A tricky night in Cyprus – five lessons United learned vs. Omonia

Manchester United secured their second European win of the season away in Nicosia on Thursday. A bright start was scuppered by conceding an early goal. After half-time, a revitalised United side turned it around completely, with a goals from substitutes Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford securing the win for The Red Devils. The stage was set for an easy win against one of the smallest clubs in the entire competition, but United were forced to work for their win. Here are five things that the win showed us about Ten Hag’s burgeoning side.

Martial and Rashford celebrate turning around the game in Cyprus. (Photo by independent.ie)

Casemiro is due a run in the first-team

If United are to be considered an attractive place to play football, the big money signings can’t sit on the bench much longer. It is a negative impression to give to prospective signings at United. Impress your way to a move to Old Trafford and sit on the bench for your first few months. It’s a bad look.

McTominay has long had his critics, but can be proud of his performances this year. Getting the best from all of his midfielders is a key task for Ten Hag. When given the chance, Casemiro has neither exceeded anyone’s expectations nor done anything glaringly poor. The onus is on both him and his manager to ensure this image of big money players on the bench does not continue. It is a ghastly waste of wages at the best of times, but signals a worrying trend of shoddy recruitment.

United are still fallible

Manchester United conceded first in Cyprus, continuing a long-standing and worrying habit. It is happened in seven European games since the start of last season. United looked good in the half an hour before they conceded and essentially did everything but score.

In a goal that starkly resembled that infamous goal United conceded in Instanbul two seasons ago, a quick, surgically executed breakaway by Omonia, United trailed at half time. It never honestly looked like United would lose, and most level-headed fans of United knew the goals were coming. It does not take away however from United’s gross profligacy in important European fixtures. Rarely do they look comfortable.

United cannot rely on Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo’s saving grace last year was his ability to perform when he was needed, giving important game-saving performances against the likes of Villarreal, Atalanta, Arsenal and Spurs. He was a clutch player who scored over 20 goals in a dire United side. His role this year however is one of the bit-part player. 

Ronaldo has just one goal this season none of which have come in the Premier League.

No man can withstand time, and it seems Ronaldo’s time at the apex of football has gone. His solitary goal this year came from the penalty spot in an otherwise unremarkable game vs. Sheriff Tiraspol. He and his manager have some serious hashing out to do if he is to have a season worth much at all. The form of other attackers around him, Rashford, Sancho and Martial namely, means Ronaldo will likely be forced to ride the bench and play in cup and European games. His second stint at United cannot be considered a success and it seems best for all parties if he becomes a rotation options as his illustrious career winds down. 

Martial must stay fit 

Wrap him in cotton wool; Martial is truly in his pomp this year. A stunning preseason was ruined by an early season injury. Since his return, Martial has emerged off the bench twice, netting two goals vs. Manchester City and a stunning goal on Thursday which turned the game around for United. His stop-start career has been a mix of incredible genius and underwhelming lack of effort. It is the current Martial iteration that has United fans salivating. In a season where Ronaldo appears to be off the boil, and top-level strikers are at a premium, could this be the time when Martial finally produces consistently on the big stage for United? 

Martial was an outcast at United 12 months ago, now he could prove a crucial component in Ten Hag’s side.

Maguire is worryingly out-of-favour

Maguire’s form has been spoken of enough now. The man can seemingly do nothing right. With Varane picking up another injury vs. Man City last weekend, the stage was set for Maguire to enter the fray. His manager selected Victor Lindelof instead. This must have been another kick in the teeth for United’s captain. It almost certainly marks the unofficial end to Maguire’s time as a regular starter at United. He now sits fourth in line for a centre-back place. It is stunning to see just how far his fall has been over the last 18 months. 

Author: Sam Talbot

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