Monday 30 October 2017

Match preview: United v Benfica

United host the Portuguese champions knowing that we'll progress to the knockout stages if we better CSKA Moscow's result in Basel.

The Reds boast a 100% record at home so far this season and have yet to concede a goal in any competition at Old Trafford. 

United brushed aside Basel in the opening game before a 4-1 win in Russia and the narrow victory in Lisbon last time out.
Marcus Rashford's free-kick extended United's winning run in bizarre circumstances to see us sit top of the group with three wins from three. 

In contrast, and despite their status as the group's top seeds, Rui Vitoria's side are already eliminated having lost their last four European ties - including that 1-0 defeat at the Estadio da Luz on United's visit a fortnight ago. 

They've made a positive start in the defence of their domestic title, though, and sit third in the Primera Liga with 23 points from their opening ten games. 

Eric Bailly returned in the win over Tottenham after five games out and is likely to feature, but United are still without the services of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick.
Benfica, meanwhile, will field a makeshift defence with Andrea Almeida and Luisao both suspended, while Douglas and Jardel are set to miss out through injury. 

But the visitors boast one of the most potent attacks in Portugal, spearheaded by Brazilian striker Jonas, who has scored three times in the two games since the reverse fixture. 

After Anthony Martial's winner from the bench against Spurs on Saturday, the clamour is growing for Jose Mourinho to shoehorn the Frenchman into the same team as Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku.

The boss hinted at giving all three a go against Benfica, and said: "We played Anthony and Rashford together against Swansea, one week ago, so yes they can play together.
"We could try again but I'm not going to say - that's no problem.
"What we cannot do is play with 12 players, and we cannot play with everybody at the same time so it is a difficult decision I have to make." 

On our qualification, he added: "The main aim tomorrow is to go through. 
"Ten points would be okay, but our main aim is to qualify as the number one in the group. 
"Benfica will give us a difficult match, they have their own ambitions and pride and they will try to win - we want to get to the last 16 by finishing first in the group." 

Form guide: United W D W L W W Benfica D D W L W W 
Match odds: United 1/3 Draw 4/1 Benfica 26/4 
Referee: Lithuanian ref Gediminas Mazeika will take charge of his second United game (he was in the middle for our 1-1 draw with Rostov in the Europa League last season) 

Saturday 28 October 2017

United earn their Spurs as Martial seals huge late win

Jose Mourinho took off Marcus Rashford and introduced Anthony Martial with 20 minutes left against Spurs and the match still goalless. Sections of Old Trafford seemed unhappy with the switch - despite the pace and trickery of the Frenchman and his burgeoning reputation as our go-to super sub.

Instead, the change was a masterstoke and proved the catalyst for United's match-winning surge as they finally broke down Spurs disciplined and dogged defence.  Romelu Lukaku had a much better day at the office, and it was from his flick on that Martial raced through to finally break the deadlock. 

It could easily have been Lukaku who was withdrawn and not Rashford - but Jose stuck with his big money signing and the decision paid dividends. He was well marshalled by Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen for much of the game, but - through sheer persistence, determination and character, he made a crucial contribution to set up our late winner. 

It was Martial's fourth league goal of the season, all of which have come as a substitute.

When he starts, his impact is minimal but he's proving a dangerous and match-changing weapon from the bench. It's a double dilemma for the opposition: having to deal with Rashford for the first 70 minutes before Martial is introduced to finish off stretched and tiring defences. 

Mourinho had criticism to contend with for his tactical approach at Anfield a fortnight ago - but, here he made a tactical tweak that proved decisive. This was the biggest result of our season so far and a massive statement win against one of the other top sides that we desperately needed. 

Spurs may have been missing talismanic striker Harry Kane but even without him, they are a side that possess talent and quality throughout their squad.

The fact that Kane was absent here should not make this any less of an impressive result for the team. 

Another key man for United was the rejuvenated Ashley Young, who looks a player reborn under Mourinho's tutelage.
Employed as a left wing-back, he defended tirelessly and showcased his dangerous crossing ability that was his trademark under Sir Alex, as a flying winger. 

Young received a fully deserved standing ovation from the Old Trafford crowd when he was taken off in stoppage time. 

He was later voted as Man of the Match and has worked hard at turning around his United career when many thought he would be moved on. 

After the shock defeat last weekend, United were much improved (but then again we couldn't have been any worse) and kept pace with leaders City who won again, 3-2 at West Brom.

Match report: United 1-0 Tottenham

Anthony Martial stepped off the bench to fire in a priceless late winner as United deservedly earned a hard-fought win against high-flying Spurs.

United had dominated the second half without any joy but the Frenchman - who had come on for Marcus Rashford - rifled in from Romelu Lukaku's knock down in the 81st minute. Eric Bailly returned to the team as Jose lined up with a back three - Spurs, meanwhile, were without talismanic striker Harry Kane.

The Reds, seeking to respond after last week's shock defeat to Huddersfield, started brightly and went close twice early on.
Ashley Young picked out Lukaku and his cross was dealt with by Hugo Lloris, before the Spurs keeper was tested again when he pushed Marcus Rashford's free-kick from a distance around the post.

Mauricio Pochettino's side, who came into the game level on points with United, were neat and tidy in possession but largely restricted to efforts from range.

Young squared up to Dele Alli with Lukaku also involved in the melee as tensions ran high in front of an Old Trafford crowd who were baying for blood.

Half chances fell the way of Alli and Son Heung-min, but David de Gea easily dealt with both in the closing moments of the first half. United upped the ante after the interval and soon began to dominate the visitors.

Lloris saved well from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Ben Davies cleared the danger under pressure from the stretching Rashford. Lloris continued to earn his corn and came to his side's rescue again as he saved superbly with his foot to deny Lukaku from close range on the hour mark. 

Antonio Valencia skimmed the bar with a drive, and another opportunity went the way of the Reds shortly after Martial's introduction.

The French winger linked up with Nemanja Matic and sent Lukaku away, but Lloris again snuffed out the Belgian with a smothering block.

At the other end, Alli had the game's best opening when he latched on to Christian Eriksen's excellent clipped ball, but he could only poke the ball wide when well placed.

United continued to press and came within inches of the elusive breakthrough when the lively Lukaku headed against the post after substitute Jesse Lingard had picked him out. 

But the Reds were not to be denied and our persistence paid off with nine minutes to play.

Lukaku flicked the ball into the path of Martial, who raced through and fired in beyond the advancing Lloris as Old Trafford erupted. 

Lingard had a late chance to seal the deal, but it did not matter as United held out for a valuable and much needed three points.

Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Ashley Young. A much-maligned player who's reborn now under Mourinho. Received a standing ovation when subbed off in stoppage time.

