In front of an electric crowd in Serbia, Manchester United succeeded in keeping their impressive Europa League record intact as they secured a 1-0 victory, courtesy of Anthony Martial netting a goal via penalty in the first half.
The home side were perseverant and looked to give real trouble to the Red Devils in the second half, but simply didn’t have the requisite clinical edge.
1. Away Game Run Started Off Well
Manchester United finally succeeded in registering an away win. This is their first victorious moment on the road since the PSG triumph from March last season. In the 11 away games since, United have been a picture of utter gloom and defeat.
Further, this was also their first proper win in 6 games, with the last one coming versus Astana in the Europa League itself. Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been hoping for more goals and possibly one from open play and not a penalty, he’ll certainly take this over the distraught fixtures of the recent past.
Good momentum to take forward into the string of away games ahead.
2. McTominay In an Attacking Role
Solskjaer made seven changes to his starting lineup from the Liverpool game and the starkest of these saw Scott McTominay operate further ahead than he normally would have in the first half.
This brief glimpse of the youngster undertaking offensive duties did show great potential and perhaps further underlines the workrate and versatility for which he has been hailed the whole season.
However, he had to drop deeper in the second-half when the midfield appeared too thin in the face of a rejuvenated Partizan attack.
3. Academy Graduates Impressed
James Garner made his full debut in a United shirt and will certainly be pleased with his contributions. While he didn’t make an all too direct impact, his skill on the ball and the spirited movement does inspire much confidence for the future.
Likewise, Brandon Williams at right-back was an utter delight. The youngster’s spirited run into the box eventually led to United winning the all-important penalty and it is fair to say that Ashley Young has yet another player to look out for in the event of injury to Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The future is certainly bright but more such games ought to be awarded to the graduates and fed with apt talent and quality.
4. Partizan Had Positives
The electric atmosphere aside, the Serbian club did show great intent during the game. Despite finding it difficult to get hold of the ball, their attempts often came quite close to glory, and on many occasions their shots were more impressive than the English side’s.
Umar Sadiq was the main man to attempt those and almost scored on multiple occasions, particularly in the first-half when his attempt grazed the woodwork.
Takuma Asano was likewise a spirited presence although more than once his pacey runs were just that- pacey bereft of actual clinical edge. The home side will be gutted to lose their European undefeated run, but such a performance certainly carries great positives.
5. The Red Devils Were Sloppy
Despite being a game where they were expected to excel and against a team that wasn’t supposed to pose a great threat, United certainly underperformed.
While travel fatigue due to the long journey is a valid reason, the sloppy style of play, particularly in the first half, wasn’t fitting. Marcos Rojo made multiple mistakes while Jesse Lingard failed to make the best out of the efforts of Mata, McTominay and Garner.
Anthony Martial, the penalty kick aside, was also very lackluster and even Marcus Rashford didn’t inject the expected creativity save for a great attempt that fizzled out into nothing.
Such games more than the Premier League derbies highlight just why adequate talent needs to populate their squad.