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Manchester United battle through injury-plagued April aiming to end the season in style…

Manchester United embarked on their busiest month of the season in April, playing nine matches in just over four weeks. We as supporters knew that it was going to be tough and there would be a risk that the already lengthy injury list would be lengthened with United trying to make it until the end of the season. Before the match against West Bromwich Albion, United languished in fifth place in the Premier League with 52 points, two games in hand over Liverpool in fourth and one in hand over Manchester City (third), Tottenham Hotspur (second) and Chelsea (first). Let’s see how United fared during April and whether they advanced their chances to earning a fourth-placed finish in the league and a place in the semi-final in the UEFA Europa League.

Manchester United 0-0 West Bromwich Albion – Premier League – Saturday 1st April 2017

Manchester United started this match with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera suspended, which was a big loss in itself, not to mention the injuries to Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, which happened during the international break whilst playing for England. Wayne Rooney was also on the sidelines with Paul Pogba being a doubt for the match and Juan Mata underwent surgery on his groin the day before the match. United were missing a lot of their players for this match, which will be one of the main reasons for the 0-0 draw, which despite a slight improvement on last season, was still not good enough. United had Matty Willock on the bench for United, but only Rooney came off the bench, unable to change the game for the home side. The month started with a negative, which could be suggested as the finishing point for the month too.

Manchester United 1-1 Everton – Premier League – Tuesday 4th April 2017

The visit of Everton to Old Trafford saw both Ibrahimovic and Herrera eligible, Luke Shaw made available for the squad again and back in the squad, although he did not start the match. With Pogba missing from the United team, you could see what he offered his side, or at least I could, those who think he is a waste of money will continue to see what they want to see. Everton took the lead inside the 22nd minute with a superb goal scored by Phil Jagielka, which would make David Moyes proud. United seemingly struggled to get something from the match. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the 71st minute, which was disallowed due to being offside. It looked like a defeat for United. In injury time, Ashley Williams was sent off with United being given a penalty, of which Zlatan buried to take a point, still a poor start to the month.

Sunderland 0-3 Manchester United – Premier League – Sunday 9th April 2017

Five days after the 1-1 draw with Everton, United were on the road again, this time to the Stadium of Light to help relegate David Moyes’ Sunderland side. United would be without Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, along with Jones and Smalling, who were long-term injuries at the time, still are today in fact. Sergio Romero started in goal for United after David De Gea suffered a small injury, which drew speculation with Jose Mourinho saying it was a ‘little problem’. United took just 30 minutes to find the better of the Black Cats with Ibrahimovic scoring the opening goal. Just after the restart, Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubled United’s lead, with Marcus Rashford scoring United’s third in the final minute of the match. United were back to winning ways, remaining fifth in the league, with some daylight between them and sixth-placed Arsenal, who failed to win the next day.

Anderlecht 1-1 Manchester United – UEFA Europa League – Thursday 13th April 2017

David De Gea was rested for this match with Romero playing his second match in a row in goal. It was a match United needed to excel in, ensuring an away goal was scored and United had something more to work with after a draw in Russia against Rostov in the last round, with all needing to be done at Old Trafford a week later, with United winning by one goal on aggregate. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored his second goal of the month in the 36th minute of the match, with United playing well. It seemed, at the time, the first of many, but that was not the case. Anderlecht managed to find an equaliser in the 85th minute through Leander Dendoncker, spoiling United’s evening, meaning it will be another tough match at Old Trafford which would be win or bust for United. Still, they got a result that left them in the driving seat with the away goal, but it would nonetheless not be an easy match at the Theatre of Dreams.

