A much rotated Manchester United side welcomed Fenerbahçe for Thursday night’s Europa League game. With United’s poor performances in the competition so far, fans were not particularly optimistic for an attractive game given Mourinho’s apparently lack of ambition for the competition. Fans were, however, excited to see Robin van Persie grace Old Trafford one last time. The Dutchman was integral in the Reds’ last Premier League title triumph in the 2012/13 season. The two following seasons were spoiled by sporadic flashes of brilliance rather than the consistent class van Persie showed in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last campaign. No matter how poor he was in those final two years, Van Persie will always be cherished for delivering the record 20th domestic league title.
Mourinho gave much deserved rests to Blind, Herrera and Valencia—after their fantastic defensive performances against Liverpool—and rotated the squad to include some of the more fringe players. Rooney started in his old hunting ground, the number 9 position, while Carrick, Mata, Martial and Shaw returned to the first eleven.
United started slow. Passes were misplaced and the Fenerbahçe players were crowding out the Reds’ forward players easily. It took until the 30th minute for United to threaten the Turkish side, and even that seemed to come against the run of play. A switch seemed to flick and United suddenly opened up their attacking potential; two goals from Pogba and one from Martial in fifteen minutes meant that United went into the break 3-0 up. Lingard finished off the visitors with a fine strike after half time, only for (the one and only) Robin van Persie to grab a consolation goal.
The Dutchman received an immediate standing ovation and was greeted by chants of “Ooh Robin vs Persie” from his goal until he left the pitch. United fans do not forget the service great players give to their club. Even after two transfer requests and three seasons of very poor form, Wayne Rooney’s chant was sung on both occasions that United was awarded a penalty, in the hopes that the skipper would tuck one of them away. He passed on the duty to his French colleagues, but the affection for the Englishman is still prominent with the Old Trafford faithful, despite the media whirlwind engulfing the individual.
De Gea: 7
Despite having a very quiet game, the Spanish number one still managed to pull out two very good saves at the end of both halves. Could have reacted quicker to claim the ball for van Persie’s goal, but that would be a very harsh criticism.
A very impressive outing for the Italian who is supposedly out of favour with Mourinho. Completely dominated Fenerbahçe’s left forward, Volkan Sen, to the point that he was substituted in the second half for a lack of effect. Struggled slightly more with the pace and physical presence of Emenike, but marshalled his side of the defence until the final whistle. Has obviously improved on his major weakness from last season (getting forward) and helped initiate plenty of attack down the right side, especially in the first half.
Not as stellar a performance as against Liverpool. Misjudged a through ball in the second half but the Turkish side did not capitalise on the Ivorian’s lack of concentration. Could have done more to stop Emenike’s ball from coming into the box for van Persie’ goal, but we can only assume that the young centre back worships the Dutchman as much as the rest of United’s fan base does, so we will let this one slide.
Solid and as composed as always. Dealt with van Persie’s physicality easily in the first half and was aerially dominant. Subbed off at half time to preserve his fitness.
Not as sharp as Darmian on the other wing. Was caused a few issues by Alper Potuk in the first half but grew into the game and asserted his authority on his flank, especially in the second half. Had freedom to burst forward often after the break but failed to make any real impact on United’s attacking flow. Probably has not done enough just yet to warrant a first team place over Daley Blind.
A very stereotypical ‘Michael Carrick’ performance. Steady Eddy in possession and fairly sound defensively. Allowed Pogba to roam forward at will, which decided the outcome of the match in the end. Played a fantastically accurate long ball to Mata for the first penalty. Controlled the game with ease, but was not put under much pressure from Fenerbahçe’s ‘hands off’ approach when it came to pressing.
The star man on the pitch. A very firm, but composed, penalty in the first half opened up the scoring. His second was probably United’s best goal of the season so far; teed up by Lingard on the edge of the area, Pogba strode up to the ball and forcefully side-footed a curling shot into the top corner. Not only were his goals impressive, but his all-round display of dominance in the midfield gave United the upper hand on the night.
Another very effective game from the ever criticised youngster. After his call up to England, housemates of mine were moaning at the lack of quality in the national side if Lingard is to be considered an option. Overlooked and unappreciated Lingard worked tirelessly against Fenerbahçe and his constant swapping with Martial and Mata caused the Turkish side all kinds of problems. Very smartly laid the ball off for Pogba’s thunderbolt and produced a fantastic strike of his own in the second half to clinch all three points.
Won one penalty with a brilliant touch, set up a second with a brilliant pass. Mata’s fine form under Mourinho continues as the Spaniard had another quietly effective night, pulling the strings of United’s attacking quartet.
Struggled to have the impact which you might have expected from the Frenchman last season. Definitely not as effective as last year in his one-on-one dribbles, which was his most impressive asset. Still, Martial made a very good run for the second penalty and tucked away the spot-kick with confidence. Improving slowly, but surely, and will be knocking on the first team door regularly in the not too distant future.
Probably Rooney’s most complete performance all season. Did not lose the ball as often as he has done in previous weeks and did not considerably hinder United’s attacking tempo. Played a smart pass to Lingard for the Red’s fourth goal but fluffed a few good opportunities to shoot himself. Seems to be lacking in confidence to take shots and penalties, which is understandable.
Came on for Smalling at half time and cleared up reasonably well. His introduction correlated with Fenerbahçe looking more dangerous in the second half. Could have done better to track van Persie’s run for his goal.
Replaced Lingard for the final half an hour and looked more confident at taking on his man than he has done previously this season. Created a good chance for Martial in the final moments of the game and jinked his way past the centre back only for his touch to find the keeper before he could make the killer pass to Rooney.
Came on in a midfield cameo for Paul Pogba and looked completely at home. Wrestled the ball off opponents with ease and his pace and stamina showed that he could be an effective midfielder in a three (box-to-box role).
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