Lee Sharpe was once interviewed, some years after the 1994 FA Cup final, and rather than eluding to an inspirational Ferguson speech, he cited the reason for United’s victory as something to do with the forces of nature, rather than the forces of Fergie. His comments suggested that teams couldn’t live with the 1994 crop when there was a zippy surface for United to play their stuff – as it began to rain on the Wembley turf. Although the heavens poured down against Hull City yesterday, we didn’t witness that attacking width that tore Chelsea apart all those years ago – but the United faithful did see a performance that was reminiscent of a Ferguson side in the 90s. Attacking until the end, throwing the kitchen sink at the opposition and a player, brought through the ranks, getting the winner.
For the riches spent on Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial – it was a a born and bred Mancunian, who cost the club nothing who scored the 92nd minute winner, which sparked pandemonium in the stands. We spoke at the beginning of the season about Jose Mourinho nurturing the talent that is Marcus Rashford – the youngster will be knocking at the manager’s door ahead of the Manchester derby next month.
United under Mourinho look a different proposition altogether. Gone are the backwards and sidewards passing that was such a prominent part of the Louis van Gaal philosophy. The Portuguese is breathing new life into a side that have huffed and puffed their way to mediocracy over the past three years. It would be fair to argue why did it indeed take so long to get a manager at the helm that was quite simply the only man who could have taken on the formidable challenging of leading United in a post Ferguson era. For all the criticism labelled at Mourinho for his pragmatic approach, his conduct and his perceived inability to develop youngsters through to the first team. United fans are sure there will be theatrics over the course of Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford, however in the opening month of the new season – Mourinho has ensured his side has attacked the opposition and a youngster has played a pivotal role in winning a football match. Of course, Marcus Rasford’s chance only came off the bench when United were chasing a goal – but with the way Mourinho sets his side up, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is always going to be the main man. For now.
Rashford was simply outstanding when he entered the fold with only 19 minutes left to play, replacing the ineffective Juan Mata. For all of his gifts, the Spaniard’s continued presence on the right flank – whilst giving licence to drift inside – quite clearly, will never get the best out of the playmaker and Rashford’s introduction saw the youngster drive past defenders, something that was lacking with Mata and Anthony Martial on the left hand flank. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who also made a considerable difference, ghosted past Hull’s players at times and will surely it will not be long until he is in the starting Xi. The late surge was reminiscent of past United sides, but it fully demonstrates the strong squad that Mourinho is assembling in his debut season.
For all of Rashford’s brilliance and excitement at the prospect of what is to come this season, many Reds will have noticed a very different Anthony Martial this season. The young Frenchman is an unbelievable talent. At times last season, he was simply unplayable and fullbacks would be left for dead as he would yet again get to the byline and cross. He was the shining light in a season that was engulfed with negativity and his debut goal will live long in the memory. However, this season he has looked a player devoid of any confidence, perhaps with other things on his mind. Unfortunately, for Martial, the public breakup of his relationship with the mother of his baby daughter must surely be playing on the forward’s mind. He was surprisingly underused during Euro 2016, with Didier Deschamps opting for other options when France were in need of a goal. Perhaps his head isn’t right at the moment and could benefit from a run on the bench. However, with City coming up next, United fans want to see a direct Martial, full of confidence, running past Pablo Zabaleta.
If Martial disappointed again, Marouane Fellaini is player reborn under Jose Mourinho. Despite an early tackle that was laughably questioned by the Belgian, considering it was reminiscent of Boris Johnson’s tackle in a charity match as opposed to “I got the ball” suggestion he was clearly arguing, he was solid in the midfield, winning headers and mopping up play. He is now a major doubt for the Manchester derby following a back injury – however has two weeks to recover. Wayne Rooney was quiet throughout the match, however – was there at the end to setup Rashford for the winner, with a brilliant run on the left flank.
Credit must be given to Hull City’s defensive display, who were seconds away from a well deserved point that would have marked an impressive seven points out of the opening three games – not something you would expect from a club without a manager and who’s fanbase are extremely critical of the club’s ownership. Curtis Davies was excellent at the back alongside Jake Livermore, who rarely let Ibrahimovic turn and put in a number of last ditch tackles to thwart another United attack.