Manchester United 2-0 Chelsea – Premier League – Sunday 16th April 2017

This was the match many were waiting for. United had been beaten twice by Chelsea in the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup this season, conceding five goals in total. United could not let Chelsea have a hat-trick of victories against them this season. The team news sparked controversy with many moaning on social media about Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard starting, seemingly partnering each other in the attack. That was short-lived though, as United, from the off, attacked Chelsea and made them look inferior. Rashford scored in the seventh minute of the match, which was a surprise to many. It was a good starting point. Ander Herrera had the game of his life, keeping Eden Hazard out of the match and helping to ensure Chelsea did not register a shot on target. Herrera, assisting for Rashford, scored his own goal four minutes into the second half, carving out a 2-0 lead for United with Chelsea looking lost for words. Three points earned for United, propelling themselves back into fifth, as they had slipped to sixth from the previous day’s results. Best match of the month for United.

Manchester United 2-1 Anderlecht – UEFA Europa League – Thursday 20th April 2017

Another important match for United, one which will propel the team into the semi-final of the Europa League, but also saw some bad news coming forward for the club. Fresh from the 1-1 draw a week ago, United needed to do the business at the Theatre of Dreams in order to excel in the secondary European competition this season. Still fifth in the Premier League, United needed this second chance to earn Champions League football next season. Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave United a great start scoring his third goal of the month, second against Anderlecht in the tenth minute, putting United 2-1 up an aggregate. That was short-lived though, as the Belgian side scored through Sofiane Hanni in the 36th minute, pushing it to 2-2 on aggregate, an away goal each with United in a precarious position. Marcos Rojo suffered an injury in between the two goals, was stretchered off, ending his season. The match was heading into extra time with neither side looking to find that winning goal, inside the last-minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic landed awkwardly, suffering an injury himself. Two big injuries at the moment United did not want or need them. Marcus Rashford was the man to make the difference, scoring United’s winner in the 107th minute, with United cautiously playing the Belgian side for the final 13 minutes. A place in the semi-finals was earned, at some cost though.

Burnley 0-2 Manchester United – Premier League – Sunday 23rd April 2017

Six matches down in April, three more to go. Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo were ruled out for the remainder of the season, Juan Mata, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were also long-term injuries on the sidelines. United were depleted. That did not make them give up, though. Against Burnley, a side competent at home in the league this season, United would have it tough, like they did in their last match a few years back, earning a 0-0 draw in a lacklustre display. Anthony Martial took the lead for United in the 21st minute of the match, with Wayne Rooney doubling United’s lead in the 39th minute. It was a happy St. George’s Day for United, boosting their fifth-placed position, keeping Arsenal chasing them in what would be seen as their demise this season, but beat Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to earn an all-London FA Cup final against Chelsea this season.

Manchester City 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League – Thursday 27th April 2017

United played one of their games in hand, this one against Manchester City at the Etihad, the second Manchester derby of the season. A point and two goals difference between the two clubs this season, the bragging rights for Manchester would be contested. A Thursday night derby may not be the best, especially after a congested period where United will have played seven matches this month, with this and another to go before May comes. It was a poor derby. City had the lion’s share of possession but did not do much with the ball, at least to beat United. Jose Mourinho’s side defended well, not having much forward for the attack. Marcus Rashford tried to get himself something and Gabriel Jesus, making his return from injury did find the back of the, but it was disallowed for him being offside, despite a prolonged celebration from the player. This was another draw for United this season, the twelfth in the league this season. United were still fifth, unable to gain ground on Liverpool, who they could have topped with a victory. injuries are something United are used to now, but another to Timothy Fosu-Mensah would add to their woes.

