Manchester United looked to continue their fine run of wins against Middlesbrough and they managed to do so. However, the story wasn’t as it went in the past few games. United fans got reminders of how bad the officials have been against them this season. The team never gave up despite conceding and missing a flurry of chances. Furthermore, they went on to score goals in the gap of two minutes, coincidentally on Sir Alex Ferguson’s birthday who’s teams were known for such comebacks.
United’s defence saw some changes with the Smalling and Bailly partnership returning. Fellaini started in the absence of Carrick which saw Herrera sit deep while Fellaini did some forward runs. Mkhitaryan started after a substitute appearance in the previous game while Zlatan and Martial formed the other two of the front three.
United were high on creativity
Personally, I prefer pace on both the wingbacks but with Shaw absent, Blind has done a more than decent job. United created a whopping 23 chances and the wingbacks Valencia and Blind, were responsible for 6 of them. Every player contributed in creating key chances barring Fellaini and Smalling (won’t expect it from a defender). United’s game wasn’t random long balls. It was a systematic, patient approach with an attacking intent to break through Middlesbrough’s defensive block. This saw attempts from both the centre and the wings. Blocking from the middle saw a lot of freedom on the flanks.
The likes of Martial and Mata enjoyed taking the defenders for a ride and saw a goal scored from a brilliant pass to Zlatan, only to be called off for a ‘foul’. Pogba continued his streak of creating key chances in good numbers.
United looked to be heading for a disastrous loss. There were perplexed faces when Smalling was removed off and Rashford came on. This saw an entirely different lineup leaving only one centre back to defend. This meant a potential box overload with support from the likes of Rashford and Mkhitaryan from the wings.
Considering the risks involved and the threat from a counter being higher due to one centre-back, United ensured to cut down on any risky long ball. Instead, they kept the ball, passed it with impeccable accuracy and rarely lost possession. Martial shifted into a more central pairing with Ibrahimovic, well supported by Pogba and Mata from the centre. Bringing on Mata proved to be another stroke of brilliance as United seemed a much more dangerous team.
United dominated the game, possibly deserved a better scoreline but the highlight of the day was Martial’s performance. The Frenchman showed how dangerous he can be on his day and the potential threat on a consistent level is monstrous.
Amidst talks of a loan move, the Frenchman didn’t seem distracted. Chambers might have had a migraine to deal with eventually after having a busy day on that left flank (Martial’s view). Martial had insane figures to prove his impact on the game and the prospect of a front three with an in-form trio like Ibra, Mkhitaryan and Martial will give any defence a hard time.
Martial's game by numbers vs. Middlesbrough:
1 post hit
What a waste of money. #MUFC pic.twitter.com/c2nNG6o1EF
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 31, 2016
United’s 89 million pound Frenchman deserves some credit for a brilliant performance in the second half. Nothing can send a better statement to their rivals than a typical last minute winner. United looked like a team under Sir Alex Ferguson and the fans love the attractive football the team delivers.
Mourinho has done a fantastic job in setting the team while the players have a gritty nature in them to not let go no matter what. This spirit and tenacity can help the team get back into the champions league but it won’t be easy with the current competition.