Manchester United took on Middlesbrough on New Year’s Eve in a crazy match that didn’t seem that tough in the first place. Another frustration seemed on the way as Boro took the lead and United kept missing those chances. However, this served as a wake up call with United equalizing and inside two minutes Pogba scored a header that made United fans go crazy. The team never stopped believing and constant pressure made it possible that United get the three points. A lovely way to end a difficult year overall and a win in Fergie Time was the perfect birthday present for the best manager that has ever existed. Leaving the emotions behind, here is what we learned from this thrilling match:
The defence wasn’t settling well
In everyone’s surprise, the usual centre-back pairing was benched and instead Jose decided to play Bailly and Smalling. Bailly had an amazing game once again, but the same thing cannot be said about Chris Smalling. United were caught three or four times in counters and the defence seemed unprepared to handle the attacks. As a result of this, Middlesbrough managed to score and it was Smalling’s fault that United conceded at the moments United were all over the place to make the break. Questions are asked about Smalling and thing is that his poor performances continue, meaning that Jose Mourinho was right to leave him out of the team.
Questioned decisions at Old Trafford
It was one of those days at Old Trafford at some point. United kept missing chances and the referee once again was growing the team’s and the fans’ frustration once again. An unfairly cancelled goal due to the supposed contact between Ibra and Valdez and two clear penalties that weren’t given drove United fans crazy. Then the referee would go and make stupid decisions, making it feel like this was the typical day where the referee would simply make it hard for United. The referee was blind and questioned are raised over the way the FA is taking care of these cases. It’s not the first time that this happened and it won’t be last if something isn’t changed. Referees’ decisions have costed United points this season and the manager might not say a word about this as a fine would expect him.
No Carrick, no Party
Michael Carrick was unable to play today and his absence was obvious in the pitch. Fellaini replaced him and unsurprisingly he completely ruined it. In the midfield of three, Herrera seemed to be sitting in front of the defence while Fellaini and Pogba would go forward. The Belgian failed to cope with pressure and seemed hard for Herrera to handle all himself. When Carrick plays, Herrera and Pogba are able to breathe and they can go forward without a worry. In this case, Fellaini kept causing more damage and sadly it has to be noted that Carrick is simply irreplaceable.
What a fighting spirit and some crazy, but spot on substitutions!
With Boro getting the lead, everything turned gray for United. Constant attacks weren’t working and suddenly everything changed. Mourinho had already made two substitutions as Marcos Rojo entered the pitch for Blind while Mata came on for Fellaini. Even with those changes, the goal wasn’t coming and the wake up call came in the right moment. Frustrated from the moment, one single move had to be made, play Marcus Rashford and surprisingly and a defender came out, technically the worst player of the match. The United arsenal was on the pitch, Zlatan, Mkhitaryan, Martial, Mata, Pogba, Marcus all together to change the fate of the game and it simply clicked. Zlatan didn’t score but still assisted for Martial and the French who had tried to make the break during the game scored a thriller that was the turning point of the game. Just one minute later, a beautiful Mata cross found Pogba that sealed the winner.
Manchester United end the year in style with a lovely win at Old Trafford keeping up with the good form sending the opponents a clear message that the old United are back in form. In the end, that is what Manchester United are all about, never stop believing because when things seem bad, it’s not the end as they will always come back stronger. That’s what Jose Mourinho has brought back at Old Trafford, the fear factor and winning games in the most crazy way. A message also sent to the clubs that want Anthony Martial: “He is not for sale.”