Manchester United are into the last 16 of the Europa League after an easy win over Club Brugge.
Bruno Fernandes, Odion Ighalo, Scott McTominay and Fred (2) all scored on a night where fans at Old Trafford got full value for money.
Here is a look at five things we learned from the win…
Attacking intent clear from the start
This might have been Manchester United’s best start to a match this season in terms of a performance.
United controlled possession and it was wave of attack after attack. The team had three shots on target within the first 15 minutes, while Bruno Fernandes also hit the post.
The only thing missing from United’s early dominance was a goal, although it was clear that it was only a matter of time.
A penalty was awarded to United on 22 minutes and Brugge were reduced to 10 men after Dan James’ shot was blocked by a clear handball from Simon Deli. United’s pressure forced the mistake as Bruno Fernandes gave us an early lead from the spot. From there, the floodgates opened.
Fernandes is the complete player
Watching Bruno Fernandes is a joy and United are so much better with him in the team.
It’s not just what he does when he’s in possession, but it’s his smart runs off it.
He creates space, is willing to drift left or right or even test the defence’s offside trap through the middle.
His movement makes everybody’s job easier. We have seen so much earlier in the season what it’s like when we have static, uninspiring players in the position, who don’t have the football IQ which Fernandes does.
For that reason we all appreciate Fernandes’ contribution so much more. He’s a step ahead of everybody else.
Solskjaer is managing his squad well
With this game being a must win, it would have been tempting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to select his best team and worry about the next game afterwards.
He didn’t need to. David de Gea, Brandon Williams, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic were all rested and there was a crucial chance for Eric Bailly, Scott McTominay and Odion Ighalo to build up fitness.
United have a big game against Everton on Sunday and instead of entering that tough test at Goodison with a tired team, there are fresh legs heading into the match. Solskjaer has options and he is using them well.
Ighalo is up and running
Odion Ighalo had a bit of bad luck in his opening games, hitting the post days earlier against Watford.
This was his first start, and he could not have asked for an easier chance to score his first goal.
Juan Mata’s cross into the box carved the Brugge defence open after more good work from Fernandes and Ighalo was left with a crucial close range tap in.
This goal will calm any nerves he had and help him feel like he belongs. We should see the best of him in the coming months.
The rest of the season looks pretty exciting
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United have had 12 months of inconsistency. So we can never assume we know what’s around the corner.
There will be tough tests, a tricky fixture list over the next month underlines this. But this United team are playing with swagger and confidence all of a sudden.
Inspired by Bruno Fernandes, United look like a team capable of mixing it with anybody, discovering new combinations in attack and looking strong in defence.
We will see who we draw in the next round, but we shouldn’t fear anybody after this performance.
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