It wasn’t plain sailing to overcome Villarreal at Old Trafford in the Champions League on Wednesday night, but Manchester United found, through the grit of their teeth, a way to record an all-important three points.
Once again, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s lack of an overall plan was prevalent, relying on individual moments to get Manchester United out of a messy situation.
Alex Telles’ fantastic volley from Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick was the fuel to kickstart the comeback, which was finished off by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Truth be told, it wasn’t until Edinson Cavani and Nemanja Matić entered the pitch when the Red Devils started to gain control of the game. The Serbian international has been excellent in the minutes he has played this season, coming into the team fresh after a summer off and looking rejuvenated.
Matić’s first instincts are to get the ball forward and into the advanced players, which he continued doing when given the options. His ability to break up Villarreal’s counter attacks and transition quickly helped the Red Devils in regaining control in the opposition’s half.
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Solskjaer is clearly using Matić sparingly for important games and moments, but with Manchester United’s tough run over October, it is time to start using the Serbian from the start and allowing him to control the midfield. Manchester United look a much better, and more balanced, team with him on the pitch.
The other player who made quite the impact on Wednesday evening was Uruguay international Cavani. After recovering from an injury that had kept him out at the beginning of the season, the centre forward was effervescent and lively in trying to create running options.
Towards the end of the game, when a through-ball was too much for Ronaldo to chase into the left corner, Cavani made a darting run from the centre of the pitch at full speed and battled to win the ball back and keep possession.
This type of selfless work and pure determination is what Manchester United fans wants to see from the players, which was received with a goal-like celebration.
While Cavani might not have had a direct impact on the winning goal that was scored by Ronaldo, he raised the intensity levels to where they should have been from the start. His grit and work ethic are infectious to other players, who raised their performances when the Uruguayan entered the pitch.
Towards the end of the game, when Ronaldo occupied the left flank and Cavani through the middle, United’s attack looked that little bit more fluid with runs being made and space created.
Ronaldo will always be left on the pitch for the crucial moments he can deliver, but it is time for Solskjaer to start Cavani from the beginning through the middle and allow his tenacious approach to make a difference.
The Red Devils have a wonderful array of talent in the attacking front four positions, so it is time for fans to be able to see it come all together in the coming weeks against difficult opposition.
Cavani and Matić made the team tick yesterday in the dying moments when the game looked as if it was going to end in a draw, and so they should be repaid by giving them the opportunity to start against Everton this weekend in the Premier League.