Jesse Lingard opens the scoring for Manchester United against WBA in the 2-0 victory at Old Trafford
As we approach the next international break where there is the inevitable gap of watching domestic football, much has happened since the last break in early October. The 19th minute strike by Alexis Sanchez in the 3-0 defeat away at Arsenal is the last league goal Manchester United have conceded. Paul Scholes has spoken openly regarding the way Louis van Gaal has the side playing these days, whilst Middlesbrough have knocked United out of the League Cup, on penalties – at Old Trafford.
Despite the criticism regarding lack of attacking threat, United continue to push and challenge for some sort of title charge. Yesterday, the defensively minded WBA set up shop with eleven men behind the ball – which explains a lot as to why, before yesterday, they had conceded the fewest away goals in the Premier League. The first half was devoid of any real action, excluding the brilliant control, turn and shot from Anthony Martial. The second half was more open and United fans witnessed Jesse Lingard’s first goal for the club; a beautifully curled shot past the helpless Boaz Myhill in the 52nd minute.
United were lucky not to concede when Saido Berahino missed an absolute sitter from five yards. The unmarked forward, who was a second half substitute, headed high and wide from a Craig Dawson cross. With time running out, the visitors pushed men forward – but it was Anthony Martial who won a penalty for the home side after a through ball by Ander Herrera. The young French forward was brought down by Gareth McAuley, who was dismissed by Mike Dean, having showed great pace to get into a shooting position. Juan Mata slotted home the penalty for United to go 2-0 up and keep the pressure on Manchester City, Arsenal and high flying Leicester City.
United again dominate possession against a defensively minded opponent
It was a far more convincing performance from United, compared to the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace last weekend. The home side had the vast majority of the ball and other than Saido Berahino’s shocking miss – United were comfortable at the back. Juan Mata had a chance in the first half, which just went wide of the visitor’s post. Wayne Rooney’s toe poked ball into the path of the Spaniard allowed United’s number 8 the chance.
WBA had a game plan, which of course was to keep things tight and restrict the space for United to operate in. For all the criticism thrown at Louis van Gaal regarding his apparent negativity in his side’s approach, WBA rarely threatened offensively and came for a draw. United had to be patient with their build up and the penalty, a nicely taken Juan Mata strike – straight down the middle, rounded off a deserved win.
Another league clean sheet and the Manchester United way
Louis van Gaal was clearly annoyed following the 3-0 loss away at Arsenal and cited the preparation for the game as one of the main reasons for the sluggish performance. Since that day, United have kept four clean sheets in the league in a row, although have only scored four in that time – with three coming in the victory over Everton at Goodison Park. Van Gaal will be hoping to continue this run of clean sheets into the game at Watford in two weeks time, however – this side are some way off the record set in 2008/09, when the club went fourteen league games without conceding a goal.
It was great to see Jesse Lingard get his first goal for the club and reaffirms Manchester United’s desire to give young players a chance to shine on the biggest stage. From the like of Eddie Coleman and Duncan Edwards to George Best to David Beckham and Paul Scholes – United managers realise the importance of giving young talent a chance. Lingard’s goal was of high quality.
The youngster latched on to poor header from Chris Brunt, and rather than thrashing the shot he brought it under control with the sole of his foot, before helping it past Myhill into bottom right corner, in front of the Stretford End crowd. It was the youngster’s eighth appearance for the club, since he made his debut last season in the 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea City. Louis van Gaal has brought young players throughout his career, and deserves a notable mention for introducing Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who came on at left back to replace Marcos Rojo in the second half.