Manchester United played their first competitive fixture in Moldova and returned home with all three points with a 2-0 win.
The Red Devils’ Europa League campaign started with a defeat against Real Sociedad. And with Sheriff Tiraspol on an impressive unbeaten run at home in the competition, Erik ten Hag was in no position to take the outing too lightly. Last season, the Moldovan champions won against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Ten Hag made five changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Sociedad last week and got the desired result thanks to goals from Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
1. First ‘SIUUU’
Not very often in his career the Portuguese icon has had to wait until September to open his goal scoring account.
But a turbulent pre-season has seen the 37-year-old struggling for both form and game time. The Europa League – another rare experience for Ronaldo – was always going to be his best shot at getting some much needed goals.
On Thursday, he doubled United’s lead from the spot, and treated both sets of supporters with his trademark ‘SIUUU’ celebration.
2. Eriksen assist
Christian Eriksen once again made United tick from the middle of the park, and topped his brilliant performance with an assist. He cut through the hosts’ midfield with a reverse pass to find Sancho, whose cold finish gave the visitors the lead.
The Dane has quickly established himself as the most crucial cog in Ten Hag’s midfield, but in order to ensure he’s fully fit and available throughout the season, the manager needs to make sure his services aren’t needed in relatively easier fixtures.
3. Midfield balance
Antony created some good chances in the first-half, but didn’t get as many touches as he would’ve liked. This was partly due to the lack of balance in United’s midfield and backline, which are occupied by players who move the ball towards the left flank.
With Raphael Varane not very apt at finding his teammates in good positions and Fernandes drifting to the left, Antony at times was ignored in various build-ups. Another issue for Ten Hag to fix at the training ground.