Manchester United had to scrap and work hard to beat a good FC Copenhagen side in the Europa League quarter-finals.
It took extra-time for the Red Devils to make the breakthrough, and no player worked harder up and down the pitch than Brandon Williams.
Williams struggled when he came back into the team for the FA Cup semi-final when Luke Shaw was injured. But he has bounced back impressively, and this was another high quality performance from the 19-year-old.
The breakthrough talent had a couple of tricky moments in the second half. Guillermo Varela appealed for a penalty against him, but Williams did not commit a foul and the referee backed him up.
There was one outrageous piece of skill from Rasmus Falk which caught Williams out too, but United’s defenders bailed him out. But that was a case of ‘credit to the attacker’ rather than a Williams error.
Williams’ work rate was impressive as he got up and down the pitch and pushed hard to get back into position when he needed to.
In possession Williams rarely gave the ball away, completing 93 per cent of his passes. This was the highest ratio of any player in United’s team aside from Anthony Martial.
Williams touched the ball 97 times, fourth only behind Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire.
What he did in possession was also useful. Williams created four goalscoring chances. This was higher than any player on the pitch, including Fernandes and Martial.
On a night where he was tested defensively and tasked with getting up and down the pitch on a hot and humid conditions, Williams’ composure and quality on the ball was even more notable.
Williams also won two tackles, made one interception, and made two clearances.
You cannot expect a 19-year-old kid playing his first one-off European knockout tie to be absolutely perfect, but Williams was close to it. He is growing with each game at the moment and benefitting from playing regularly.
Important to always put Williams’s performances in context
Any player representing Manchester United faces scrutiny, especially those in a key position like defence.
Williams, 19, will always have to prove himself. It is important then to consider what an achievement it is for him to be starring so regularly for United, even with Luke Shaw’s injury.
He is just two games away from winning a European trophy. This time last year he had not even made his United debut, and was featuring for the under-23 team in the EFL Trophy.
The youngster has come a long way over the past year and the best is yet to come.
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