Christmas has come early for Manchester United, who managed to score 5 goals in a Premier League fixture for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge, and with none other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the helm.
Quick first-half goals from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera set the tone for the away game, before United gave away a penalty that was converted by Victor Camarasa. Anthony Martial was quick to reply to that one, and the second half witnessed a Jesse Lingard brace, his first goal coming through a penalty.
Things may finally be looking up for the Red Devils after their first game under the already popular caretaker manager.
1. Attack, Attack, Attack
Stunning would be too simple of a word to describe the attacking prowess that United displayed on the night. Swift on the ball and keen in their passing, a starkly different side took on Cardiff than the one that was beaten by Liverpool last week. United managed to attempt more shots on target in the first half tonight than in that entire Liverpool game.
Then there’s the matter of Martial’s goal to make it 3-1. An utter piece of art and one that was engineered to perfection. Goals like these display the sort of ‘courage’ that Solskjaer wants to see in United. In fact, even centre-backs Jones and Lindelof often found themselves in attacking positions during the fixture.
2. Warning Bells For Cardiff?
Cardiff City started this season amongst the favorites to be relegated. However, going into Christmas, the side did a pretty decent job at staying afloat of the danger zone. However, this result indicates some big problems in the side that seems incapable of performing against big teams.
Their home record was what kept them confident so far this season, but a slight hiccup there moving forward could really complicate matters. In recent seasons, the relegation race has proved to be more exciting than the top four in the Premier League, and the Welsh side will have to be careful lest they find themselves relying on parachute payments in the Championship next season.
3. How Toxic Was Mourinho’s Dressing Room?
Reports have been strong that the final days with Jose Mourinho in charge of the club witnessed open defiance in the locker room, with a toxic environment being prominent.
While it is easy to view this victory as an unspoken Solskjaer success, the truth of the matter remains that the Norwegian manager has had just two training sessions with the lads. Rather, what this result may be a bigger testament to is how big of an impact Mourinho’s departure has had on the players.
Apart from rapport issues, the Portuguese tactician was a defense-oriented gaffer, while the techniques on show against Cardiff were the classic United style that has imbibed attacking football at its finest, or at least tried to. Good riddance?
4. Will Lukaku And Sanchez Have A Place In This Lineup?
What wasn’t lacking on the night was talent from the players that Solskjaer fielded against Cardiff. In fact, save obvious rustiness to adapt to a new system, this side looked quite capable of attaining big goals in the games to come. As of such, the question that lingers over the club is what role will Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have to play in the next five months?
There is no denying that Lukaku simply isn’t the sort of striker that the Mancunian legend prefers to deploy, with the Belgian unlikely to make the type of runs Rashford and Lingard did tonight.
As for Sanchez, the uninspired style of his play makes it seem like a no-brainer that Martial, who is also the club’s top-scorer so far this season, ought to be the regular starter week in and week out.
Will two expensive players warm the club’s bench yet again?
5. Defensive Woes Still Remain
Despite boasting of a solid win, United will be slightly disappointed at having conceded that lone goal, particularly since it came from a penalty. With this result, the Red Devils have secured just 1 clean sheet in their last 14 games – a statistic that is simply not becoming of the stature of David De Gea.
With 30 goals being conceded already this season, the winter window looks more likely than ever before to bring in a defensive reinforcement. However, another curious factor to keep in mind after Lindelof’s brave attacking runs against Cardiff is that new arrivals may need to have an offensive flair as well in order to fully succeed under Solskjaer.
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