Friday 27 October 2017

Match preview: United v Tottenham

Second hosts third at Old Trafford with only goal difference separating United from Mauricio Pochettino's side in the game of the weekend. 

The visitors have suffered a major injury blow as star man and talismanic striker Harry Kane will miss the trip to Old Trafford with a hamstring strain. 

In contrast, United are boosted by the return of Ivorian centre-back Eric Bailly, who is set to feature having not played since the end of September through injury. 
Phil Jones is also available, and Marcos Rojo is also nearing full fitness, but midfielders Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick all remain sidelined. 

Despite their Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, when a 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat, Spurs again look well equipped to fight it out at the top of the Premier League once more. 

They swept aside Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool with a hugely impressive 4-1 victory at Wembley last time out for a fourth successive league win (Kane scored twice, added to by strikes from Dele Alli and Son Heung - min). 

United manager Jose Mourinho issued a rallying cry for the fans to make the Old Trafford atmosphere one to remember.
He said: "We had very good atmospheres against Liverpool and Chelsea, so if the supporters can make the stadium very loud again then it is a positive for us.
"Normally at home we are a strong and confident team and we look to do the same on Saturday, Spurs are a very good team and one of the best in the league.
"They have a fantastic squad, a very good manager, stability and years with him (Pochettino), the same players. 
"They are a really, really, really good side but I think we are fine, we are strong and I think we are ready." 

Even ten games into the season, this looks a clash of huge significance with the Reds having faltered a little since the international break
Last week's defeat to Huddersfield saw unbeaten City open up a five point lead at the top, with our next two opponents - Tottenham and Chelsea, now right on the Reds coattails. 
The two sides sit locked together in the table level on points, with United's superior goal difference the only advantage.

United go into the game having won five on the bounce at home without conceding a goal, while Spurs boast a 100% record on the road - so something has to give at Old Trafford. 

Form guide: United W W D W L W Tottenham W W W D W L 
Match odds: United 6/5 Draw 12/5 Tottenham 11/4
Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire) 

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Lingard at the double as United spurred on by Jose's words

It may have been "only" Swansea and "only" the Carabao Cup, but Tuesday night's win in South Wales was an important one in the context of our season.Ahead of Saturday's vital home match against high-flying Spurs, we were in desperate need of firstly a result and secondly, a strong performance.

Against Paul Clement's side, Jose got both. Our next away match is the small matter of the trip to Stamford Bridge, so tougher tests certainly await. But this was the first hurdle that we had to clear to get our slightly faltering season back on track and we did just that. 

Having rightly ripped into his players after the abject Huddersfield horror show, in which Jose criticised our attitude, the team responded with a professional, clinical and comfortable win. This was Mourinho's 400th game in English football as a manager and he said the team's  application and concentration, like the result, was much improved from the weekend.

"Our attitude was very good, I am happy. We were solid, comfortable, we were in control.
"We were solid and professional from the first minute and I am pleased with the performance of the team and individuals." United's desire, commitment and passion deserted them for the 90 minutes on Saturday, but, to paraphrase a certain former Liverpool manager, we showed great character in victory. 

Unsurprisingly, there were seven changes in a youthful and rejigged line-up, and Jose's barbed words certainly seemed to have the desired effect for the rotated Reds. Three of the players involved at the John Smith's Stadium - Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial - set the pace for a vibrant and energetic United start.

Lingard's two goals were well taken and superbly crafted, with the second one in particular a classic United strike. Young defender Axel Tuanzebe began the play, which culminated in a rare Lingard header beyond Kristoffer Nordfeldt after a sweeping team move.

This was, at time, a glimpse of the free-flowing and clinical United that we saw before the untimely international break that checked our momentum.  Watford striker Troy Deeney blasted Arsenal's lack of "cojones" after their recent defeat at Vicarage Road and the Gunners have hit back strongly with three successive wins since. 

As United fans, we have to hope that Mourinho's outburst will have a similar impact on our players following the early season blip. Every team has a setback, we had to get the Huddersfield defeat out of the system and go into Spurs with a win under our belts.  We did so, but a positive riposte in the League Cup at Swansea is one thing - a repeat performance against two of the league's high flyers is quite another. 

Match report: Swansea City 0-2 United

Jesse Lingard scored twice for holders United as the much changed Reds progressed to the Carabao Cup quarter finals.

It was a dominant and solid response from Saturday's Huddersfield horror show, with Sergio Romero only tested in stoppage time.

Jose Mourinho had ripped into the team after the loss in Yorkshire and made seven changes from that line-up, including Academy graduates Axel Tuanzebe and Scott McTominay.

United started strongly and went close early on through Chris Smalling, who headed over the bar from a Marcus Rashford corner.

Stand-in Swans stopper Kristoffer Nordtfeldt then saved well from Lingard, but it was he who put United ahead on 21 minutes.

Ander Herrera played the ball in to Rashford, whom in turn found his England colleague with a neat reverse pass, and Lingard did the rest with a well-taken finish beyond Nordfeldt.

Victor Lindelof blocked well from Wayne Routledge when he found himself one-on-one, and there was danger again soon afterwards for the visitors.

Daley Blind's deflected clearing header spun off Oliver McBurnie and wrong-footed Romero, but the ball rolled narrowly wide of the post with the keeper beaten.

McTominay went close from distance with a 25-yarder at the other end shortly before the interval.

United had soon put the result beyond any lingering doubt, however, when we moved 2-0 ahead on the hour mark.

At the culmination of a superb, sweeping team move that involved six players, Matteo Darmian picked out Lingard and he headed home from eight yards for his third goal of the season.

Like McTominay, Tuanzebe went close to a first United goal when he was denied by a smart stop by Nordfeldt and then fired the loose ball over the bar on the rebound.

Swansea introduced Tammy Abraham on 72 minutes, and the striker almost made an instant impact within minutes of coming on.

Romero had been a virtual spectator but was finally called into action as he tipped behind Abraham's speculative 25-yard strike. 

The hat-trick hunting Lingard fired wide and then volleyed a second effort straight at the keeper, but the Reds had done more than enough. 

Romero saved superbly from Leroy Fer in the dying minutes, but the Reds had done more than enough to ensure safe passage into the last eight.

Teenage striker Edward Nketiah came off the bench and scored twice as Arsenal beat Norwich, whilst City squeaked past Championship leaders Wolves on penalties to also go through.

Chelsea host Everton on Wednesday with the draw for the quarter-finals to follow. 

Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Jesse Lingard. Scored two excellent goals and proved a thorn in Swansea's side throughout. 

