Man United 1-0 Watford | Match review

A Mata free kick seals the three points in a tough game against an energetic, battling Watford.

On the back of three wins in a row, with three goals scored in each game, fans were bullish about seeing more of the same against Watford. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as the visitor’s pressed very well for the whole 90 minutes making it very difficult for United to play with any real freedom.

United started well by attacking and getting shots in at goal and winning corners, but it didn’t take long for Watford to group and start putting pressure on United and forcing them into errors. There were periods where United appeared to be reverting back to the style of football we had become used to under van Gaal, with little in the way of forward football. The half time whistle even brought groans around the stadium.

Although the first half was rather uneventful, both teams did come close to scoring. For United, in the 20th minute, Morgan Schneiderlin hit a volley from just outside the box which shaved the outside of left hand post and Watford, in the 37th minute, had a better chance when Ighalo found himself one-on-one with de Gea but the United keeper made himself big and blocked Ighalo’s shot.

Fosu-Mensah makes a strong challenge on Troy Deeney (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Fosu-Mensah makes a strong challenge on Troy Deeney (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

The second half was more of the same only with a few good spells of attacking football from United. But again, Watford afforded United very little space, stopping them from creating too many chances. But all United needed was a free kick and Juan Mata! In the 82nd minute, Anthony Martial was brought down just outside the box winning a free kick. Up stepped Mata who with great accuracy, curled the ball up and over the wall and into the top left corner. Gomes had no chance in the Watford goal.

Although the game didn’t live up to expectations raised from recent matches, United managed to get the three points and at this stage of the season, considering the current state of the league table, the points are all that matter. With City losing against Liverpool, United are now level on points with their city rivals and suddenly, top 4 look possible again.

Mata's superb free kick secured the three points (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Mata’s superb free kick secured the three points (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

There were a couple of stand out players in this match and both were from the youth academy. Timothy Fosu-Mensah played the full 90 minutes at centre-back, in the absence of injured Chris Smalling. Despite an early booking and a couple of rash tackles, Fosu-Mensah made several important and perfectly timed challenges, making a big contribution to United’s clean sheet. His strength and awareness just prove that he is a bright prospect for United’s future.

The other stand out player was, once again, Marcus Rashford. He may not have got himself on the score sheet today but his blistering pace caused Watford many problems, in particular when he was shifted to the right with Martial moving more central. Rashford’s pace and eye for goal certainly make him a favourite to be successful at Old Trafford for years to come.

Rashford forces save from Gomes after beating Watford's defenders (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Rashford forces save from Gomes after beating Watford’s defenders (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

Up next for United is a trip to West Brom where another three points will further increase their chances of finishing in the top four. So what did you make of today’s game? Are you disappointed with the performance or just glad for the three points? Let us know in the comments below.

Paul’s player ratings – Man United V Watford

David de Gea (7) Made a couple of important saves when in one-on-one situations.
Guillermo Varela (6) Did enough defensively to help keep a clean sheet.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah (8) Made a series of strong and important tackles preventing goal scoring opportunities.
Daley Blind (5) A very rare off-day for Blind. Didn’t look comfortable with the ball and distribution was poor.
Marcos Rojo (6) Did enough defensively to help keep a clean sheet.
Morgan Schneiderlin (7) Picking up where he left off against Arsenal by providing support to the defence through tackles and interceptions.
Ander Herrera (6) Put in a good shift but didn’t produce anything special.
Anthony Martial (6) Was quiet for most of the game and didn’t really cause Watford any problems. Won the free kick that Mata converted.
Juan Mata (7) Held the ball well while looking for a pass. Scored a fantastic free kick to secure all three points.
Memphis Depay (6) While not a poor performance he was unable to reproduce the brilliance of the previous few games.
Marcus Rashford (8) Didn’t manage to get on the score sheet this time but his pace caused Watford a lot of problems and his defensive contribution shouldn’t go unnoticed.

If you would like to watch the United Stand’s match reaction video with Mark Goldbridge, please do so by clicking here or watching below:

Rio Ferdinand – Forever a Red

When Sir Alex Ferguson splashed out £29.1 Million in the summer of 2002 to make Rio Ferdinand the then most expensive defender of all time, doubts where inevitably raised. Was a defender really worth all that money?  The answer was an emphatic ‘Yes!’, as Rio went on to become one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest ever signings during his managerial career at Old Trafford.

