Manchester United are enduring a worryingly stop-start season, with their dismissal of Young Boys in midweek followed by a very disappointing 1-1 home draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Of greatest concern was how little creativity United could offer; there was plenty of industry but precious little end product, and Fred’s delightful opener ended up looking like an anomaly.
Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling were industrious and effective, Paul Pogba shone for long periods and Fred had, by far, his best game for United yet. David de Gea also made his customary brace of crucial saves.
Antonio Valencia, Jesse Lingard and particularly Alexis Sanchez toiled hard to little effect, while Pogba was also wasteful in possession at crucial points.
Manager rating (out of 10)
5 — Jose Mourinho’s team did not seem to have a coherent plan in attack or much idea how to control the game once they had gone ahead. The manager’s decision to rest Diogo Dalot for Valencia looked like a grave mistake as the game went on.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David de Gea, 8 — Made two crucial saves at either end of the game — especially impressive since they came during long periods of inaction. Indispensable.
DF Antonio Valencia, 5 — High on effort but low on ideas, he failed to make the play on the flank, meaning that Romelu Lukaku found himself out there for long periods when he should have been central.
DF Victor Lindelof, 7 — A good performance. His passing and positioning were sound, while he showed a notably physical streak to ward off some substantial challenges.
DF Chris Smalling, 8 — A strong showing, both literally and figuratively. Showed impressive brawn to muscle forwards out of possession, showed striking confidence when playing the ball forwards, and even pulled off a stylish back-heel late in the game to retain possession.
DF Luke Shaw, 7 — Has emerged as United’s Mr. Consistent this season. A good, industrious performance with fine use of width, but a shame that there was not much invention ahead of him.
MF Marouane Fellaini, 8 — Confident and progressive with his passing and movement, disciplined enough to protect his back four, but also adventurous enough to get forward into the final third and almost set up the match-winner. If only everyone else played as close to their potential as he did.
MF Fred, 7 — Scored a fine goal, pressed well in defence and drove forward well in attack, with the only criticism being that he lost control of the midfield a little before he was withdrawn. A good game overall, though, easily his best for United so far.
MF Paul Pogba, 7 — This was a game reminiscent of his showing against Watford. At times he was peerless, and his assist for Fred’s goal, a cushioned lay-off, was magnificent. However, he did also lose possession and match control toward the end of the game.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 4 — Extremely disappointing — he worked very hard, but his passing was loose and his movement was out of sync with his fellow attackers. He also failed to get himself into too many dangerous attacking positions. His failure to produce is becoming a substantial problem.
FW Jesse Lingard, 5 — Pressed with great intensity but lacked the invention to match his work-rate.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 6 — Found himself isolated for much of the match, dropping wide and deep to little effect while cutting a frustrated figure by the end. This team must work out how to use his gifts much better.
FW Anthony Martial, 7 (for Sanchez, 65 mins) — Sharp movement and passing, and made a good argument for more involvement in games to come.
MF Juan Mata, 6 (for Fred, 65 mins) — Took up good positions, but his delivery did not match the intelligence of his movement.
MF Andreas Pereira, NR (for Lingard, 78 mins) — Was unable to get on the ball much and influence proceedings.