Monday 23 October 2017

Carabao Cup preview: Swansea City v United

United have an early opportunity to bounce back from Saturday's loss as we continue our Carabao Cup defence in south Wales.

Less than 48 hours after the shock defeat at the John Smith's Stadium comes a chance for the Reds to offer a much-needed response, ahead of Spurs visit to Old Trafford on Saturday. 

United midfield Juan Mata said: "It's time to learn from mistakes and keep going, as we always do, we need to show that the team sticks together when things don't go so well.
"Since the European Super Cup defeat, we've been performing well against all opponents, but on Saturday Huddersfield took all three points and we congratulate them.
"We move on, this is not a sprint but a marathon and there's still a long way to go." 

The Reds travel to Paul Clement's Swansea in the fourth round boosted by the return of Ivorian centre-back Eric Bailly. 
Phil Jones will be assessed having limped off in that loss to Huddersfield, with Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all ruled out.

Sergio Romero, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian are all in contention to feature for a rotated Reds side. 

For the hosts, Kyle Bartley (knee), Renato Sanches (thigh) and Wilfried Bony (thigh) are all sidelined, and Leroy Fer is suspended. 

The Swans come into the game in indifferent form, having picked up four points from their last six league games after a 2-1 defeat to Leicester, with Michael Appleton in caretaker charge of the Foxes. 

Both the Swans and United saw off lower league opposition in the third round to set up this first ever League Cup meeting. 
Goals from Alfie Mawson and Jordan Ayew earned Clement's side a 2-0 win at Championship Reading while United also saw off second tier opposition last time out.

Nigel Clough's Burton Albion were put to the sword at Old Trafford as the holders brushed aside the Brewers with an Anthony-Martial inspired 4-1 thrashing. 

In the pick of the other fourth round ties, Arsenal and Manchester City both face Championship opposition, in the shape of Norwich and Wolves respectively.

On Wednesday, Chelsea host managerless Everton and West Ham travel to Spurs in a London derby between two sides in starkly contrasting form.

Form guide: Swansea City D W L L W L United W W W D W L 
Match odds: Swansea City 13/2 Draw 16/5 United 4/1 
Referee: Bobby Madley (West Yorkshire) 

Too early to write off Lindelof despite inauspicious start

United's  summer signing Victor Lindelof epitomised his team's performance with an afternoon to forget at Huddersfield.

The Swedish centre-back has been on the end of scathing criticism after he misjudged Jonas Lossl's long ball to allow Laurent Depoitre in to score.

Lindelof had previously only played a single minute of league football having come on in the closing seconds of United's draw at Anfield. 

He was pressed into service as a substitute after 23 minutes at the John Smith's Stadium when Phil Jones was forced off with a knee injury. 

He did not cover himself in glory in a nervous performance that suggests he may not be ready for the Premier League.

But United manager Jose Mourinho refused to blame his player, insisting that it's unfair to point the finger at certain individuals for the team's collective shortcomings.

Lindelof arrived from Benfica for £31m in the summer as a highly-rated centre-back who had been wanted by Mourinho for two years.

Lindelof has made five starts for United - the Super Cup match against Madrid, the Carabao Cup at home to Burton and all three Champions League ties.
Like Henrikh Mkhitaryan last season, Jose has used the defender sparingly to give him time to adapt to the rigours of the English game.

Mkhitaryan was frozen out of the side as he needed to be fitter, but he was eventually given his chance and the Armenian has developed into one of this side's most creative players. 

There can be no argument that it's been a poor start to life at United for Lindelof, but he's certainly not alone.

David de Gea struggled in his first season at Old Trafford and Patrice Evra was subbed off at half-time on his debut in the Manchester derby.

Both were written off as flops, but developed into key members of Sir Alex's all-conquering United side and went on the become the world's best goalkeeper and left-back respectively. 

Moving to the club is a huge step up, but Evra and de Gea were both afforded time and patience and look what happened. 

Mourinho rarely makes bad signings and, at still only 23, Lindelof has age on his side to develop and turn things around. 

United travel to Swansea in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday and the Swede is set to be given another opportunity to prove his worth. 

Like his team mates, he must show his character and resolve to respond and get back on track.

Sunday 22 October 2017

United must end malaise quickly to reignite season

The defeat at Huddersfield was bad and unacceptable, but the result should be put into context.

We're only nine games in and this was our first defeat, so it's hardly reason to panic and say we're in crisis.
It's still early days and we're five points behind City at the top of the league with Spurs breathing down our necks.

Second in the league and on the brink of qualification to the knockout stages in Europe, the overall bigger picture doesn't look too bad. 

Pep Guardiola's side look nailed on for the title at present, but it's hard to envisage that they will maintain this blistering, relentless pace for the rest of the season. 

Like every team, there will surely be a blip on the horizon somewhere and we need to be in a position to capitalise when it comes. 

United face Mauricio Pochettino's high-flying side next at Old Trafford on Saturday, in a game that already looked hugely important for both sides respective ambitions this season.

Now, it's even more vital as the Reds must get their season back on track.

You can lose games in this league but potential champions are measured by the ability and strength of character to respond to setbacks.

The fixtures are coming thick and fast and, starting with Swansea on Tuesday, that's exactly what we must do - pick ourselves up and roll again. 

Ander Herrera's comments that the team lacked passion and stomach for the fight at Huddersfield were brutally honest, but also worrying.

Some have said that the fact we played newly-promoted Huddersfield, straight after a European excursion, may have been the reason why the players struggled for to 'get up' for the match. 

There may be an element of truth in that, but these are players at Manchester United and that should be motivation enough.

Putting on the United shirt should be all the inspiration you need, no matter what the game or occasion.

For any professional football team - let alone one fighting for the Premier League title - to lack the passion and desire to win any given match is an embarrassment.

It's a shocking, unforgivable admission that would be unthinkable during the days of Sir Alex.

Mourinho appeared as baffled as anyone afterwards but he should not escape criticism.

Jose said in his press conference that the players would not underestimate Huddersfield and would be ready, but, quite frankly, they weren't.

The players let their manager, club and fans down but Mourinho needs to look himself too and question why the players showed no effort or commitment. 

United's season depends on how we recover.. 

Brilliant Huddersfield end horrible United's unbeaten start

Where to begin after that..

Firstly, credit must go to David Wagner's well-drilled, efficient and organised Huddersfield Town team. But what on earth was that from our team?

The tenacious Terriers fully deserved their win and to suggest otherwise would be to do them a dis-service.

United manager Jose Mourinho admitted that the better team won, and was full of praise for Huddersfield's emotion, aggression, intensity and desire. They were everything that we weren't: quick, strong, hungry, energetic and first to every ball - they 100% merited the result. 

