Manchester United have one foot in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 after fighting hard to beat Benfica 2-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday
The hosts started the match on the front foot, creating a couple of chances before being awarded a penalty in the 14th minute when Douglas handled the ball. Anthony Martial took the subsequent spot kick, which was superbly saved by Mile Svilar, who dived low to his right to thwart the Frenchman.
Thereafter, each side came close to scoring, none more so than the visitors when Diogo Goncalves’ long-range effort was tipped away from goal by David De Gea. The deadlock was finally broken just before half-time, when Nemanja Matic’s piledriver bounced off the post before ricocheting off a helpless Svilar into the goal.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 31, 2017
That moment aside, the young Belgian was in fine form throughout the match as he denied Romelu Lukaku on a couple of occasions, while on the other end, De Gea produced another stupendous save to deny Goncalves. The match, though, was finally put to bed when Manchester United were awarded with another penalty.
But, confusion reigned in as Lukaku and Ander Herrera squabbled for the ball before Daley Blind took charge and converted from the spot to ensure all three points for his side. The Red Devils now need just one point to book their place in the Last 16. The Hard Tackle runs the rule over Jose Mourinho’s men.
David De Gea: 9/10
Dependable as ever between the sticks, De Gea was at hand to keep his net unruffled on the night, with two brilliant saves from Diogo Goncalves in particular showing just why he is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
🇪🇸 David de Gea in 2017/18 for club & country = 💪
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 31, 2017
The Spaniard distributed the ball well too, as he earned another clean sheet. Immensely valuable for Manchester United and there are no two ways about it.
Matteo Darmian: 6.5/10
Reliable and assured at the back for the most part, Darmian kept the nippy Goncalves in check, although the Portuguese forward did give him a few nervy moments in the first half. His impact in the final third was minimal though, something that the Italian would like to improve on going forward. All in all, it was another solid outing for him.
Eric Bailly: 5/10
A rare outing when Bailly flattered to deceive with his performance. The Ivorian failed to close down the Benfica front-men on a number of occasions, and was lucky to have not conceded a penalty early on.
A poor pass to Chris Smalling and 25% tackle success rate summed up a night on which the usually dependable defender looked completely out of sorts. Manchester United fans, though, would be hoping that this was a one-off, especially with a tough away game at Chelsea beckoning on the weekend.
Chris Smalling: 6/10
— Chris Smalling (@ChrisSmalling) October 31, 2017
A largely solid outing for the Manchester United skipper. Smalling was imperious in aerial situations, while also covering up for a nervy Bailly at the heart of defence. He did have a couple of nervous moments himself, but the Englishman closed down the spaces well and passed the ball crisply. On to Chelsea now.
Daley Blind: 7.5/10
The best of the lot at the back for Manchester United, with six interceptions to show for his efforts. Blind was largely untroubled by Eduardo Salvio, while Douglas couldn’t test him much due to Martial’s never ending threat. But, his passing wasn’t as effective as usual, although he went on to seal the result with a thumping penalty.
Scott McTominay: 7/10
Making his full Champions League debut on the night, McTominay was nothing short of impressive. The youngster’s presence meant Nemanja Matic’s job got easier and Manchester United had another man on the defensive front.
Scott McTominay v Benfica #UCL
85% pass accuracy
3 dribbles won
3 tackles won
3 aerials won
— FootballTalentScout (@FTalentScout) October 31, 2017
Reminiscent of a young Darren Fletcher, and like his compatriot, the young Scot did the simple job well while also charging forward with purpose for an added option. All in all, a fine full debut for McTominay whose reputation seems to be burgeoning with each passing game.
Nemanja Matic: 8/10
A smart performance by Matic, who played a major role in his side’s opening goal. More importantly though, the Serb played a pivotal role in controlling the tempo of the game when Manchester United were up against it against the visitors. Ahead of another game against one of his former sides, his form is a cause for optimism.
Juan Mata: 6.5/10
With the game evenly poised for large parts of the first half, Mata produced an industrious performance by putting in a shift, and played a key role in calming the nerves by keeping possession for longer periods. His end product was lacking though, and his creative balls is something he needs to work on.
Jesse Lingard: 6/10
Like Mata, Lingard toiled hard for long periods, his movement was hard to deal with for the Benfica defenders at times. Lingard also fed Martial well, releasing him into open spaces, but his outing was cut short at half-time after he sustained a hip injury in the first half.
Anthony Martial: 7.5/10
The most dangerous player on the pitch for the duration of his stint despite the penalty miss, Martial was a handful for the Benfica defenders for the most part with his pace and trickery. In particular, Douglas was tormented on the night, and forced into a handball just 14 minutes into the match when he failed to handle the player.
— ManUnitedZone (@ManUnitedZone_) October 31, 2017
However, his end product and final ball left a lot to be desired, and the Frenchman inexplicably rushed into his shots on several occasions. Nevertheless, it was an outing full of flair from Martial, as he continues to grow in confidence.
Romelu Lukaku: 6/10
A decent outing by Lukaku, although there is still a lot of work that he needs to put in. In particular, his finishing was still lacking as he made a hash of a one-on-one situation when released through on goal in the second half.
Apart from the miss though, the Belgian’s holdup play looked much improved, and he showed a lot of intelligence when dropping deep to create space and combine with the midfielders. He does need to get back into goalscoring ways though, and the encounter against Chelsea would be a great game to start.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 6/10
Replacing Lingard at half-time, Mkhitaryan was slightly improved from some of his recent outings. But, his tendency to lose the ball easily is alarming. Worryingly for Mourinho, the Armenian continued to look a long way off his early season form.
Ander Herrera: 6/10
Herrera replaced compatriot Mata midway through the second half, and he brought about tenacity and verve in midfield. Moreover, his passing was crisp and accurate, which helped see out the game smoothly. The rest would have done him a world of good ahead of the crunch game against Chelsea.
Marcus Rashford: 7/10
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) October 31, 2017
Came on for Martial with little time to go in the match. But, Rashford created a lot of impact during his short stint on the pitch, as Douglas continued to have his hands full despite the Frenchman’s exit. His purposeful running then drew the foul from Andreas Samaris, with Blind converting the subsequent penalty.