Good times for a change. After a torrid week during which United suffered back to back 2 nil defeats to bitter rivals Liverpool and Burnley (this coupled with a distinctly underwhelming transfer window), we finally got something to cheer as League One strugglers Tranmere Rovers were put to the sword. Unsurprisingly there were six changes from the Burnley lineup, with De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Williams, Fred, Mata and James making way for Romero, Lindelof, Shaw, Dalot, Lingard and Greenwood.
The change in personnel came with a change in formation to 3-5-1-2, which the opposition either didn’t expect or simply couldn’t live with. Shaw and Dalot kept the full-backs penned into their own half while Maguire, as the spare centre-back, was able to maraud into Tranmere’s half with impunity. Whether you believe it was a tactical masterclass or a happy accident is irrelevant, the fact remains that Solskjær got it spot on today.
It could have been different, as Romero was called into action, Maguire made a clearance and Jones got himself booked all in the first five minutes. Tranmere’s early pressing looked great but left a huge void in midfield which played into United’s hands as the lively Maguire latched on to Matic’s short pass and drifted unopposed to the edge of the penalty area before unleashing an unstoppable (albeit slightly deflected) piledriver into the top corner of Davies’ goal. This took the wind out of the host’s sails and before they could regroup Dalot played a 1-2 off Martial, wrong-footed the defence with a deft flick, then drove a low shot into the bottom corner. Tranmere were still reeling from this when Maguire turned provider, feeding Lingard who lashed a fierce curler beyond the bewildered Davies. Three shots, three goals in the space of five minutes and Tranmere were done.
As the first half wore on United continued to press and there was a certain inevitability about the next goal, although to continue the theme of the day it was an unfamiliar name on the scoresheet. United won a corner which Pereira launched deep into the box, Maguire found himself bundled to the ground and as we wondered whether a penalty would be awarded, Phil Jones rose from the crypt and looped his header into the beckoning net. After this it was the turn of the recognised strikers to get in on the act, first Martial who danced, shuffled and feinted before smashing the ball home just before half-time, then Greenwood who coolly dispatched a penalty on 56 minutes after the impressive Chong was chopped down by the keeper.
For the remainder of the match United were happy knock it about without taking any unnecessary risks and could have added to their tally through Chong and Lingard who both found the woodwork. Tranmere did show some fight, but ultimately the gulf in class was too big to bridge and the exertion of Thursday night’s epic replay had clearly caught up with them.
Strong and confident, repelled Tranmere’s early pressure before getting out the pipe and slippers.
Played like a captain. Scored a screamer and covered every blade of grass.
Grew into the game after an uncertain start. Took his goal well and defended with some aplomb.
Had one of his best games and looked comfortable after his recent injury.
Looked great in a slightly unfamiliar advanced role. It will be interesting to see if he can hold this form, particularly with the emergence of Williams.
Excelled in a role which seemed to suit his talents down to a tee. Showed superb skill in the build up to his goal.
Andreas Pereira 6/10
Showed the usual effort and workrate but his game is still riddled with unforced errors and mis-placed passes. Would have slotted seamlessly into Tranmere’s midfield.
His experience showed. Lack of pace isn’t an issue when you can think two steps ahead of the opposition.
His best game in a United shirt for a long time and my Man of the Match. Lingard was at the heart of all United’s attacking play and scored a much needed goal.
Lively and selfless, his constant movement caused panic in the Tranmere backline and he scored a terrific goal.
Another mature display from the teenager. Bamboozled Davies with the penalty as he racked up double figures for the season. Just in case you’ve been on Mars, this kid is special.
His direct running on the diagonal had the defence off kilter for most of the second half. Won the penalty and should’ve scored from a shot that bent the crossbar.
Ran the midfield and kept Tranmere at arms length.
Made it look as if he’s played at right-back all his life.
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjær 8/10
Couldn’t fault the tactics, although he took an injury risk playing Maguire and Lindelof on that pitch.
Referee: Lee Mason 8/10
Got most things right. The yellow card for Jones was fair as was the penalty decision, although on another day the keeper could’ve seen red.