For us, however, this was a horror show that will want to be forgotten in a hurry. This was the worst performance by a United side for many a year (that's saying something considering we've suffered the Moyes and Van Gaal 'eras') and certainly the worst of Mourinho's tenure so far.

As fans, you can accept defeat if your team gives everything, shows the right commitment and desire but still comes up short. 

What was not acceptable however, was the lack of fight and lackadaisical attitude from everyone in Red yesterday. Huddersfield worked harder than us, there was no passion and it simply was not good enough from a team who are supposedly going for the title this season.

Jose said afterwards that the team's attitude was "worse than a friendly match"... how that can be the case in a huge Premier League game beggars belief and explanation. 
Ander Herrera's brutal honesty was refreshing but the players should be made to come out in public and explain that performance. 

Missing Ivorian centre-back Eric Bailly, we lost our other first-choice central defender in the 23rd minute. Phil Jones has had a superb season, arguably his best in a United shirt to date, but his injury misfortune resurfaced again when he went down with an injured knee in the first half.

His replacement, £31m summer signing Victor Lindelof, epitomised his side's collective showing with a torrid individual performance. He was at fault for Huddersfield's second goal as he failed to deal with a simple ball upfield and allowed Laurent Depoitre in to score.  United looked nervy with the Swede alongside Chris Smalling, and although it's still early in his Old Trafford career, Lindelof's start to life at United has been inauspicious so far. 

United lacked tempo and intensity all over the pitch, and Jose attempted to change that in the second half when he altered our formation. Herrera was pressed into service as an auxiliary member of United's back three, with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young used as wing-backs. 

We were fortunate not to lose at Liverpool and this will act as a reality check for Jose and the team.
Of course you can lose games in this league, and Crystal Palace beat Chelsea last week, but the key now will be how we respond to this setback.

With crucial games against top six rivals Spurs and Antonio Conte's champions on the horizon, the Reds must put this behind us and refocus to get the season back on track.

Match report: Huddersfield 2-1 United

Huddersfield Town stunned a desperately poor United side and ended the Reds unbeaten start to the season with a full deserved victory.

This was a day to forget for an out of sorts United, who fell 2-0 behind by half time through goals from Aaron Mooy and Laurent Depoitre.
Substitute Marcus Rashford pulled a goal back, but a draw would have been unfair on a Terriers side who lived up to their nickname with a tenacious performance.

United had conceded only twice in eight league games but that tally was doubled in five first half minutes after two sloppy defensive errors that were clinically punished. 

Romelu Lukaku had an early effort saved by Jonas Lossl, but that was the closest the Reds came for the rest of the half.

Phil Jones has enjoyed a superb season at the heart of United's defence, but he was added to our ever-lengthening injury list having hurt his knee in a coming together with Elias Kachunga.

Huddersfield opened the scoring shortly before the half hour mark when Juan Mata was caught in possession by Mooy, whom in turn picked out Paul Ince's son Tom.
He collected the ball and had a shot saved by David de Gea but the rebound fell to Mooy who followed up to score and send the John Smith's Stadium into raptures.

Five minutes later, United were exposed again as Victor Lindelof, who had come on for Jones, failed to deal with Lossl's long ball up the middle. 
The Swedish centre-back misjudged the bounce and Depoitre ran through, rounded de Gea and rolled the ball in.

Nemanja Matic had a shot deflected wide and Ashley Young - probably United's best player on the day - went close with a shot from distance shortly after the interval. 

The expected onslaught did not arrive until Ander Herrera had a header parried by Lossl after Young had picked him out. 

That belatedly kick-started United into life and the Reds gave themselves hope 12 minutes from time through Marcus Rashford.

The substitute headed home from close range on 78 minutes after excellent wing work from Lukaku.

Despite four added minutes, United were unable even to carve out another opportunity, until makeshift striker Chris Smalling had a shot blocked in the dying seconds.

Huddersfield proved resilient opponents who defendly doggedly in the closing stages and celebrated wildly at full-time, having inflicted United's first league defeat of the season.

Overall team performance: 0/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Ashley Young was the best of a bad bunch

Friday 20 October 2017

Opposition profile: Huddersfield Town

United travel to David Wagner's newly promoted Huddersfield Town team on Saturday for the first competitive meeting between the sides in more than 40 years. 

You have to go back to the 1971/72 season for the last time we played the west Yorkshire side.
The Reds won 3-0 at their Leeds Road ground before a 2-0 win at Old Trafford in the return five months later.

That victory proved the last time that the "United Trinity" of Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law all got on the scoresheet in the same game. 

Huddersfield and United have more in common than you might think.

There's the mutual loathing of the club's west Yorkshire neighbours Leeds, with the Elland Road side Huddersfield's derby game and fiercest rivals.
Arguably our greatest ever striker, Denis Law, began his career at Huddersfield and, like us, they've achieved the rare feat of three top division titles in a row.

Under the legendary Herbert Chapman, Huddersfield won the championship for three successive seasons - 1924/25, 1925/26 and 1926/27.
Arsenal and Liverpool have also got that unique record to their name, but United of course are the only team to do so twice (1998/99, 1999/2000 and 2000/01, and again in 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09). 

Huddersfield also won the FA Cup for the first and only time in their history in 1922, in an unprecedented period of success for the club. 

Nicknamed the Terriers, the club now ply their trade at the 24,169-capacity John Smith's Stadium, which they share with rugby league side Huddersfield Giants.
The Yorkshire dog breed was introduced to their badge shortly after "The Terriers" became their official nickname and mascot of the club. 

The club were relegated from the top flight in that 1971-72 campaign, and spent the next four decades in a nomadic existence in the bottom three divisions.

45 years on, and the Terriers are back for a first ever Premier League season after a fairytale rise under Jurgen Klopp protege Wagner.

Huddersfield began their 2016-17 campaign as one of the favourites to be relegated to League One.
Instead, and against all the odds, they defied the doubters and sealed a return to the elite with victory over hotly-tipped Reading on penalties in the play-off final.

The new boys began their Premier League adventure in superb style with impressive wins over Palace and Newcastle in their opening two games.
They've not won in the six games since, but with only one defeat at home in the league so far they shouldn't be underestimated. 

Match preview: Huddersfield Town v United

United make the short trip to west Yorkshire to face newly promoted Huddersfield with the chance to create history. 

If the team can shut out David Wagner's Terriers, it will be United's eighth clean sheet in the first nine league fixtures - a feat no other side has ever achieved in the top flight. 

Having all but sealed qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League in midweek, United return to domestic duty in the third of four successive away games. 

The Reds make the 27-mile trip across the Pennines for our first ever visit to the John Smith's Stadium - our first competitive meeting with Huddersfield for 45 years.

