Manchester United have won their third in three Premier League matches in their visit to Hull City, just about sealing the 1-0 win. Amidst online chatter suggesting that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be making his first start of the season, Jose Mourinho opted to stick with the same starting XI that started the win against Southampton.
United struggled to really break down Hull’s defence for much of the first half, repeatedly found lacking the final ball to create meaningful chances. They did get a few chances, but none of which are enough to be of any real threat. The second half tells a similar story, except in the second half United piled on the pressure even more. Hull’s defence stood strong for the whole of normal time, but it finally crumbles after Wayne Rooney took a full back on, hugged the touchline and sent a low cross in to Marcus Rashford, who finishes the chance off.
While the team struggled to break down a resilient Hull defence for the vast majority of the match, individual performances shone through throughout. United’s right flank was the main source of attacking moves for much of the game, and the combination of Juan Mata and Antonio Valencia was the key reason behind that. Mata showed that he can also be a dangerous runner, creating chances with his dribbling, while Valencia’s direct running and crossing troubled Hull’s defenders, especially in the first half. Substitutes Rashford and Mkhitaryan changed the game and kicked United into a higher gear, with Rashford, of course, scoring the winning goal
But in a game like this one, where United had control of the vast majority of the game the players that impressed the most were the ones you’d least expect in these circumstances, but after recent games were probably least surprising. Once again, the defensive partnership of Eric Bailly and Daley Blind was the star of the show.
While United did have control of the game, that doesn’t mean Hull didn’t get their breaks. But when they did, the duo stepped up to end them before they got too serious. The pair played more similarly than they have in recent weeks, with Blind also stepping up to make challenges. By doing this, they ensured that United could maintain their strong grip on Hull’s neck, that Hull won’t be allowed their chance to regroup and gain momentum.
The two were practically flawless throughout the game, and while only one of them can be Man of the Match, it is by no means through any fault of the other. While both were fantastic, Blind was the one who just about edges it. Within the first 15 minutes of the game Blind shows his impeccable reading of the game, nicking the ball away before Adama Diomande could get to it, and he kept that standard up until the final whistle.
The requirement to be more proactive in defence to maintain the pressure on Hull only became a platform for Blind to showcase his intelligence, stepping up at just the right time at all times. One flaw in Bailly’s game was that he still doesn’t have that, which showed later on in the first half when he stepped up too early, allowing the attacker to get past him and get a shot off, a shot that Blind forced the attacker to miss by getting to him just in time. Blind’s brilliant performance was quietly crucial in grabbing the win, a performance which deservedly earns him the title of Man of the Match.