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MOTM: Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial and Daley Blind in contention against Benfica

Manchester United were victorious over Benfica at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening, winning the match 2-0. It was the fourth match of the Champions League group stage, United winning all four matches and sitting just a point away from a place in the Round of 16. Anthony Martial won a penalty in the 14th minute of the match, Mile Svilar saving his attempt a minute later. It looked to be one of those matches for United.

With chances at either end, both goalkeepers making the effort to deny their opposition, it looked ot be a 0-0 draw with the firat half coming to a close, if not for Nemanja Matic. The Serbian midfielder unleashed a thnderous attempt at goal in the final seconds of the half, striking the post but the ball deflected into the bacl of the diving Svilar and into the back of the net. After saving Martial penalty, the Belgian goalkeeper would have gained some confidence after his horror from the match a fortnight ago.

Svilar had now made cost his side a goal in both matches, this one being a fluke. United were 1-0 going into the break. In the second half, Henrikh Mkhitaryan replaced Jesse Lingard, who received a knock in the first half, then Ander Herrera replaced Juan Mata with Marcus Rashford replacing Martial. It was Rashford who helped United get a second goal, earning a penalty in the 78th minute whic Romelu Lukaku wanted to take, Herrera then stepping up only to be cast aside by Daley Blind, who scored from the spot.

United could have been in the knockout stages this evening but Basel fell to CSKA Moscow in Switzerland, meaning United need at least a point from their next two matches to secure their place in the Round of 16 in the competition. There were a few good signs from this United side, who lack the creativity of Paul Pogba, the leadership and winning mentalioty of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the physicality of Marouane Fellaini at this moment in time. The contenders for Man of the Match were as follows;

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Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfielder had a great night in Manchester whilst his former club Chelsea had a night to forget in Rome. Matic is my Man of the Match, but Anthony Martial was given the award by his club. Matic had one shot on goal, his thunderous strike on goal which forced Mile Svilar to score an own goal, putting United in control in the final seconds of the first half. His passing was great with 88% reaching a teammate, keeping United dominant with the ball, despite the possession being split 50/50. Matic won a third of his tackles,  also making a block on the edge of the United box. His signing in the summer could be the difference between United winning something or nothing this season.

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Anthony Martial

The Frenchman may have missed a penalty in the 15th minute of the match but he certainly put the effort into getting the result for his club. Martial had three shots on goal, one attempt saved, the other two off target, also having a 79% pass success rate. Martial created two chances, also putting two crosses into the box; one unsuccessful. The former AS Monaco winger had five takeons, winning three, also winning half of his tackled and all of his aerial duels. It was a performance of a player destined to claim something this season. It does make you wonder what a team consisting of Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford would achieve.

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Daley Blind

The Dutch defender played well but may not be the long-term answer to United left-back position. His passing was top notch with 88% of is passes reaching a teammate. He had one shot on goal, which was on target and resulted in a goal, albeit from the penalty spot. Blind created two chances, neither was converted into a goal. He made five crosses, one a key pass, another met a teammate, but three failed. He won half of his aerial duels, only two were attempted though. Blind made six clearances and six interceptions as United took charge of their group.

Conclusion

United played well, despite being unable to score a goal themselves in regular play.The own goal by Svilar may have been forced, but Matic will not be able to claim it, hitting the post with his effort. Martial was unlucky with his penalty in the first half, but United were able to double their lead from the spot in the second half, with attemots to score being thwarted, not that much was being created. Nemanja Matic is my Man of the Match, althouth I will not ignore the play from Martial. With Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marouane Fellaini missing from Jose Mourinho’s side, creativity and other ingrediants are missing and with the trio’s return, things should get better.

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