|Photo from Daily Mail|
At last, Manchester United’s (shameful) record of games without an away win has come to an end. After failing to win away from home since that famous night in Paris in March earlier this year, United hung on to secure a 1-0 victory in Serbia on Thursday night.
It was by no means a performance to rave about, but at this point and under the current circumstances, a win is a win. After putting in an encouraging performance against Liverpool on the weekend, United desperately needed to get a result that they could build on in Belgrade. And in spite of yet another toothless performance in the final third, the Reds managed to grab all three points and remain on top of the group table.
To give the team some credit, the first half wasn’t terrible. Again, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could have been up by at least a couple before the interval, but the struggles in front of goal continued.
First, Scott McTominay missed a wide open header after a great free kick delivery from Juan Mata. The Scotsman directed his header into the ground and the ball flew marginally wide of the hosts post.
A little later, after some scrappy build up play, Jesse Lingard curled a passed effort into outside of the post. You can’t help but feel like on any other day and with some luck, those shots go in. And well, as a matter of fact, United did get some luck just before the break.
The visitors were awarded a penalty on the brink of half-time after young left-back Brandon Williams — who was handed only his second senior start for the club — showed great awareness to see the space down the left hand side and charged into the Partizan box before being caught with a poor sliding tackle. Down went Williams and the referee pointed to the spot.
Up stepped the returning Anthony Martial, and after eight weeks on the sidelines, United’s No. 9 cooly slotted away the spot kick. The lack of match rhythm rust was evident in the Frenchman’s performance, but he did come up with the goods when it mattered as he registered United’s only shot on target, which ended up being the winning goal.
The less said about the second half, the better. United were completely under the cosh, struggling to create a single clear cut goal scoring opportunity, and with the hosts getting closer and closer to an equaliser. But, after a valiant effort from Partizan, and some sharp stops from Sergio Romero, United managed to escape Serbian soil with all three points.
Check out the player ratings below:
Sergio Romero: 8/10
The always reliable Argentine shot-stopper came up with the goods for United yet again — notching up yet another clean sheet and coming up with some massive saves which prevented the hosts from getting back into the game.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 7/10
No complaints. I don’t think Wan-Bissaka has had a bad game in United colours yet and long may that continue. With that being said, it would be huge for the team if his delivery in the final third improved.
Phil Jones: 6/10
This man just breathes danger for his own team. There is always a mistake in Jones, but thankfully he made no significant errors when it mattered down the stretch.
Harry Maguire: 6.5/10
That may have been the shakiest that Maguire has looked in a United shirt. Coincidentally, he got to captain the side, but the Serbian attackers were causing him a lot of headaches, particularly in the second half.
Marcos Rojo: 6/10
The Argentine is very similar to Jones in so many ways. He is a ticking mistake and his decision making while bringing the ball out from the back leaves a lot to be desired for. But, nonetheless, a clean sheet is a collective effort, so we can’t complain too much.
Brandon Williams: 8.5/10 (MOTM)
For the most part of the first half it looked like the young left-back had nothing to offer going forward. But then out of nowhere he broke away down his flank and won the team a penalty which resulted in the match winning goal. A confidence boosting performance for the young lad, and a great defensive display in the second half. He is certainly knocking on the first XI’s door.
James Garner: 7/10
It seemed like a lot of people on Twitter were disappointed by Garner’s performance. Personally, I couldn’t be further from that. I thought that he played the CDM role very well. The young Englishman was always composed on the ball and didn’t register his first incomplete pass until the second half. A good performance to grow from by the youth team captain.
Scott McTominay: 7/10
A solid outing for the Scot who has gotten the fans used to those in recent months. Positive contributions on both ends of the field and he should have really bagged a goal in the first half after he missed a wide open header.
Juan Mata: 6/10
Assuming that the Spaniard was supposed to be one half of the duo in charge of the creation department in this game, that was a disappointing performance. Other than some decent deliveries from set-pieces, United’s No. 8 didn’t really offer anything concrete throughout the game.
Jesse Lingard: 6/10
You could copy and paste Mata’s description in here really. The only excuse for Lingard is that he was coming back from injury. But, again, games against teams who play a low block just don’t seem to be his forte.
Anthony Martial: 7/10
The lack of match rhythm was evident, but also, the lack of service didn’t help. A no. 9 has to be given the service to note a good performance, and United just didn’t provide that for the returning Frenchman in this game. It was good to see him back out there though, and scoring the winner will have done him the world of good ahead of the upcoming games.
Marcus Rashford: 6.5/10
Not sure why Rashford couldn’t just get the whole game off, but after coming on, he didn’t really have many chances to contribute. United were in defensive mode and it was all about running down the clock.
Daniel James: 6.5/10
The same thing that was said for Rashford could be said here. James could’ve really done with sitting this game out. He did have some clever touches after coming on but nothing too threatening for the opposition.
Andreas Pereira: N/A
The Brazilian replaced the exhausted Garner with around 10 minutes left to play and didn’t really have enough time to put his stamp on the game. Purely a like for like fresh legs substitution.