Man Utd vs Derby County ended in victory for Jose Mourinho and his players and here are the FA Cup talking points from Old Trafford.
Board needs to answer Mourinho’s demands
United were close to drawing 0-0 for the second time inside a week and the season still has an air of the dominant draws United recorded on a monthly basis last term. The anti-Jose Mourinho brigade would have blamed the Portuguese had United been saddled with a replay but that would be churlish. Mourinho is not the one finishing profligately, crossing like Bebe or smacking free-kicks into walls. For the second time in five days United were indebted to a stunner to secure victory.
Mourinho covets a winger in the January transfer window and the half-time introduction of Romelu Lukaku reiterated the need for one. If United are to cater for a figurehead like their number nine they need pure wingers and they did not start with one against Derby. The ‘purest’ – Ashley Young – was suspended and players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have been converted into wide players. But Lukaku offers hope
The least admirable aspect about Lukaku’s goal was his finish after it went in via Scott Carson. Everything that preceded his 16th strike for United suggested the Belgian has the ability to be a much more polished striker than a mere glorified battering race
Lukaku killed the ball inside his own half, turned, held off the defender, slotted the ball into Martial and raced ahead to received it from his teammate before battering the ball into the Stretford End net. It was reminiscent of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s perceptive play outside the area and the challenge now is to do that against Premier League opposition more often.
None of those ill-informed online trolls are bemoaning Jesse Lingard’s wages anymore. His second-half piledriver was his 11th of the campaign and Lingard has scored as many this term as he did in his previous three with United.
Lingard revelled in a free role behind Rashford and then Lukaku. He had an early goalbound effort diverted over and while he was on the margins for much of the game, the 25-year-old has that United mentality of overcoming setbacks to produce pivotal moments. He is stepping up as regularly as some of the great United talismen have. Lingard is sparking Lionel Messi memes but his matchwinning moments from the periphery are reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mkhitaryan looks defeatist
It was appropriate that just as the first United substitutes were ordered to warm up that Mkhitaryan turned attack into defence with a sloppy pass. It was clear who Mourinho had in mind to substitute at half-time and Mkhitaryan was inevitably replaced by Lukaku.
Mourinho said afterwards it was ‘unfair’ to hook Mkhitaryan and apologised to him in the dressing room. Mkhitaryan should maybe have said sorry. He produced some glimpses of class during 45 minutes and Rashford – another candidate to be withdrawn at the pause – wasted his cross from less than six yards out. They were mere flashes, though, and what is alarming about Mkhitaryan is he must be the only playmaker in England who looks like he wants to get rid of the ball as soon as he receives it.
Mkhitaryan ended his exile last season with a man of the match performance against Feyenoord. Now he just looks defeatist. Internazionale are interested but will have to cough up a fee rather than try and get him on loan.
Easy to see why Rashford rarely plays up front
The sight of Lukaku on the touchline at the start of the second 45 could have signalled Rashford’s withdrawal. Instead, he shifted to the left for the second-half, which in itself was a demotion. Rashford had blazed one chance over the bar and somehow struck the post when unmarked inside the six-yard area.
Rashford is wasting chances almost every time he plays at the moment. At Bristol, there was the botched two-on-one and at Leicester he bungled a three-on-one and a one-on-one. It is easy to see why Mourinho does not regard him as a back-up striker to Lukaku. For all Rashford’s qualities, his finishing is not at the required standard for a United striker and he has two goals in his last 19.
Four days after Martial excelled as the frontman, Rashford may now just compete with him for the left wing role from now on. Yet Rashford only lasted 22 minutes there after the pause as Martial replaced Juan Mata and forced Rashford to the right.