Monday 20 March 2017

Supporting cast step up in absence of United's star names

In the absence of marquee summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United’s stand-ins proved able deputies against Middlesbrough.

Pogba picked up a hamstring injury in the win over Rostov and Zlatan was serving the second of a three-match ban for violent conduct after his clash with Tyrone Mings.

Daley Blind was also forced off against the Russians and a fatigued Henrikh Mkhitaryan was rested for the visit to the struggling and managerless Teessiders.

Marcus Rashford’s pace and penetration proved a constant menace to the home side’s defence – and Bernardo Espinoza in particular.

Jesse Lingard capped a man-of-the-match showing with another spectacular finish, and celebration to match, and Marouane Fellaini’s powerful presence ensured that the injured Pogba was not missed.

The Belgian headed in the opening goal from Ashley Young’s brilliant cross and continued his recent renaissance in Jose’s United side.
Fellaini has often been a divisive and much-maligned figure at Old Trafford and reached a nadir with a clumsy cameo after coming on at Everton in December.
He gave away a late penalty but has enjoyed the best form of his United career since.

Lingard continued his penchant for the spectacular with a contender for goal of the season, reminiscent of his goal against Palace in the FA Cup final.
His movement, energy and link-up play proved too much for Middlesbrough to handle and he was at the heart of everything going forward.
Lingard gets his fair share of criticism but he and his partner in crime Rashford were simply superb at The Riverside.
These two young, local talents continue to prove United’s faith in youth is unrivalled in driving us forward for many seasons to come.

Rashford led the line on his own and deserved a goal for another selfless and dynamic showing.
The young striker has struggled in front of goal this season with seven goals in 40 appearances abd again drew a blank at Boro, if not for the want of trying.
Former United keeper Victor Valdes twice thwarted Rashford after he had burst clear, but his relentless running unsettled Boro throughout.

Ashley Young took advantage of United’s injury problems with an impressive performance at left back and then, latterly, the left wing.

On the other flank, Antonio Valencia continues to go from strength and strength.
 You’d be hard pressed to find a better full-back than the lung-busting Ecuadorian who must be one of the favourites for our Player of the Season award.

No Pogba, no Ibra but no problem for the Reds as we demonstrated that Jose has an embarrassment of riches and the deepest squad in the league at his disposal.

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