In a stay that spanned 12 years at the Theatre of Dreams, Rio won almost everything there was to win in the game. 6 Premier League Titles,  1 European Cup,  3 League Cup’s,  1 Club World Cup and a bundle of Charity shields,  with only an FA Cup winners medal missing on the centre back’s mantel piece.

His partnership with Nemanja Vidic became an essential part of United’s success in the late 2000’s. They were our very own Morecambe and Wise, without one we were just not the same team.  The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney may have grabbed the headlines, but Rio and Vida’s contribution was just as important to Manchester United, if not more.

However it wasn’t all plain sailing, far from it in fact. United’s slow start to the 2002/03 campaign was having an effect on the centre back’s performances and confidence. He just didn’t seem the same player we had previously witnessed blossom at Leeds. By no means was he poor, we just expected a lot more. It wouldn’t be till after the New Year where the Real Rio Ferdinand would stand up.

Maybe it was his confidence, maybe it just took him a little extra time to settle down, maybe it was even the whopping price tag on his shoulders. Whatever it was, Rio looked a complete different animal after the new year, as United hunted down Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side. Key results followed against Newcastle United (6-2) Chelsea (2-1) and Liverpool (4-0) as the club regained the Premier League Title for an historic 8th time.

If anyone was to doubt just how important Rio Ferdinand was to Manchester United, then the following season (2003/04) would be the season where we would find out just how vital he actually was. After reportedly missing a drugs test in September 2003, the defender was banned from football for 8 months.  Let’s be honest here, I don’t think any one of us out there actually thought his absence would have such an enormous effect on the side, we didn’t just drop away a touch, we completely collapsed.  Goals started to be conceded left right and centre, 2 against Southampton, 3 against Everton, 3 against Middlesbrough, 4 against Manchester City. Even goalkeeper Tim Howard who had previously looked magnificent, was now all of a sudden looking a nervous wreck. United may have ended the season positively by defeating Millwall 3-0 in the FA Cup Final, but it could have been so much more and you can’t help but think if Rio hadn’t of been banned we probably would have won the league that season.

He finally made his long anticipated return to football on 20th September 2004 and what better fixture to announce your return in,  than against arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford helping the club secure a 2-1 victory.  Just to see Rio back in a United shirt again was good enough for me, but what was even more impressive was the fact it looked like he had never been away, the Rio Ferdinand we all knew and loved was back.

Despite Rio’s return to the United side, the club’s struggle’s on the pitch remained a major problem, as the club fell short of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side. However in what was admittedly a couple of disappointing campaigns (2004/05, 2005/06) there was light at the end of the tunnel, and in that light came Neamnja Vidic and Patrice Evra. This would prove to be a real turning point for not just Rio, but for the club as a whole.

Prior to the start of the 2006/07 season, you could almost sense something special was going to happen, you just had that feeling this would be the season where the real Manchester United would return.  What was to follow was nothing short of magnificent as the club finally reclaimed the Premier League Title from Chelsea. The introduction of Nemanja Vidic in the centre of defence made Rio even better as a footballer, He was already World Class, now he was near immortal. He even found himself on the score sheet, scoring the all-important 2nd goal against Liverpool at Old Trafford with a wonderful strike into top corner. His magnificent efforts on the field for United were to be rewarded personally, as he was named in the PFA Team of the year along with the rest of the United back 4.

Things for not just Rio but for the club as a whole, where about to be taken up a whole other level as the 2007/08 campaign loomed. It would be the season where United didn’t just reach the peak of English football, but reached the peak of European football by defeating Chelsea in the European Cup final on that unforgettable night in Moscow. Rio’s ever blossoming partnership with Nemanja Vidic wasn’t just becoming one of the finest centre back partnerships of that time period, it was fast becoming one of the best centre back pairings football had ever seen, no forward in the land nor Europe could get the better of them.  Once again his efforts on the field were rewarded as the defender was again named in the PFA Team of the year for the 2nd year running.

The following season brought yet more success to the club, as United won the Premier League Title for a 3rd consecutive season and brought the League Cup back to Old Trafford after defeating Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.  Despite Rio edging ever closer to the merry old age of 30 his performances remained as consistent and superb,  as the club went an astonishing 21 hours without conceding a goal. It was getting to the point where we would be shocked if the opposition even had a shot on goal. We were just that good and we knew it!

