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MOTM: Rashford shines, Mkhitaryan excels, Valencia dominates

Manchester United’s performance against Anderlecht was very good until the Belgian outfit could get back into the match in the last 10 minutes after some awful substitutions and tactical play from Jose Mourinho. Anderlecht’s late goal gave them hope and a draw, and while United will still be overwhelmingly confident of winning the tie, the score sheet did not reflect the events of the match in any way.

Fortunately, there were some very good individual performances from Manchester United’s key players, and while it was not enough to get the Red Devils over the line, leaving questions to be asked for next Thursday, there are many players who can hold their heads high after a satisfactory performance on the day.

Marcus Rashford

Manchester United’s homegrown teenaged wunderkind Marcus Rashford was included in the starting lineup against Anderlecht, and he didn’t disappoint, producing arguably his best starting performance as a winger in his short-lived career. Rashford was solid picking up the ball from deep areas and darting into space. Rashford’s role as a winger was enhanced by his freedom to stretch the pitch centrally when Zlatan Ibrahimovic dropped into deeper areas, offering a different dimension in attack.

This tactic resulted in United’s first goal, as Rashford pulled out to the edge of the centre of the box, allowing Antonio Valencia to find him with a cross and producing an excellent strike that would eventually result in Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal. Hooked for Fellaini near the end of the match, he would have been disappointed, as he probably won’t start Sunday’s match and the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

United’s best player moving forward was undoubtedly Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was superb for large stretches of the match, covering plenty of ground and creating many chances for United moving forward. Mkhitaryan’s three crosses, two key passes, and two dribbles were all completed while Mkhitaryan retained the ball 89% of the time.

Adding to Mkhitaryan’s performance were his defensive contributions, as the Armenia international completed four tackles over the course of the match. The all-round nature of Mkhitaryan’s game would make him an ideal fit to pair Paul Pogba in a 4-3-3 (in front of Ander Herrera), and hopefully, we’ll be able to see that midfield combination soon.

Antonio Valencia

Perhaps United’s best performer on the day was Antonio Valencia, who was a livewire down the right-wing, creating a goal and stopping a few as well. Valencia’s delivery from wide was sublime and reached Marcus Rashford’s right foot effortlessly before Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal. In the second half, Valencia produced three consecutive superb moments to cover for the deficiencies of the defenders around him.

Valencia completed five defensive actions, ensuring that the right-wing was locked up for the majority of the match, though eventually it was breached as a result of the fullback being outnumbered. He also completed a whopping 97% of his passes, proving that he can be stable on the ball and still provide the attacking spark he is known for when required.

Conclusion

Manchester United’s solid individual performances on the night were highlighted by Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Antonio Valencia, the three players who were involved in United’s only goal on the night. More individual performances of this nature, combined with some better tactics and more clinical performances throughout the team, and United will undoubtedly find success against Chelsea on Sunday.

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