Rating Manchester United's player performances in UCL qualifier first leg against Club Brugge
An analysis of Manchester United player performances in the first leg of the Champions League qualifiers.
Manchester United came out 3-1 winners against a Club Brugge side who were fortunate to get a single goal and though they mounted a fair threat, it was the English side's game to lose. The Red Devils started with the same XI that had started the game against Aston Villa and despite conceding early, they put in a good performance to claw back and earn the victory.
Some players rose to the occasion, but others faltered. There were some who were given a little time to make an impact and did but others who were on the edge and failed to fully convince.
Here's an analysis and rating of all Manchester United players' individual performances.
Sergio Romero – 6/10
The Argentine keeper was tested very few times during the game but he looked weak against the high press from Club Brugge. He almost cost United when he took too long to clear the ball and only got away with it as he managed to win a foul as Brugge attacker Victor Vasquez turned the ball into his net but only after the whistle was blown.
There was little he could have done about Michael Carrick’s own goal but his positioning in defending the free kick was questionable as he chose a relatively higher position and more central expecting a floated ball over the top which did not arrive, instead a couple of deflections put it past Romero’s reach. Though it would be harsh to blame him for the goal, he looked far from assured in goal.
Matteo Darmian – 7/10
Another solid performance from the new right-back at Old Trafford. He had his positioning spot on while defending, tracking his runners and keeping a check on any passes beyond him. He also supplemented the attack well linking up with Juan Mata on United’s right. His communication with Smalling came in handy a few times making it hard for Brugge to get past them,
The duo on the right in Van Gaal’s back four did so well that whatever little-attacking threat Brugge mounted in the second half came from the opposite end of the pitch.
Chris Smalling – 7.5/10
Easily the standout defensive performance of the game. Several of Brugge’s attacks were met by Chris Smalling who dealt effectively with everything they had to throw at him. He made a couple of minor errors and also was booked late on for a poor tackle but overall kept danger at bay.
At times, he showed great anticipation stepping out of the backline when needed to intercept or make a foray forward. He was spotted high up the pitch a couple of times hobbling back slowly to his position but wasn’t punished for it on the night.
Daley Blind – 7/10
The Dutch player has grown into his new role. He did not do much out of the ordinary but went about his business with efficient grace while also covering for Luke Shaw a number of times while the Englishman forayed forward leaving spaces behind him.
A couple of interceptions in the second half also added to his credit as they came at important moments that could have proven dangerous if not for his intervention. It prevented Brugge from capitalising on their brief spell in attack midway through the second half.
Luke Shaw – 5/10
The former Southampton left-back who earned himself some good praise after his first two league games had a poor outing for the men in red. Shaw was often found wanting in defence as he played with the naivete of youth player leaving spaces for the opposition to exploit and was bailed out on more than one occasion by his team-mates.
Even going forward, his crossing was poor, the same as his decision making. Too many cutbacks and few across the six-yard box was the theme for Shaw, unfortunately.
Morgan Schneiderlin – 6/10
Nothing too untoward from the French midfielder at the base of United’s midfield. Sadly, nothing spectacular either. While he remained largely solid for most of the game, some poor passes saw him gift possession to the opposition and invite undue pressure.
Michael Carrick – 5/10
An uncharacteristically poor performance from the now United veteran. He could have done little about the early own goal but there was no major impact that he made in the game as he usually does with his dynamic movement and simple passing. The long ball forward to Memphis Depay that led to United’s first goal was the only bright spot in an otherwise poor game for the Englishman.
He was substituted at half-time and Bastian Schweinsteiger took his place for the next 45 minutes.
Juan Mata – 7/10
The Spaniard had a fairly decent run-out but failed to meet the lofty standards he set for himself. While he showed the desire and grit that set him apart in previous appearances, he faded in and out of the game.
The highlight of his play was a pass similar to the assist he made for Adnan Januzaj against Aston Villa albeit made higher up the pitch this time to the same recipient but the Belgian failed to make the most of his opportunity this time. These moments came along with the Spaniard’s resilient desire to win the ball back from the opposition.
Adnan Januzaj – 6/10
After impressing against Aston Villa and scoring Manchester United’s sole goal that night, his decision making let him down this time around. He squandered many opportunities after the team found themselves in good attacking positions.
If he is to consistently find a place in this team he will have to phase out the inconsistency from his game.
Memphis Depay – 8.5/10
A truly deserved Man of the Match performance from the Dutch attacker. He did not live up to expectations in the previous two EPL games but on this European night he turned on the style showing great composure to bring the ball down and get his shot away. He then doubled his tally after running on to Daley Blind's accurately played through ball before cutting it back and curling it past the keeper and into the net. He capped off a superb performance with a pinpoint cross for Marouane Fellaini to head home in the dying seconds of the game.
The only flaw in this magnificent showing was a couple of chances he missed to claim his hat-trick and another few occasions when he could have played a better-positioned team-mate in but chose to go on his own to eventually waste the chance.
Wayne Rooney – 6/10
Once again, Louis van Gaal put his faith in Wayne Rooney up front and though he did not pay dividends in terms of goals, he seems to be finding his feet again playing as the striker at the head of the attacking line-up. He still showed the tendency to drop deep and pick up the ball albeit rarely and perhaps it was down to Januzaj constantly running past the English captain that caused him to sit slightly deeper at times.
He did seem more at home once Chicharito came on to take uke up the striker’s position and Rooney slotted in behind him, but the need of the hour for United is a striker and that’s where their captain must find his groove again.
Bastian Schweinsteiger – 7/10
The German looks ready for a first team start. He showed a good rapport with Schneiderlin in midfield and sprayed about the ball well. Arguably one too many passes were sideways or back towards his goalkeeper but he made sure the game was controlled by the team in the lead and that Brugge did not have too much ammunition to get back into the tie.
Javier Hernandez – 6/10
‘Little Pea’ added some zest to United's pressing going forward and showed his willingness to fight even for the half chances. A good sign for United but he had minimal impact in the little time he found on the pitch having replaced Januzaj.
Marouane Fellaini – 7/10
The big Belgian slotted right into the side and did exactly the job he came on to do. It was the same task he was assigned a number of times by Van Gaal last season. He came on for Wayne Rooney and made a nuisance of himself as he became the centre of all attacks after Brugge were reduced to 10 men. The crowning moment coming when Depay set him up for the much needed goal for United to finish 3-1 and go into the second leg with a decent advantage to protect.