Of course just like anything good it does have to end eventually and as the 2009/10 season got underway, flaws into Rio’s game were starting to creep in, that yard or so of pace he once had was now starting to fade, most notably against arch rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford, where after giving the ball on the way on the halfway line, he failed to catch up then City forward Craig Bellamy who then levelled the game up at 3-3. It something we were just not used to seeing with Rio, we even had confirm it amongst ourselves that it had actually happened, that we hadn’t imagined it. In all it was disappointing season for Rio with in all, managing only a mere 21 appearances due to injuries.

The following seasons brought something of a mixed bag for the defender.  He was still as ever present in the heart Manchester United defence, but you couldn’t help but feel he just wasn’t the same player any more. The standards he had previously set was so ridiculously high, that now with him entering his 30s, it was near impossible that Rio could reach those standards again.  However it wasn’t all doom and gloom with arguably the stand out moment coming in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game as Manchester United manager against Swansea City, where he emphatically volleyed the ball home from inside the penalty area, handing United a 2-1 victory.

His time at the club was officially brought to an end on 12th May 2014, where after much discussion the club decided against offering Rio a new contract brining to an end his 12 year stay at the club. His time at the club may be up, but his legacy will live on forever in the hearts of the Manchester United faithful.

Man United 3-2 Arsenal | Match review

United put the breaks on Arsenal’s title hopes after a second brace in two games from Rashford and a winner from Herrera secure all three points.

It was a game in which very few, including myself, expected United to emerge victorious. For United, outside of the top four, the squad riddled with injuries and Arsenal are up there challenging for the title, so naturally the gunners were favourites.

Then the game started. United looked bright, moving the ball around quickly and getting forward. When out of possession they pressed very well and frequently won the ball back. And then the unexpected happened. In the 30th minute United took the lead thanks to a goal from none other than Marcus Rashford! Juan Mata and Ander Herrera linked up with a little one-two (as they so often do) then Herrera fed the ball out to Varela who curled in a cross from the right hand side. The cross deflected off an Arsenal defender into the path of Rashford who drove the ball into the top right of the net.

Just three minutes later United doubled their lead. Mata, again playing an important part in the build-up, played a tidy ball out to Lingard who looked up and spotted Rashford in the middle. He hit his cross with enough pace leaving Rashford with nothing to do but direct the ball into the bottom left corner with his head for his second of the game. United were now 2-0 up and the crowd were rocking!

Marcus Rashford celebrates his first goal against Arsenal with Juan Mata (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Marcus Rashford celebrates his first goal with Juan Mata (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

United were brought back down to earth shortly before half time when Danny Welbeck pulled a goal back in the 41st minute. Mesut Ozil hit a free kick into the United box and Welbeck, making easy work of shaking off Morgan Schneiderlin, got his head on the ball to guide it past David de Gea.

At half time I started thinking that Arsenal were going to go on and win the game. I thought that the goal would rile them up and they would come at us. I also thought that we would end up desperately defending the whole second half (especially after the 3-0 drubbing in October), sitting deep and inviting them onto us. But thankfully I was wrong! Throughout the whole second half, when Arsenal had the ball, United pressed and defended high up the pitch and it made the difference.

Although Arsenal had slightly more possession, United’s defence did a sound job in keeping the likes of Ozil and Sanchez quiet. And in the 65th minute the hard work paid off as United extended their lead back to two goals with a goal from Ander Herrera! The move building up to the goal again involved Juan Mata. The Spaniard played a through ball out to Marcus Rashford on the right who held the ball up, waiting for support. He then played the ball across the ground into the path of Herrera who rifled a shot with the inside of his boot which went in via a deflection.

At 3-1 the fans were back on their feet and the atmosphere felt relaxed again. That was until the 70th minute at least when Ozil mis-kicked a volley that found its way into the top left corner. This goal set up what felt like was going to be a tense final 20 or so minutes. But it wasn’t. United defended very well, again, pressing and defending high up the pitch. They did what they had to do to see out the game and that even involved a little show boating while running down the clock, which the fans loved!

