It was not a performance to whet the appetite for Sunday’s clash against Liverpool, but Manchester United did progress in the FA Cup thanks to a 1-0 win against Wolves.
Juan Mata scored the only goal of what was effectively an 180-minute Third Round tie.
Here’s what we learnt in a rather drab affair…
Williams shines again in the FA Cup
For a United team with only 12 clean sheets in 34 games this season, it’s telling that in Brandon Williams’ last seven appearances, the Reds have kept six cleansheets.
The young left-back was brilliant once again. Coming up against the frighteningly physical Adama Traore, whose decision-making this year has improved, Williams let nothing past him.
Harry Maguire often let the English 19-year-old do his job without any interference. It was a sign of Maguire’s trust in Williams.
Romero can be relied upon
It was yet another cleansheet for Sergio Romero, too. The 32-year-old has a ridiculous record that is helped by the opposition he comes up against.
But this was not a new lesson to be learnt, but rather one that was reinforced once again.
Romero has 34 cleansheets in 53 games for United since he joined in 2015, and he hasn’t conceded in five games. That includes dominant games against Colchester United and AZ Alkmaar, but Romero regularly makes very good saves.
Against Wolves, it was his readiness to come out of his box that was crucial for United as Traore and Jimenez looked to exploit any kind of space.
Matic brings clean sheets
Though the Serbian midfielder can be too slow on the ball or gift it to the opposition, he has added stability to United’s midfield. Matic will need a rest soon.
In his first season as a Red, he was overplayed and it led to him becoming a liability the next year. He’s now played in the last six games for United in a busy schedule.
Matic will likely be involved again at Anfield and that would have drawn fear from United fans a couple of weeks ago.
There’ll still be an element of doubt about whether Matic can perform up to the required level but the experienced ex-Chelsea man has improved recently.
Mata coming into form
For the first time since Wolves were promoted, United have beaten them. They’ve had plenty of opportunities to do so. Juan Mata helped them in this game with a neat finish over John Ruddy.
That came after a slightly breathtaking run from the halfway line. Even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed surprised – with a wry smile – that Mata had managed to get away from his marker and stay far enough ahead to have the chance to score.
He made two goals in United’s 4-0 win against Norwich City at the weekend and a goal tonight makes it a good week for the Spaniard.
Going into Sunday’s game at Anfield, it’ll be interesting to see whether Solskjaer sticks with him. His lack of pace, though it wasn’t an issue today, will probably mean he sits that one out in favour of a quicker player awasUnited look to counter-attack.
United are Rashford-reliant
The reaction of fans, pundits and coaches alike showed just how reliant United now are on Marcus Rashford. The Englishman came under a serious amount of criticism as recently as September.
His status as one of the country’s best attacking players has been confirmed since then.
Solskjaer brought Rashford off the bench while things were level. Soon after Mata found the eventual winner for United, Rashford picked up a knock to his back.
The United boss revealed that Rashford has had a couple of back injuries in the last couple of weeks and this was yet another.
If he’s not available for Sunday’s game against Liverpool, United will miss him greatly. He’s the only consistent performer in the side.
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