Manchester United get back to winning ways
Manchester United bounced back from the embarrassing defeat to Tottenham with a good performance against Huddersfield Town, a team they had lost to earlier in the season. Despite the previous shocker against the same opposition, United were the odds-on favourites to win the tie and they did not disappoint. Well, at least not in the second half.
Before the game started, a minute’s silence was observed to mark the 60th anniversary of the tragic Munich Air disaster, with Sir Bobby Charlton in attendance.
United started as expected, hogging possession but not really creating too many chances with the ball. Jesse Lingard got away from two defenders only to fluff his shot. Alexis got a great shot away not much later but Huddersfield keeper, Lossl, was equal to it, making a smart save down to his right.
There was an early scare for United in the first minute when McTominay conceded possession in the middle of the park, but Billings could not quite take advantage of the youngster's mistake.
It was fair to say that United looked a bit lethargic with the ball and there were occasional lapses of concentration. Alexis was looking lively with some smart touches but missed two splendid chances on the counter-attack with Van La Parra first and then Aaron Mooy recovering well to stop him in his tracks.
All this while, Huddersfield did create a couple of chances of their own, going down the right wing twice but they could not quite test De Gea. Smalling and Rojo made great tackles to thwart their attempts and ensured defensive stability for all of the game.
There was a bit of controversy when Scott McTominay went down in the box under a heavy challenge from Terence Kongolo but the referee decided against a penalty. All-in-all, it was a United half reminiscent of the Van Gaal years, all possession but insipid overall.
Then came the second half. Whatever Mourinho said to his players at half-time seemed to work as United started brightly and looked urgent and eager with the ball at their feet. Lingard blasted over from a Rojo cross and that set the tone for the rest of the half.
United opened the scoring in the 55th minute when Lukaku sidefooted past the helpless Lossl from a Juan Mata cross. The big Belgian got ahead of his marker and got a great touch to send the ball into the net.
Following this, United upped the ante. Alexis seemed intent on getting involved more in the action and started moving towards the centre in his bid to do so.
It was very evident from the statistics as well. Of United’s 12 attempts on goal, 6 came from Sanchez. The elusive goal looked inevitable and it finally happened in the 68th minute, though not in the way he would’ve liked.
Mata played the ball into Sanchez inside the box. With his first touch, the Chilean took the ball away from Hefele and was subsequently brought down by the German. He stepped up to take the penalty himself but was denied by Lossl for the second time in the game. However, he did turn in the rebound and the Stretford End burst into raptures, welcoming their new hero.
After this, it was a walk in the park for United. Pogba, Rashford and Martial were brought on by Mourinho and they controlled the game well from thereon to take all three points. David De Gea marked his 300th appearance for United with another clean sheet, his 15th of the current campaign.
It was not a vintage United performance but they did enough to take advantage of the slip-up by City earlier in the afternoon to cut the gap down to 13 points. It still is a long way off, but such a comeback is not unheard of in the world of football.