Ander Herrera celebrates his winning goal against Arsenal (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Ander Herrera celebrates his winning goal (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

It was a performance that all the players and fans should be proud of. From front to back United were solid. The defence held up well despite having two midfielders as centre backs, the midfield players all linked up well and helped to protect the defence and the attack, led by Rashford, was fantastic.

Let’s talk about Rashford for a second. A youth team player who made his debut against Midtjylland on Thursday night after Martial picked up an injury in the warm up before the game. There was no expectation, no burden on his shoulders. Just a chance to shine and shine he did. In that game and today’s, he showed his pace, his strength and his positioning and awareness. A true number 9. His second brace in as many games will fill him with confidence and belief that he can go all the way. The likes of Martial and Rooney will certainly have taken note of Rashford’s performances and rightly so.

Juan Mata also had a good game, linking up the midfield and playing a part in all three of United’s goals. Michael Carrick, despite an early yellow for a foul on former United player Danny Welbeck, also had a solid game at the back with plenty of interceptions and tackles. Morgan Schneiderlin had a very good second half cutting out passes and winning tackles. In general, the whole team performed fantastically and worked together to ensure the three points remained at Old Trafford.

The win lifts United back into 5th, just 3 points behind local rivals Manchester City [who have a game in hand] and United’s next game is on March 2nd at home to Watford. The players will be full of confidence going into this game and Watford have only won 2 of their last 10 Premier League games so I strongly believe we can win and put some pressure on a faltering Manchester City! Or maybe I am getting a little carried away?! We’ll see!

Paul’s player ratings – Man United V Arsenal

David de Gea (6) Protected well by his defence and couldn’t do much about the goals.
Guillermo Varela (6) Struggled at times with the pace of Sanchez and Monreal but effective going forward.
Micheal Carrick (8) Made several tackles and interceptions contributing hugely to United’s win.
Daley Blind (7) A calming influence on the game, always first to a loose ball.
Marcos Rojo (6) Not much to do but made a couple of good interceptions.
Ander Herrera (7) Scored what proved to be the winning goal and played his part in Rashford’s first.
Morgan Schneiderlin (8) An excellent second half reading the play and breaking down Arsenal attacks.
Jesse Lingard (7) Put in a battling performance and provided the assist for Rashford’s second.
Juan Mata (7) Fantastic work rate and played his part in all three of United’s goals.
Memphis Depay (6) Had few opportunities to shine but proved key in holding the ball and using his strength.
Marcus Rashford (9) Another fantastic performance again showing his awareness, vision and ability to score.

So what did you think of the game? Do you think it was an all round fantastic performance? Do you believe that top 4 is looking a little more realistic? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

You can also watch the United Stand live match reaction by clicking here or watching below:

Memphis: ‘I am on the right track’

United number 7, Memphis Depay, believes he is on the right track after his highly applauded performance in the 2nd leg Europa League tie against Midtjylland.

The winger, who signed from PSV Eindhoven in the summer, scored United’s 5th goal and won a penalty which was converted by Herrera in their most recent game, against Midtjylland.

However, we have seen brilliance from him already this season when he scored two goals against FC Brugge in the Champions League qualifying round. Since then he has failed to live up to his price tag only scoring a handful of goals and struggling to maintain a spot in the starting eleven.

However, Memphis has shown steady progress in his last two games for United. Against Shrewsbury Town he struggled in the first half but in the second half he was much more focused. His take-on’s were more successful with shots that we’re actually on target. And he also linked up well with players around him with some neat one touch passing. You could see he was growing into the game and finding some rhythm.

The positive second half performance against Shrewsbury Town clearly restored some self-confidence and self-belief as he gave a man of the match worthy performance in the following game (and United’s most recent game) against Midtjylland. He oozed confidence as he ran at defenders, beat them, played in some decent crosses, hit shots that were on target and we even saw flashes of skill. The goal he scored at the end of the game capped off a fine performance.

Memphis recently spoke with Fox Sports and had this to say:

I am very happy with my goal and I am on the right track. I am still working very hard to improve each day.

This is a great feeling. We had to make amends for last week’s defeat.

We knew what we had to do and it is always a good feeling to be able to look at the scoreboard at the end and see we set the record straight.

I think that we were clearly enjoying ourselves on the pitch. We all worked hard for each other and that is the most important thing for me then we can also shine individually.