Manchester United 1-1 Swansea City – Premier League – Sunday 30th April 2017

The ninth and final match of April. United needed a victory to still be in with a chance of a top-four finish this season, despite having chances umpteen times before, many of which were not taken. Juan Mata gave United a much-needed boost making himself available a month after surgery. United needed to stop Swansea City, a team in the relegation zone, getting anything from their visit to the Theatre of Dreams. The first half was poor with United lacking any kind of creativity at all. Luke Shaw was replaced inside ten minutes and a controversial penalty which was awarded after Marcus Rashford appeared to have been fouled by the goalkeeper inside the box was given, Wayne Rooney stepping up and scoring it, putting United 1-0 up at the end of the first half. The resulting discontent soon followed as Rashford seemingly dived to get the penalty, something which Leroy Sane did in City’s 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough, but few battered an eyelid over it. Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a sublime free-kick eleven minutes from time, taking the victory from United, giving them another draw this season, the tenth at Old Trafford. United remained in fifth, five points clear of Arsenal. Liverpool’s victory over Watford means United are four points behind them with a game in hand, meaning City were the most likely to lose out this season, providing United can propel themselves into the top four. In this match, Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly suffered injuries, with Shaw’s being serious and certainly out for a period of time, pending further scans.

Goals Scored by Manchester United in April 2017

Manchester United scored twelve goals in April in both the Premier League and the UEFA Europa League, two being penalties. Five clean sheets were kept throughout the month with David De Gea keeping four (West Brom, Chelsea, Burnley and Manchester City) and Sergio Romero keeping one, against Sunderland. United only conceded four goals throughout the month from Phil Jagielka (Everton), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Sofiane Hanni (Anderlecht) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City). The goals scored by United during April were scored by:

3 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, 2 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, 1 – Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial

Player of the Month – April 2017

Marcus Rashford: The 19-year-old’s three goals in April make him a contender for the Player of the Month, the crucial ones coming against Anderlecht (second leg) and Chelsea, but him also scoring the third away to Sunderland, wrapping uo the victory over David Moyes’ newly relegated side. Rashford has learned a lot under Jose Mourinho and being guided by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but he still has a long way to go throughout his career. Perhaps he can show his stuff this Thursday against Celta Vigo with United seeking to find themselves into the Europa League final this season, which would be fitting.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan: The Armenian has carved his name in the plaudits for April, scoring three goals; two against Anderlecht (one in each leg) and a third against Sunderland. Mkhitaryan has come a long way this season after seemingly becoming a flop in the Premier League, but Mourinho, the player and the supporters persevered and what we have now is a player who is able to make something out of nothing. April has been a month which has seen United stretched, which will be the same with the seven matches in May, possibly eight, but then the season is over and United will either have what they want, or will have to deal with what they didn’t want.

Eric Bailly: During April, the Ivorian started and finished all nine matches played, suffering from an injury in the 1-1 draw with Swansea City. Bailly, a player who was brought in for the future, but solidified his position almost from the start of the season, has proven his doubters wrong, becoming the first name on the team sheet in a defensive role. Hopefully, the Ivorian is alright to play through May, with United down to bare bones, especially in defence. This season could be a big one for Bailly and United, who now need to find a solid defensive partner for him with injuries costing United with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo all suffering – all at this moment in time.

Goals of the Month – April 2017

Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Sunderland: The Swedish striker’s last goal for Manchester United, scored a few matches before his season ending injury sustained in the second leg of the Anderlecht Europa League quarter-final. Zlatan has been a shining light this season, turning 35, showing all his haters that they were wrong to judge and seemingly avoiding a career-ending injury, being operated on recently and telling the world that he will play again. Whether that is with Manchester United, remains to be seen, though.

Marcus Rashford against Chelsea: The man of the moment for Manchester United. Three goals in April, two of them massive goals; the winner in the quarter-final against Anderlecht in the Europa League and the first goal against Chelsea inside the first seven minutes of the match. Chelsea did not see the pace coming, but more of a weakened side for them to play with on their quest to win the Premier League title for the second time in three seasons.

Ander Herrera against Chelsea: Ander Herrera assisted Marcus Rashford in the opening goal of the game, putting in a superb strike to double United’s lead, all whilst dealing with Eden Hazard, one of the Premier League player’s of the season. The Spaniard, playing a much-deeper role under Jose Mourinho, has had a good season, showing his leadership and ability both on and off the ball.

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