We pick out four talking points from Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Benfica in the Champions League.
An own goal from Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar and a penalty from Daley Blind ensured United continued their perfect start in Group A, putting them on the brink of the last-16 with two games to play.
Here are four talking points from the game.
Mixed night for Martial
Anthony Martial was handed a start after coming off the bench to score Manchester United’s winner against Tottenham on Saturday, and he certainly seemed eager to impress. The Frenchman tore into Benfica from the outset, with his mazy dribbles causing havoc on the left flank.
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He won United’s first penalty after surging through a crowd of defenders in the 14th minute, but his weak spot-kick lacked conviction as it was pushed around the post by Svilar. Martial continued to impress with his speed and directness, but he couldn’t find a finish to match, sending shots high and wide either side of half-time before making way for Rashford in the 75th minute.
With Chelsea up next on Super Sunday, it’s now up to Mourinho to decide which of his widemen gets the nod at Stamford Bridge.
McTominay’s big night
Scott McTominay was a surprise inclusion for Manchester United, making his first Champions League start having come off the bench in the 1-0 win at the Estadio da Luz two weeks ago. The academy product signed a new long-term contract at the club earlier this month, and there were encouraging signs on only his sixth senior appearance.
McTominay joined Matic in United’s central midfield, where he was charged with protecting the back four. The 20-year-old embraced the physical side of the game, contesting more duels than any other player on the pitch (17) and also leading the way for ball recoveries (nine). Only Matteo Darmian made more tackles and interceptions.
He used the ball well, too. McTominay posted an 86 per cent passing accuracy. His unfussy distribution helped United build attacks from deep positions, and he grew in stature as the game wore on. At one point in the second half, he even charged into the opposition box and had a powerful shot charged down by a Benfica defender. All in all, an encouraging performance.
Lukaku’s goal drought
After 11 goals in his first 10 games for Manchester United, Romelu Lukaku has now failed to find the net in any of his last six. The Belgian did play the pass for the Matic shot which led to United’s opener, but his drought now stretches to almost eight hours in all competitions.
He did have chances to end it. There was a low shot pushed wide by Svilar and a header which sailed narrowly over the bar, but his best opportunity came with a one-on-one just before half-time. Svilar did well to rush out and make the block, but a more confident Lukaku might not have given him the chance.
Lukaku’s confidence might have benefitted from taking United’s second penalty instead of Daley Blind, but the challenge now is to get back on track in the Premier League. What better time to do it than against his former club at Stamford Bridge on Sunday?
Perfect start for United
Mourinho gave a prickly post-match interview but he will be delighted by his side’s strong start to their Champions League campaign. United have taken maximum points, scoring 10 goals and conceding just once. If it wasn’t for CSKA Moscow’s win at Basel, they would already be through.
As it is, United only need one point from their remaining games away to Basel and at home to CSKA in order to book their place in the knock-out stages. That should allow them to focus their resources on the Premier League as they attempt to keep pace with Manchester City.