You can read the article in full on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Smalling and de Gea could return for Arsenal game

United centre back Chris Smalling could feature against Arsenal on Sunday.

Chris Smalling has been one of United’s most consistent players this season along with goal keeper David de Gea, who could also return for the clash against Arsenal.

Smalling picked up a shoulder injury in the FA Cup game against Shrewsbury Town on Monday night and missed only his 2nd game this season when United played Midtjylland on Thursday evening.

The 26 year old has made good progress on the recovery and when asked about his recent form, he had this to say:

Touch wood, that carries on.

I was disappointed to miss the other night, but I’m hoping to be okay to play this game.

I’ve not really done anything differently to the other lads but, probably from about halfway through last season, I got on a good run in the team and I’ve just tried to carry that on from there. Long may it continue.

Arsenal are Smalling’s boyhood club and when asked about the fixture he said:

I always look forward to these games.

It’s no secret that I was an Arsenal supporter growing up, so this fixture is even bigger for me and especially given it involves two of the biggest teams in the country.

I hope I can step out onto the field.

In other injury news, United boss Louis van Gaal is expecting David de Gea to be fit for the Arsenal match:

I expect (David can return) because I saw the way he was today.

You can read the article on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

LVG: Mourinho links ‘an absolute scandal’

Under fire United boss, Louis van Gaal, has blasted reports of Mourinho taking over in the summer as ‘an absolute scandal’.

Pressure has eased slightly on the Dutchman since securing a place in the FA Cup Quarter Final after beating Shrewsbury Town and progressing to the last 16 in the Europa League after beating Midtjylland 6-3 on aggregate.

Despite this, van Gaal is still the bookies favourite as the next Premier League manager to leave his job with Mourinho still a hot favourite to replace him.

The United manager had this to say to dutch TV channel RTL7:

Mourinho has said things a number of times with a lot of words, but he does not have to tell me anything. I find the whole thing ridiculous.

No, I don’t want United to do something either. I don’t even want them to react to things which I read in the media or which are being created.

We, the club and I, are not going to help the media right now by denying things.

I think what is happening is an absolute scandal.

Read the article in full on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Martial set to miss Arsenal game

Anthony Martial was pulled out of the starting line up shortly before the Midtjylland game after pulling up with a hamstring injury.

The young Frenchman was replaced by debutant Marcus Rashford who went on to score two goals helping United into the last 16 of the Europa League.

While the injury is not considered ‘heavy’ by boss, Lois van Gaal, Martial will be rested to prevent doing any further damage to his injury.

This could prove to be a huge loss for United if the likes of Memphis and Rashford don’t put in the same performance they did against Midtjylland. Although, the burden cannot rest too heavily on Rashford’s shoulders.

Read more on the injury here.

Man United 5-1 Midtjylland | Match review

After going a goal down against the run of play early on, United rallied together to brush Midtjylland aside with 5 goals of their own.

Very few people would have predicted this scoreline, particularly with the long list of injuries the team has and with Anthony Martial being added to the list just before kickoff with a hamstring problem. But the team pulled together knowing that a loss at home to Midtjylland would be unacceptable.

It was the visitors who found the back of the net first, in the 28th minute. Against the run of play, Sisto found himself with a bit of space on the edge of the box and easily skipped past Carrick and Blind then slotted the ball past Romero into the bottom left corner. United were now 3-1 down on aggregate and pressure was increasing. But, they reacted very well by dominating possession, getting forward and moving the ball around quickly, as they were before the Midtjylland opener.

It only took a few minutes for United to find an equaliser. On the 32nd minute Memphis ran the ball past the Midtjylland defence to the byline and hit a driven cross along the ground which was met by the boot of Bodurov who directed the ball into his own net. Just before half time, Mata had a chance to put United ahead and level on aggregate from the spot after Herrera was brought down just inside the area but Mata’s penalty was saved by Andersen.

Sisto celebrates scoring Midtjylland's opener (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Sisto celebrates scoring Midtjylland’s opener (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

United did take the lead in the 63rd minute thanks to a goal from youngster Marcus Rashford. The move started with Herrera who floated a cross over to the back post. Mata got on the end of it with a first time cross back across goal. Using his pace, Rashford beat the Midtjylland defenders to the ball and buried the ball into the back of the net. United were now 2-1 up and 3-3 on aggregate.

