On the 23rd of April, Manchester United travelled to Turf Moor and secured a rather comfortable victory against the team whose home form this season has been nothing short of brilliant.
Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney put their names up on the score sheet, as United continue their pursuit of attaining Champions League football next season. The team was already recovering from the long-term injuries of the club’s leading goalscorer this season Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the in-form defender Marcos Rojo, and had lesser than a few options to work with. But the evening went to Mourinho’s plan.
The manager had made 8 changes from Thursday’s Europa League fixture against Anderlecht, and without Zlatan, and with Marcus Rashford rested ahead of the Manchester City fixture, it was time for the other boys to step up. David De Gea was reliant at the back, as per usual, replacing Sergio Romero from Thursday’s matchday squad.
Eric Bailly has now played 630 minutes of continuous football spanning over 7 games. This of course is due to Chris Smalling and Phil Jones’ injury which they suffered, while away on international duty last month. And Daley Blind too, proved to be a solid understudy for the injured Marcos Rojo. Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian were both fresh and pacy on the wings.
Marouane Fellaini, who has time and time again this season proven why Jose trusts him, operated almost as a third centre-back. Meanwhile Ander Herrera, recovering from his heroics last Sunday, provided his 3rd assist in his 3rd consecutive game, assisting Martial’s goal. This, surely has to be the reason why his demand in Fantasy Premier League has recently experienced a surge.
Paul Pogba, yet again absolutely bossed the midfield. He was successful both defensively and while going forward. Pogba, who has been an engine in United’s midfield all season, was injured in the game’s dying minutes, only to be replaced by the veteran Micheal Carrick. His best bud, Jesse Lingard had a decent game too, but was replaced by Rashford at the 70th minute. The academy graduate only signed a new 100k-a-week contract recently, and is desperate to prove his quality to the team, and show that he is an important fulcrum in United’s attack.
Anthony Martial played upfront, and did a fine job. As Mourinho conceded, “If the attitude is right, if the brain is right, everybody knows the qualities he has, so I’m really pleased with what he did for us.” This was Martial’s 25th goal since joining United on a deadline day move in the summer of 2015. This goal triggered a clause which required United to pay 8.5 million pounds to Monaco, in addition to his 36 million pounds’ transfer amount. But the board will surely be exalted to pay this sum for the young talent.
Wayne Rooney netted his 251st goal for United, months after scoring his historic 250th goal for the club. Jose Mourinho stated in his post match interview, that he intended to play the United captain for not more than 60 minutes, but decided against it by playing him for a full 90 minutes, after being happy with his movement and involvement in the game.
This victory means that United stretch their unbeaten streak in the league to 23 games. Mourinho yet again claimed that his side are going to fight for the top 4, until it is “mathematically possible” for them. But he yet again emphasised his desire to win the Europa League trophy in Stockholm, by claiming that his side have a 25% chance of winning the Europa League, and no chance of winning the Premier League.
Close rivals Liverpool also lost 3 precious points today, tightening the top 4 fight. Manchester United go into the Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, with just one point short of their noisy neighbours, and Jose Mourinho will be prepared.