Marcus Rashford limped off with a knee injury against Benfica but has been passed fit and is available for selection. 
Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini are all sidelined so Jose looks set to name an unchanged side from the 1-0 win in Portugal. 

Striker Steve Mounie is expected to feature for Huddersfield, but Philip Billing (ankle) and Collin Quaner (calf) are both ruled out. 

The Terriers began their first ever Premier League campaign in fine form with a 3-0 thumping of Palace, which they followed up with a 1-0 win over Newcastle.
Life at the top level has been harder for them since then, though, having failed to win any of their last six league games.
They go into this match on the back of two successive defeats to Tottenham and Swansea and sit twelfth in the table. 

Despite the hosts indifferent form, Jose said that neither he nor the team will underestimate Wagner's men. 
He said: "The place will be buzzing, the people will be happy to have a big club, a famous club, in their city, and it will be a big motivation for them.
"We know that but I think we are going to be ready.
"Everybody knows the Premier League and what it means for the new teams, every team in the Premier League is good, every team in the league thinks and believes that they can win against every opponent.
It is another match away from home and nobody else is coming back. 
"We have the same players we had for the Benfica match."

Form guide: Huddersfield Town L D L D L L United W W W W D W
Match odds: Huddersfield Town 33/1 Draw 4/1 United 11/2
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Thursday 19 October 2017

Match report: Benfica 0-1 United

United moved to the brink of qualification for the knockout stages after Marcus Rashford's free-kick winner and goalkeeper Mile Svilar's blunder.

The 18-year-old debutant, the competition's youngest-ever keeper, carried Rashford's set-piece over the line having previously impressed throughout with a string of superb saves.

The win saw the Reds lead the way at the top of Group A, with three wins out of three, whilst Rui Vitoria's side remain without a point in the standings.

A draw or a victory in the return leg at Old Trafford in a fortnight's time would seal the Reds safe passage to the knockout stage.

Benfica carved out the game's first opening in the 15th minute when Alex Grimaldo picked out Eduardo Salvio, who fired narrowly wide.

Rashford headed over the bar and Svilar saved well from Nemanja Matic, before Henrikh Mkhitaryan pulled a shot wide in a flurry of chances for the visitors.

United were much improved from Saturday's dire draw at Anfield, and took the lead shortly after the hour mark in bizarre fashion.

Rashford had gone close twice with two earlier efforts from corners, and it was from another superb set-piece from the teenager that the Reds made the breakthrough. 

Svilar held the inswinging 35 free-kick, but he was unable to deal with the power and accuracy and inadvertently dropped over the line with the ball.

Having alerted the VAR goal-line technology system, German referee Felix Zwayer awarded the goal.

That proved to be Rashford's last contribution as he limped off ten minutes later with a knee injury to add to United's injury worries. 

Anthony Martial came on in his place and the substitute almost doubled United's lead when he burst into the box and saw his angled strike well saved by Svilar.

Ruben Dias had Benfica's one clear cut opening on 77 minutes, when he fired over from a Silvio corner when unmarked. 

The hosts ended the game with ten men when veteran centre-back Luisao was sent off late on for a second booking, ruling him out of the return fixture.

The result condemned Benfica to a third straight Champions League loss, whilst United sit top of the table with a 100% record. 

Basel won 2-0 in Moscow against CSKA in the other game to move up to second in the group.

Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Match preview: Benfica v United

Jose Mourinho took his first steps into management at the Lisbon club and will look to guide United to the brink of the knockout stages on his return.

The boss managed Benfica - Portuguese champions and top Group A seeds - in the 2000/01 campaign in a short-lived tenure at the Estadio da Luz.
Having acted as assistant manager at Porto and Barcelona to Sir Bobby Robson and then a certain Louis van Gaal, Mourinho filled the same role at the Portuguese giants until he replaced the sacked Jupp Heynckes.

Jose's reign was only to last eleven games, though, and he quit after two months in charge after a raft of changes at boardroom level. 

Reds midfield man Nemanja Matic played 73 times for Benfica across three seasons, and Swedish centre-back Victor Lindelof also makes his return to the club he signed for United from in the summer.

United are unbeaten both domestically and in Europe, and sit impressively in pole position in the group with two wins from two - and an extension of that record would see us all but seal a place in the knockout stages.
Benfica, by contrast, have lost both of their opening matches despite their status as, on paper at least, the strongest team in the group.
They sit third in the Portuguese SuperLig table after eight games, behind arch rivals Sporting and Porto, five points off the pace after five wins, two draws and a defeat so far. 
A surprise 2-1 reverse to CSKA Moscow was followed up last time out by even more a shock as they were thrashed 5-0 at Basel.

The boss admitted that he's short of options for the trip with Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all out.
Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw, however, have travelled with the squad but this match is expected to come too soon for both.
Benfica full-back Andrea Almeida will miss out through suspension but Rui Vitoria has an otherwise full squad of players to pick from.

Jose said: "Our goal of course is to qualify, I think that one point away against the strongest of the three teams is a good result.
"Our sole objective is to qualify within that context, but it is a match that we also want to try and win.
"I believe it is hard for Benfica to qualify, but they need to make a point without question and I'm sure that Rui has done many different things in the Champions League - I have studied and analysed Benfica as best I can,  that Rui has done many different things in the Champions League."

Form guide: Benfica D D W L D W United W W W W W D
Match odds: Benfica 7/2 Draw 13/5 United 5/6
Referee: Felix Zwayer (Germany) 

Sunday 15 October 2017

Lukaku criticism unjustified after rare off day for Belgian striker

It seems unfair for Romelu Lukaku to be criticised after his red-hot start to life at United. 

The Belgian provided - and squandered - the Reds only shot on target in the 0-0 draw at Anfield, when he fired straight at compatriot Simon Mignolet when well placed.

There was just that one opening late in the first half, when his shot had the power but not the placement and it proved a straightforward save for the Liverpool keeper.
United failed to trouble him again, and there is sense of a missed opportunity to take all three points. 

This single moment has already been used by some to continue the narrative that the 24-year-old does not deliver in the high-profile matches.
Yet it's nonsense and, in time, Rom will dispel the myth in the coming months with the trip to Chelsea and visit of Spurs on the horizon.

It should not be used to argue that he is a flat-track bully, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed an equally presentable header in the corresponding fixture last season. 
Nobody would ever accuse the mercurial Swede of not being the man for the big occasion, as he has proved countless times in his glittering and decorated career. 

It's difficult to understand why Lukaku's goal against Real Madrid in the Super Cup - the twice-defending European champions and best side on the planet - is conveniently excluded from this argument.

