It was never going to be a swashbuckling performance against Partizan Belgrade, but Manchester United’s win could be massive in the long run.
The pitch was cutting up from the first whistle and it was a very intimidating atmosphere, but these are easy excuses. United should have been able to create more clear cut chances and score more than one goal.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will at least be delighted to have ended the wretched 11-match winless run on the road, but it was yet another uninspiring display.
Here are three players that didn’t have their best night in Serbia…
Jones has been at Manchester United for eight years now, but still to this day it is difficult to predict what you are going to get from the centre back.
There are rare times when you think Sir Alex Ferguson was right to rate him so highly and there are moments like last night when you wonder how has he stayed at United for as long as he has.
It is clear that Jones isn’t particularly comfortable in possession, he panicked and gave the ball away cheaply in crucial areas, and at other times he would just hit it aimlessly long.
With Partizan playing in a compact shape, particularly in the early stages before they conceded a penalty, Jones was taking too many touches on the ball and slowing the play down, he needed to shift the ball quicker.
When United changed their shape and Jones was moved to right-back, he was reluctant to stride forward. His nervy performance was epitomised with a sloppy attempted headed backpass, which gave Partizan a corner and put his side under needless pressure.
Umar Sadiq was an awkward striker to defend against, but Jones made him look better than he was.
What would have Angel Gomes made of that, with the England U20 international left at home, Mata failed to conjure up any moments of creativity.
The Spaniard wasn’t as ineffective as previous games, but there has got to be a point where Solskjaer prioritises the new generation in Gomes instead of hoping elder statesman Mata rekindles his former high standards.
A worry for Solskjaer would be how far away from the opposition goal Mata is often seen picking up the ball, United’s number eight needs to be higher up the pitch trying to influence the game.
Mata had a great chance to put the game out-of-reach in injury time, but he failed to connect with a Daniel James cross. The 31-year-old just needed to make contact to score.
After an impressive performance against Liverpool, Andreas Pereira will probably be reinstated as the number ten against Norwich.
It was a vital 60 minutes in the tank for Martial before being replaced by Marcus Rashford.
He was the matchwinner and took his penalty well, but he did look like a man who had been out-of-action for a couple of months.
The Frenchman struggled to hold the ball up and bring his team mates into play, and by his usual high standards his touch was sluggish.
There were moments where he dropped his shoulder and left the Partizan defenders for dead, but they didn’t amount to anything.
The most important thing was for Martial to get much-needed game time. He will only get sharper and the goal will do wonders for his confidence.
Martial has now directly been involved in four goals in his last four starts (three goals and one assist) and his build up back to full fitness will be vital for Solskjaer’s side.
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