Monday 30 January 2017

Jose finds winning balance on weekend of shocks

On a weekend in which many heavily rotated sides crashed out, United and Jose suffered no such FA Cup misfortune.

Tottenham made nine changes and scraped past Wycombe, Liverpool also made nine and lost to Wolves whilst Southampton, Watford and Leeds all fielded much-changed sides and were beaten.

Jose rested David de Gea, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Wigan but the 4-0 win demonstrated the club's strength in depth resources.

This was an opportunity for a number of fringe United players to prove a point to their manager and, after a slow start, they responded with a professional performance to sweep aside the 2013 winners. 

Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Anthony Martial were all handed rare starting places.
Schweinsteiger scored and set up the opener, Martial chipped in with two assists after he
was moved out wide and the two returning full-backs also showed glimpses of their ability. 

Mourinho threw down the gauntlet to Martial ahead of the visit of Hull on Wednesday and he surely showed enough to keep his place for that one. 

Any side that features Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Martial, Chris Smalling and a German World Cup winner cannot be considered 'weak' and showed how seriously Jose is taking the competition.

Many of his top flight contemporaries threw their untried youngsters in from the start, but Jose found the perfect balance: he named a side good enough to get the job done and then gradually drip-fed a few younger players - therefore making a mockery of the mythical notion that he's a manager who never gives youth a chance. 

19-year-old defender Axel Tuanzebe and 20 year old goalkeeper Joel Castro Pereira both made their senior team bows as second half substitutes as Jose finally promoted academy graduates into his first-team set up. 

Tuanzebe was first named in a matchday squad by Louis van Gaal but never stepped off the bench under the Dutchman while Pereira has recently returned from Belenenses. 

Having consistently impressed in the under 23 side, Tuanzebe has long been touted as a first-team star of the future and did not look out of place with a confident and composed 20 minute cameo. 

He showed several neat touches and good anticipation to track back and dispossess a Wigan player as the visitors looked to launch a late counter attack.

Jose showed respect to the competition, as well as his desire to treat the Cup as a realistic trophy chance, by starting with a strong side and then giving a couple of debutants a taste of the first team with the tie already won. 

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