Lukaku wasted no time in settling in at the club, and has racked up eye-catching stats from the off.
This was only the second match of the campaign in which he's failed to score, including internationals for Belgium, he is now on eleven goals in as many games.

If that ratio continues, Lukaku is surely a shoo-in for the Premier League's Golden Boot. 

Ploughing a lone furrow in attack, he often cut an isolated figure and had to deal with the close attentions of Liverpool centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip throughout.
It's fair to say that he was not afforded too many opportunities to show the free-scoring form that has wreaked havoc on opponents so far this season.

His record is simply incredible and his start to life at United can only be applauded. 
He'll be there at the sharp end again against Benfica in Lisbon and will be out to get back on the goal trail.

After all, those who felt that he would not impress in the Champions League have gone quiet after three goals in his first two European matches.
In time, there won't be any debate over his ability to find the net in the biggest of games.

He's at a club where he'll get the chance to do so and have ample opportunity to prove the doubters wrong once and for all. 

United miss chance for statement win but remain unbeaten

Jose Mourinho will be slaughtered for this but he will not care after his tactical plan worked to perfection to frustrate the life out of Liverpool (again). 
It's almost a year to the day since the Reds of Manchester and Merseyside played out a drab goalless stalemate at Anfield, with the hosts snuffed out by a classic Mourinho masterclass in defensive resilience and organisation. 

12 months on, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this was merely the DVD of that meeting, so turgid and tepid was it.
Then, United were indebted to David de Gea after two fine second half saves to deny Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho.
The Spaniard was at his brilliant best again here, and this time he kept out Joel Matip with a magnificent save with his foot from six yards. 

City won at Chelsea before the international break and followed that up with a devastating showing in their 7-2 victory over Mark Hughes Stoke City side.
This was a chance for United to deliver a statement of their own in our first fixture against one of last season's top six, but we saw again the same pragmatic blueprint as in the corresponding meeting 12 months ago.

Away to Liverpool and with injuries having hit the squad hard, Jose's game plan should come as little surprise. 

David de Gea's world-class save aside, Emre Can's one-on-one miss after the break was as much as Jurgen Klopp's side offered. 

Had Romelu Lukaku taken United's one clear cut chance before half-time, this would have been the ultimate of smash and grab wins. 
That one moment aside, this was largely an outing to forget for the £75m former Everton striker, who was starved of service in an almost anonymous showing.

Mourinho is a bigger picture manager and set the team up to avoid defeat.

We did just that, and the hard-earned point garnered at Anfield could prove crucial in the final reckoning.
The injury-hit Reds remain unbeaten and a return of 20 points from eight games played is the title-winning form of potential champions.
That's exactly how Jose will justify as dour a performance as we'll see this season. 

Liverpool were allowed to dominate possession, paint pretty pictures and play on the front foot but they were ultimately frustrated and came up short. 

This was a match that will be instantly forgettable as the much-hyped fixture again failed to live up to expectation, perhaps in part due to the lunchtime KO straight after the international break.

Match report: Liverpool 0-0 United

Liverpool and United were forced to settle for a share of the spoils again after the much-hyped fixture ended in another disappointing stalemate.

In a game of few chances, the Reds were indebted to goalkeeper David de Gea, who kept out Joel Matip with a world-class reflex save in the first half to preserve United's unbeaten league record.

United will be much the happier with a hard-earned point and could even have completed the ultimate smash-and-grab.
Romelu Lukaku, isolated and on the periphery throughout, fired straight at Simon Mignolet when well-placed.

Georginio Wijnaldum went close from distance early on, and Nemanja Matic - impressive again - then did likewise at the other end with a 30-yarder.

Clear cut chances proved hard to come by, but Liverpool should have taken the lead ten minutes shy of the interval.

Roberto Firmino's cut-back found Matip, but his snapshot from six yards out was brilliantly turned away by de Gea's outstretched foot when the centre-back seemed certain to score. Liv
After Phil Jones had partially cleared, Salah then should have done better with the rebound but pulled his angled effort narrowly wide.

At the other end, Lukaku spurned a glorious opening in front of the Kop.
Neat one-touch play on the edge of the area between Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial released the Belgian, but his shot lacked power and compatriot Mignolet parried away the effort.

Liverpool almost caught United napping soon after the interval, with de Gea to the rescue once again.
Philippe Coutinho picked out Firmino, Jones blocked the initial shot before the Spanish stopper blocked bravely at the feet of the forward as the hosts ratcheted up the pressure.

Emre Can volleyed over from ten yards when one-on-one, and Firmino was then flagged offside having burst clear. 
Jurgen Klopp's side continued to press, but United held firm and then introduced Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford - who was carrying a knock - in an attempt to snatch an unlikely win.

For once, Jose's substitutions did not have the desired effect, however, and the breakthrough remained elusive as United held out.

City won 7-2 against Stoke later on Saturday to move two clear, but this was a point gained as attentions turn to the midweek Champions League trip to Portugal. 

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: David de Gea

Friday 13 October 2017

Match preview: Liverpool v United

This is a contest that requires little introduction as the Reds of Manchester and Merseyside collide for the 199th time at Anfield.

Britain's two most successful and decorated sides resume their storied rivalry in the Saturday lunch-time kick off, with unbeaten, in-form United set for the most difficult challenge of the campaign so far.

Both sides have injury problems ahead of the clash with the hosts star man, Senegalese frontman Sadio Mane, out for up to six weeks with a hamstring tear.
Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are likely to play, but Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren look set to miss out. 

Midfield trio Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba are all sidelined for the Reds, but Phil Jones and Romelu Lukaku are both fit and expected to feature. 
Ander Herrera will come in alongside Nemanja Matic with the Reds likely to field a back three with wing-backs. 

Jurgen Klopp's side have proved the epitome of inconsistent so far this season, having picked up five points from their four games since the 4-0 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield.
They were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle by Leicester and drew both of their opening Champions League games, with brilliant attacking play undermined by slipshod defensive shortcomings. 

Both meetings last season ended in stalemate, as Jose's defensive masterclass secured a goalless draw at Anfield followed by Zlatan's late equaliser in the 1-1 in January's return fixture.
United hold a superb recent record against the Merseysiders having won four times in a row under Louis van Gaal, with the Europa League KO in March 2016 the only blot on the copybook. 

United have won six on the spin, but this is a fixture where form counts for nothing as the Reds run out into the hostile Anfield atmosphere in the first Premier League game after the international hiatus. 

Boss Jose Mourinho understands the importance of the match, but is treating the clash of the North-West heavyweights no different to any other game.

