Manchester United secured an emphatic 4-0 win over Feyenoord in their penultimate Europa League group stage game on Thursday. TheHardTackle looks at five talking points from the game.
A couple of shock defeats to Feyenoord and Fenerbahce meant that Man United were in dire need of a win to stay alive in the Europa League. The 4-0 win leaves United needing just a point in their last group game against minnows Zorya Luhansk to progress to the next round of the competition.
On a night when some under-fire stars shone bright and some consistent performers continued to impress, TheHardTackle takes a look at five talking points from the game.
1. Romero puts on a stellar show
Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero does not start too many games for Manchester United; the presence of one of the best goalkeepers in the world in David de Gea has significantly limited his appearances since his arrival from Sampdoria in 2015.
Romero showed calmnesss, composure and quick thinking against Feyenoord to prove that he is a brilliant cover for De Gea. He wasn’t exactly bombarded by the opposition, but his double save in the first half was a huge moment in the game.
2. Mata is born again at Old Trafford
Juan Mata is in fine goalscoring touch for Manchester United. After scoring the lone goal against Arsenal last weekend, the Spaniard got on the score sheet once again as he gave United a tw0-goal lead just before being substituted off.
There has been no doubt about the ability of the 28-year-old playmaker, but he has never really asserted himself as one of the best players at United. Mata is now doing so under the unlikeliest of task masters in Jose Mourinho. The Spaniard is an essential cog in the team this season, and it looks like he has been born again under the Portuguese manager.
3. Rooney breaks record, hits back at critics
Wayne Rooney has been in the eye of the storm recently. The Manchester United captain was pictured in an intoxicated state while on international duty with England, and the media storm that followed has been turbulent and merciless.
The 31-year-old has responded by breaking a club record. Rooney’s goal was his 39th in European competition, taking him above Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy as the club’s top scorer in Europe. He is also now just one goal short of Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of 249 goals for Man United.
4. Mkhitaryan makes a strong case for himself
Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been left in the cold by manager Jose Mourinho. Until the Feyenoord game, he had made only one appearance for the Red Devils, which came in the Manchester derby.
The Bundesliga players’ Player of the Year of last season showed just what Mourinho and Man United have been missing. His pace, ability and creativity were a constant threat to Feyenoord, even though he didn’t start in his preferred number 10 position.
The 27-year-old has made a strong case for a position in the starting XI and the fans will be hoping he can emulate this kind of performance in the more physical Premier League.
5. Result adds more pressure on United’s young forwards
Frenchman Anthony Martial and teenage prodigy Marcus Rashford had extended runs in the first team last season. While Martial was the highest goal scorer for United, Rashford exploded onto the scene with his big goals against Arsenal and Manchester City.
This season has been a far different story though. Neither have cemented a place in the starting XI, and manager Jose Mourinho is not known to put his faith in the youth. With the likes of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan firing, Rashford and Martial must now get amongst the goals to remain top contenders for starting spots.