The game was being played almost entirely in the Midtylland half with United controlling the play and creating lots of chances. On the 75th minute young boy Marcus Rashford got himself on the score sheet again. This time it was Guillermo Varela with the assist. Following some quick, yet patient build up play, Varela hit a cross from the right hand side which dropped to the back post. Rashford found himself in a yard of space and allowed the ball to drop and then slotted the ball under the keeper, putting United 3-1 up and 4-3 ahead on aggregate.

United weren’t ready to stop just yet and on the 88th minute, United were awarded another penalty after a Memphis shot was handled by a Midtjylland defender. This time it was Ander Herrera who stepped up and he made no mistake by rifling the ball into the top left corner. United were now 4-1 up in the game and had a two goal lead on aggregate. It was the breathing space they had been hoping for and I’m sure Louis van Gaal would have zipped up his note pad at this point.

As the fourth official announced the amount of additional time there would be, there was a sense that the game was already finished. United were as good as through and Midtjylland didn’t look like they had the legs to score two goals in as many minutes. But, Memphis wasn’t done yet and he capped off a great performance with a equally great solo goal in the 91st minute. The former PSV player ran at the Midtjylland defence forcing them backwards and when he created a gap he arrowed the ball into the bottom left corner. And that was it. United won 5-1 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate to progress to the next round.

Memphis celebrates his late goal with Herrera (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Memphis celebrates his late goal with Herrera (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

There were a few stand out players in this match and one of those was the young Marcus Rashford. He continuously proved a nuisance for the defenders with his ability to leave them standing with his quick change of pace. His positioning an ability to read the game were also proven with the two goals he scored. No better way to cap off a fine performance than scoring a couple of goals to help secure a place in the next round of the Europa League.

Juan Mata also deserves a mention. Throughout the whole game he put in 110% popping up in all areas of the pitch, linking the play between defenders and attackers, dictating play, winning back possession and getting an assist for Rashford’s first goal.

And we cannot leave out Memphis. He was poor in the first leg and against Shrewsbury Town on Monday he showed signs of improvement and a growing confidence. I said in the Shrewsbury review that he now has a great opportunity to prove himself over the coming weeks with several players out injured and he took his chance very well tonight. He had a very high success rate with take-ons, beating the defenders and getting plenty of shots in. But he wasn’t greedy by just taking shots, he also looked up to see what was going on around him and played a few key passes into the path of runners. We even saw flashes of skill from him which just indicates that his confidence is slowly returning and the goal he scored in injury time was the icing on the cake.

All in all it was a good performance from United. The team played well as a unit and as fans we can be proud of them. They are all under a lot of pressure and together with all the injuries, they need our support.

United’s next game is against Arsenal, on Sunday, at Old Trafford. This will be a real test for Memphis and United as Shrewsbury Town and Midtjylland can’t really be considered as tough opponents, but both games have done the team and Memphis some good in terms of morale and confidence. Hopefully both will carry into the game against Arsenal and we can get a result.

Paul’s Player Ratings – United V Midtjylland:

Romero (6) Was a little flaky with the ball at his feet but was rarely called upon.
Varela (7) Was good getting forward, linking up with Herrera and Lingard and provided an assist for Rashford’s second goal.
Carrick (6) Could have done more to prevent the Midtjylland goal.
Blind (6) Also could have done more to prevent the Midtjylland goal.
Riley (6) Was good going forward, linking up with Memphis.
Schneiderlin (7) A stalwart in the midfield with plenty of interceptions and winning tackles.
Herrera (7) Put in a good shift and scored a penalty.
Lingard (6) Was good going forward but lacked a killer end product often choosing to come backwards.
Mata (8) Dictated play, very high work rate, pressed well winning possession and provided the assist for Rashford’s first goal.
Memphis (9) Used his strength, pace and skill to beat defenders throughout the game, created chances for others and scored a great solo goal.
Rashford (9) Also showed great pace and strength when in possession and scored two strikers goals.

So what did you think of tonight’s game? Are there any players that you thought stood out? Would you rate any of the players differently? Let me know in the comments below.