He said: "I know the tradition, the feelings around the supporters, but I look at this in a professional way, to tell my players that every match is important, not just one.
"Every point is important, there is no easy match and none that you prepare more carefully for than others.
"For us it is not a problem, but it is not nice for the opponents to say that this is our first difficult fixture.
"We want to win, but we play against a strong team who want the same, they play at home and we know they are good in matches against the top teams so it won't be easy. 
"Everybody knows that there are better teams than others, as at the end of the season we see the champion, runner up, third and fourth - but to say they're easy matches to win I think is a bit aggressive to the others."

Form guide: Liverpool D D L W D D United W W W W W W 
Match odds: Liverpool 13/8 Draw 12/5 United 8/5
Referee: Bradford - based official Martin Atkinson is the man in the middle 

Jurgen vs Jose: Poles apart but on the same mission

Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho have been in charge long enough to know that Saturday's  clash is more than just another game.

The intrinsic, deep-rooted rivalry between Britain's two most successful clubs is a lesson in hatred and history: we hate them, they hate us, rifts run deep and even the smallest of incidents are never forgotten. 

Yet the touchline battle will see a rivalry just as entertaining as anything that takes place on the pitch in front of the world.
The ebullient, warm and affable German takes on the prickly, purposeful and pragmatic Portuguese as two of the most charismatic bosses in the game go head-to-head.

Energetic and engaging, both men are leaders of clubs who share a storied rivalry and a tribal loathing. 
Polar opposite personalities they may be, but Messrs Klopp and Mourinho are united (pun intended) in a common cause: to bring back success to two giants of the English game who have seen others hit the front of the pecking order in recent years. 

United have started the season looking like the title contenders we hope to be and victory at Anfield would open up a ten-point gap on Klopp's side after seven games. 
That's a margin that looks insurmountable, even at this early stage, but the trip to Anfield presents unbeaten United with our first fixture of the season against heavyweight opponents.

City beat champions Chelsea on the own patch last time out and Jose's United are in need of a similar statement win here.
Defeat at Anfield would put our second season revival - after Mourinho's indifferent first campaign at the helm - under scrutiny.

Even during that transitional maiden campaign in charge, Jose led the team to three trophies.
Klopp, by contrast, has yet to win anything in his two years and comes into this clash under the first hint of pressure since he took over. 

Klopp and Mourinho will use different ways to get one over on each other on Saturday. 

Liverpool's manager is a lover of the high press: a breathless, all-action, counter-attacking "gegenpressing" style developed and fine tuned during his years at Dortmund.
Jose by contrast, is more conventional. 

He usually spends big on seasoned professionals and moulds a team on solid defensive organisation, prioritising clean sheets, points, ugly wins and trophies. 
He likes tall, quick, powerful players and employs a side full of specialists, with summer additions Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku prime examples of the classic Jose blueprint. 

For all their differences, Klopp and Mourinho are two successful, well-respected coaches who create strong team spirit and inspire loyalty and admiration. 

Win at Anfield and Jose's standing will be further enhanced, putting him and his opposite number even further apart and - for this season at least - on entirely different missions. 

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Herrera and Matic to get the nod at Anfield in key duo's absence

United go into our biggest game of the season without the bulk of our midfield after Marouane Fellaini suffered a knee injury on international duty. 

The rejuvenated Belgian is set for a "few weeks" out after he strained ligaments during Belgium's thrilling 4-3 win over Bosnia which sealed their place in Russia.

Pogba, who had started the season in sublime form, remains sidelined with the hamstring team he picked up during the Champions League win over Basel last month.

Pogba and Nemanja Matic proved a beautifully balanced pairing in the Reds swashbuckling start, and Fellaini then got his chance when the Frenchman was struck down by that injury.

It was testament to Fellaini's superb form - the best of his Old Trafford career to date - that Pogba was not missed and United continued their prolific, free-scoring run. 

I never thought I'd say that any Fellaini absence would serve as a huge blow, but the Belgian has been pivotal in our unbeaten start and looked to be a key man in both boxes at Anfield.

Liverpool have been by hit their own injury problems, with Adam Lallana not yet ready and last season's Player of the Year Sadio Mane out for six weeks with his own hamstring issues. 

Jose is a momentum manager - once he hits upon a winning formula and formation, he very rarely changes it, but he'll have no choice but to do just that on Saturday.

He'll try and keep opposite number Jurgen Klopp guessing, but it seems likely that Jose will revert to three at the back and go with the Basque - Balkan pairing of Ander Herrera and Matic in midfield.

Both excellent players in their own right, the duo are more than able deputies for the absent Fellaini and Pogba, and would walk straight in to the starting XI of any other Premier League side.
Yet, such is the embarrassment of riches at United and Jose's disposal that Herrera (Player of the Season last year don't forget) has found himself on the fringes.

If he does get the nod, it would be only his second league start of the campaign. 

He will be expected to be the more forward-thinking of the two, but will also need to drop back to help Matic deal with the threats of Philippe Coutinho and Mo Salah. 

Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young will probably start as wing-backs, with Phil Jones expected to be fit and line up alongside Eric Bailly as part of a possible three-man defence. 

Whatever happens, Jose will have a plan to strike victory on enemy territory and keep our unbeaten start going.

Reds of Manchester and Merseyside set for 199th competitive meeting

The international break is over and club football returns with a bang with the most eagerly awaited fixture on the English calendar. 

We travel to Anfield on Saturday lunchtime, as the Reds of Manchester and Merseyside - Britain's two most successful and widely-supported sides - lock horns competitively for the 199th time.

The head-to-head results are perhaps more one-sided that you would expect for such a bitter, storied and high-profile rivalry.
United have won 79, Liverpool 65 and the other 54 have ended all square - including both meetings last season (0-0 in the corresponding fixture, 1-1 at Old Trafford). 

Louis van Gaal, perhaps justifiably so, had his critics during his time in charge at United, but there can be denying that the Dutchman nearly always got it right when it came to the arch enemy. 

The unwanted Europa League KO aside, he won four out of four in the league against the Merseysiders  - from the 'Juanfield' match where Steven Gerrard got sent off 38 seconds after coming on, Anthony Martial's breathtaking debut goal to Wazza's Kop end smash and grab winner. 

That 2-0 defeat in March 2016 proved our only reverse in the eight meetings prior to this one, but form, stats and past records are tossed aside when it comes to this fixture. 

In-form United have swept aside all comers in a near perfect start to the season, and along with City have set the early pace at the top of the league.

Pep Guardiola's side lead the way, albeit only on goal difference, having thrashed this Liverpool side and beaten the champions on their own patch in a blistering start to the season.

Following that statement win of City's at Chelsea last time out, United and Jose now have their chance to put down one of our own.
As good and as impressive as our start to the season has been, we've yet to face any of last season's other top six sides and - on paper at least - Liverpool look to be the truest test of our credentials so far.

