine occasions this season, he has often fluffed his lines with only the goalkeeper to beat and, against Anderlecht, there was more of that, the Frenchman being denied by Martinez Ruben’s legs before the miss came back to haunt him when the Belgians equalised late on.

Anderlecht 1 - 1 Man Utd (Leander Dendoncker, 86 min)

The disappointment was that Pogba had played well on the night, industrious and good with and without the ball but again lacking that ruthless streak.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has now scored in each of United’s last four Europa League away games, his strike against Anderlecht taking his tally to nine in the past 21 matches, but he also had an opportunity to effectively kill this tie and volleyed Matteo Darmian’s cross wide.

Anderlecht 0 - 1 Man Utd (Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 36 min)

Anderlecht's young stars catch the eye

Plenty of eyes have been drawn to Anderlecht's talented teenager midfielder Youri Tielemans, who, at 19, has already been handed the captaincy, a sign of how highly he is regarded by his club.

But it was another relative youngster, and a more experienced centre-half, who stood out for the Belgian side on the night.

<span>Frank Acheampong catches the eye</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Frank Acheampong catches the eye Credit: AFP

Frank Acheampong, a versatile 23-year-old left-footed winger from Ghana, was Anderlecht's dangerman, seldom giving United's right side much respite with his cunning and running while there are probably some Premier League suitors who could do worse than take a punt on Serigne Kara Mbodji, a strong, fast, composed Senegal defender who, at 27, may be about to enter his prime.

Rashford can be a game-changer out wide

Jose Mourinho loves nothing more than seeing his wide players working up and down and the sight of Marcus Rashford tracking back to win the ball and draw a foul right in front of the United manager late in the first half was warmly received.

It has been a frustrating second season for Rashford in many ways but his experience on the flanks has provided another string to his bow and could benefit him in the long term.

<span>Marcus Rashford shines on the flank</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Marcus Rashford shines on the flank Credit: AP

Some of the world’s best players have made their name in a wide attacking role and there is no reason why the England forward, with his pace, control, energy and determination, cannot develop into a game-changer in that position if opportunities at centre-forward remain limited.

He had a spring in his step here, with Sunday's goal at Sunderland, his first in the Premier League for over six months, having clearly boosted his flagging confidence.

Man of the match

Michael Carrick

<span>Michael Carrick is tackled by&nbsp;Anderlecht's Frank Acheampong</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Michael Carrick is tackled by Anderlecht's Frank Acheampong Credit: AP

The veteran midfielder has been decidedly patchy in recent weeks but this represented a notable return to form for United’s metronome. One delicious raking 40-yard pass in the first half released Rashford and only an excellent recovery challenge from Serigne Kara Mbodji snuffed out the danger.

When he has players ahead of him prepared to make those runs, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie used to do so often, Carrick comes into his own, although even now, United can often be too static in attack and their failure to kill off yet another game came back to haunt them late on.

Anderlecht vs Man Utd shots on goal

What Anderlecht need to do before second leg

Although a threat on the flanks, Anderlecht did not offer enough through the middle and Rene Weiler, their coach, will hope to have leading scorer, Lukasz Teodorczyk, fit enough to start for the second leg.

The Pole, who has 28 goals this season, came on with 15 minutes left and offers Anderlecht much greater physicality.

What United need to do before second leg

With another big game in the Premier League to come on Sunday, when Chelsea visit Old Trafford, Mourinho must hope his key players do not succumb to injury or fatigue as they bid to finish the job against the Belgians.

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