You can watch the United Stand’s live match reaction with Mark Goldbridge by clicking here or watching below:

Shrewsbury Town 0-3 Man United | Match Review

United cruise comfortably past Shrewsbury Town with a 3-0 victory to set up a quarter final tie, at home, against West Ham United.

This was the first time in the clubs history that United have played Shrewsbury Town and the home team, including their fans, were excited for the occasion. They even fancied their chances of causing an upset based on United’s recent form and who can blame them? But it wasn’t to be thanks to goals from Chris Smalling (right footed volley), Juan Mata (cleverley worked free kick where three United players looked to have been offside) and Jesse Lingard (getting on the end of an Ander Herrera cross).

The win itself is of course something to be happy about as it sends United into the quarter final of the FA Cup, but it’s nothing to write home about considering the opposition. Typically, of a United under van Gaal, they controlled the game from start to finish having an 80% share of the possession in the first half and 75% possession overall. Also, United were reduced to long shots for most of the first half as they failed to find a way to break down a resilient Shrewsbury defence. Something else we have become accustomed to during the van Gaal reign. United did, however, finally make a break through late in the first half when Chris Smalling, staying up front when a cleared corner was played back toward the box, hit a right footed volley past the Shrewsbury keeper. Shortly afterwards, on the stroke of half time, Juan Mata doubled United’s lead from a free Kick that was awarded after Anthony Martial was brought down on the edge of the box when he was through on goal.

Mata scores United's second from a Free Kick (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Mata scores United’s second from a Free Kick (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

For the second half Shrewsbury altered their approach and played further up the pitch. This allowed United to play their game, bringing the attacking players into the fold with some much quicker football. And it didn’t take long for United to get their third goal to seal the win. The goal came from a counter attack that started with Romero. The United keeper released the ball quickly, picking out Herrera who touched the ball on to Mata on the left. At the edge of the box, Mata played the ball back into Herrera who hit a cross to the back post finding Lingard who hit it first time into the back of the net. United then took their foot off the pedal and played possession football very effectively to see the game out.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline it was a very average team performance. I’m finding it difficult to pick out any player who had a particularly impressive game. In my match review for the Midtjylland game on Thursday, I was very critical of Memphis. Today, however, despite a shaky start, he grew into the game and gained confidence; particularly in the second half. He showed glimpses of what he did at PSV by running at defenders, cutting in and getting shots at goal. An extra yard of pace and he will become dangerous again. He also linked up with players very well during attacking moves with some neat one-touch passing. What’s important now is that he carries that into the next game. He has a great opportunity, with Rooney out, to prove himself and build on today’s performance.

Daley Blind in action for United at Shrewsbury (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Daley Blind in action for United at Shrewsbury (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

Another player I enjoyed watching was Daley Blind. He makes things happen. Plenty of times tonight he was able to pick out a pass from deep, finding the forward players and at the same time taking several Shrewsbury players out of the game.

Andreas Pereira also made a positive impact coming on as a substitute just after the hour mark. His positioning was on point, making sure he found space off the ball to receive a pass. When he was in possession he moved the ball quickly. He proves a nightmare for defenders with his pass-and-move football which is something United need more of.

So, United did what was expected of them and have progressed to the quarter final of the FA Cup. But the pressure is still on Louis van Gaal with the focus now on the second leg of the Europa League tie at home to Midtylland. The danish team bring to Old Trafford a 2-1 advantage, but United could progress with 1-0 victory having scored an away goal in the first leg. As with tonight’s game, United will be fully expected to win this 2nd leg with the real test being the game against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday.

What did you make of tonight’s game? Did any players stand out to you? Was the performance good enough? Let me know in the comments below!

Paul’s player ratings – Shrewsbury V United

Romero (6) Kept a clean sheet but was rarely called upon.
Borthwick-Jackson (6) Played the long ball that led to Chris Smalling’s goal but was generally quiet.
Smalling (7) Scored the opening goal and won the majority of aerial battles.
Blind (7) Showed great vision picking out long ground passes into the forward players.
Varela (6) Fairly quiet for most of the game.
Herrera (7) Helped to control the united midfield and provided an assist for Lingard’s goal.
Schneiderlin (6) Helped protect the defense on the rare occasion he needed to.
Lingard (6) Was quiet for most of the game despite scoring.
Mata (7) Scored the free kick and played his part in the build up to Lingard’s goal.
Memphis (6) Poor start to game but grew in confidence in the 2nd half linking up well with other players.
Martial (6) Was isolated as a lone striker with several defenders around him.