Jurgen Klopp's side are the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde team: their brilliant, flamboyant attacking play undermined by chaotic, harum-scarum defensive shortcomings.

Liverpool will be without their star man - last season's Player of the Year Sadio Mane is out for six weeks with a hamstring problem sustained on international duty with Senegal.

Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini will both miss out for United, which means that Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera are likely to come into the midfield. 

Whatever line ups Messrs Klopp and Mourinho select, the latest instalment of English football's fiercest feud is set to be another thriller. 

Sunday 1 October 2017

United set for testing October after international break

Having won six of our first seven league games, October looks set to be United's most demanding month of the season so far.

The team will play six matches in three different competitions in the space of 17 days and will go a long way to determine whether the Reds can last the course, both domestically and in Europe. 

The Premier League makes way for the latest round of international fixtures (yawn) but returns with a bang in a fortnight's time.

Jose's unbeaten Reds travel to Anfield for the most eagerly anticipated fixture on the calendar and one that looks to be United's most difficult challenge of the season so far.

The Reds of Manchester and Merseyside meet competitively for the 199th time on Saturday 14th October with a traditional lunch-time kick off.
Like United, Jurgen Klopp's side are blessed with a wonderful array of attacking talent, underlined by their continued inability to defend. 

That's followed four days later by our trip to Portugal to face a below-par Benfica on Champions League Matchday Three. 

Rui Vitoria's side have lost both of their encounters in the competition thus far, but they are the top seeds in the group and the trip to Lisbon is never one to be taken lightly. 

It's rare these days - particularly in the Premier League - to visit a ground that you've never played at before, but that's what awaits Jose and United on the 21st.

We travel across the Pennines to the John Smith's Stadium to take on David Wagner's newly promoted Huddersfield - the league's surprise package so far -  in another rare Saturday 3pm kick off.

The fixtures continue to come thick and fast with United in action again three days later, this time in the Carabao Cup.
It's likely to be a rotated Reds team in south Wales in our latest defence of that competition at Swansea City in the fourth round. 

The final league game of the month sees another of the Premier League's high flyers visit Old Trafford in the shape of Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham on the 28th (another 12.30 kick off).

Spurs - having finished second in each of the last two seasons - have struggled to adapt to their Wembley surroundings but boast a 100% record on the road. 

United will look to avoid a fright on Halloween as Benfica provide the final opposition of the month, and a win could seal qualification the Champions League knockouts with two games to spare.

Fantastic Fellaini leads the charge as free-scoring United win with ease

Romelu Lukaku may be taking all the plaudits for his red-hot start to life at United, but our other big Belgian has also received widespread praise.  Much-maligned midfielder Marouane Fellaini scored twice in one match for the club for the first time, and was voted United's man of the match against Palace.

His status as David Moyes marquee summer signing - coupled with the fact that he's considered  the antithesis of the United identikit - has seen Fellaini made a scapegoat in the turbulent post Ferguson years.  But the unmistakeable Belgian has been a key cog in Jose's rejuvenated Reds so far and continued his impressive scoring form with a goal in each half to notch his maiden brace for United. Fellaini now has four goals this season, more than last term's tally and level with his total across  the previous two campaigns. 

After Juan Mata's early opener, Fellaini's two goals - a volley and a trademark header - sandwiched Lukaku's late fourth. His other two goals this term have both come as a substitute, against Leicester in the league and Basel in our first Champions League match. 

It's all credit to Fellaini who has worked hard to revive a United career that hit its nadir last December against Tottenham. That was a match that saw him booed by sections of the Old Trafford crowd when he came on as a sub, having conceded a late penalty at Everton the previous week. But since then, he's not looked back and has shown consistency, courage and mental strength to become a key man for Jose.
That's despite him being strongly linked with a move away to Turkish side Galatasaray in the summer. 

Fellaini scored the decisive goal in the semi-finals of both the EFL Cup and Europa League and was hailed for his dominant performance in the final of the latter, as United overpowered Ajax to win 2-0.  The 29-year-old has responded well to the responsibility of filling in for the injured Paul Pogba - and it's testament to him that United's momentum has not been checked by the Frenchman's absence.

Fellaini has linked superbly with Nemanja Matic and has used his physical presence and aerial ability to control the midfield.  United boss Jose Mourinho was full of praise after the win against the Eagles, and said: 

"He is a great player, a great character and a fighter. I am really pleased that I helped him reach this level and to change the perception of the fans. I am very happy for him." 

Match report: United 4-0 Crystal Palace

United ruthlessly despatched Roy Hodgson's struggling Palace to condemn the Eagles to a seventh straight league loss without scoring.

The Reds have now scored four goals in a game six times and the result matched United's best-ever tally of 19 points after the opening seven Premier League matches - set in 1999 and 2011. 

By contrast, Palace have made the worst start ever by a team in the top four divisions of professional football. 

Hodgson, who replaced the sacked Frank de Boer last month, faces arguably the toughest challenge of his veteran managerial career to turn around their seemingly irreversible fortunes. 

The result saw the Reds - albeit temporarily - move three points clear at the top of the Premier League, although City leapfrogged back over us with their own impressive 1-0 win at champions Chelsea.

Juan Mata's first goal of the season set United on their way, before Marouane Fellaini scored twice and Romelu Lukaku added the fourth late on. 

The Belgian now has eleven goals in ten games and matched Andy Cole's record of seven in his first seven United league matches.

Phil Jones, Fellaini and Valencia all came back in, but any fears of a sluggish start following those midweek exertions were quickly banished. 

United moved ahead inside five minutes when the recalled Mata steered home from ten yards after excellent wing work from Marcus Rashford, 
David de Gea saved well from Bakary Sako and Yohan Cabaye fired wide from distance but, against the run of play, the Reds moved 2-0 ahead ten minutes before the break.

Ashley Young crossed for Fellaini who volleyed home from all of a yard at the back post.

Four minutes after the interval the Reds put the result beyond doubt - if it wasn't already - when Rashford's free-kick picked out Fellaini who headed in for his first brace for United.

Young tried his luck with a 20 yarder, while at the other end Sako miscued a header and then blazed over the bar as Palace searched for their elusive goal.

Lukaku dragged his shot uncharacteristically wide, but the big striker was not to be denied and he completed the rout moments later.
He matched Cole's mark when substitute Anthony Martial made his mark again as he pulled the ball back and Lukaku tapped in from close range. 

United go into the two-week international break level on points with City and just one goal worse off, with the trip to Anfield looming large as our toughest test of the season so far. 

Overall team performance: 8/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Marouane Fellaini