Riley (6) Made his debut as a sub an wasn’t afraid to run at defenders.
Keane (6) Came on for Martial, hit the post, then left the field after just 4 minutes after picking up a groin injury.
Pereira (7) Proved a nuisance for the Shrewsbury defenders with his quick movement.

You can also watch The United Stand’s live match reaction with Mark Goldbridge by clicking here or watching below:

Midtjylland 2-1 Man United | Match review

When the draw was made for the first knock out stage of the Europa League, the question on everyone’s mind was, “Who on earth are Midtjylland?”

Well, I’m sure you would have done your research but, for the sake of this blog post, let me give you a very brief reminder.

Midtylland are a Danish club who play in the Danish Superliga and have a stadium capacity of just 12,000. They have played in European cups on several occassions but rarely passed the qualifying or play-off rounds. This season however, they made it to the group stages and despite losing 9-1 over two games against Napoli, they still progressed to the knock out stages.

With that said, you can forgive the majority of people, myself included, for thinking that even with the lengthy injury list, we should still be beating this team comfortably. Oh how wrong I was. How very wrong.

It has been said many times that this is a tournament that United never wanted to be a part of and it really was evident when looking at the players on the pitch tonight. Throughout the whole game none of the players looked like they were interested. There was no fight, no desire, no will to just go and grab the game by the scruff of the neck and sweep Midtjylland aside.

Far too many times there were gaping holes in the middle where you would expect to see Mata or Herrera. Or even Carrick. Anyone with an ounce of awareness! But nothing. No movement, no forward thinking; just stale, uninspired, dribble. And I feel like a scratched record having said this many times already this season.

There were periods in the game where Midtjylland were dominating. Not many, but there were. There was even a period where they were just toying with us. It was embarrassing to watch. Apart from Memphis’ goal – which he was lucky to score – We struggled to create any real chances. Lingard came close near the hour mark when he hit a volley against the cross bar but that was it. Midtjylland on the other hand, forced a few fantastic saves out of Romero. We could have lost that game 3 or 4-1.

Memphis and co celebrate his equaliser (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Memphis and co celebrate his equaliser (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

With Rooney being out injured and Martial moving into the number 9 role, it was a big chance for Memphis to shine and gain some much needed confidence. I was full of hope for him. He has really struggled this season and I was praying that tonight would be his night. But again he was well below par. His decision making was poor; running into defenders, taking too many touches. I’m not going to write him off just yet though. I think that would be unfair. I believe under a new manager next season (assuming LVG won’t be here) he will be given a new lease of life. You never know, maybe we’ll start seeing the Memphis of PSV.

I have singled out Memphis because he is the player I was most excited about when the season started and he is the player who, for me, has the most to prove with his price tag and reputation for scoring goals and giving defenders a nightmare.

The rest of the team cannot get off lightly. Tonight they were all equally as poor. They all worked together to lose this game and they should all take a good long look at themselves. They may not agree with the manager’s philosophy but to show no desire to win is unforgivable. Especially when fans have traveled hundreds of miles and spent hundreds of pounds on tickets, travel and most likely accommodation.

Now, although I openly criticise the players – and I must say this criticism applies not just to tonight’s game but for many, many others – the manager, Louis van Gaal does not help the situation. His “philosophy” on and off the pitch is completely lost on the players. We can all see it and I’m sure he can too. He should now do the decent thing and walk away. Because it sure as hell does not look as though the board are sacking him anytime soon.

An emotionless van Gaal looks detached from the game (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
An emotionless van Gaal looks detached from the game (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

Next up for United is Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup and I will not be making the same mistake in thinking we should win comfortably. In fact, in thinking that we will win at all. Never before has my confidence in United been so low and it’s horrible.

I’ll be interested to hear how you guys are feeling right now. Are you just as fed up, frustrated and as disillusioned as I am? Or have you learned to accept such mediocrity and are now just waiting for it to be over so we can start afresh with a new manager and new philosophy? Please comment below.

Also, if you want to hear what Mark Goldbridge thought of the game, watch his match reaction right here, or by watching below.

Thanks for reading!

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