Monday 30 April 2018

Match report: United 2-1 Arsenal

Arsene Wenger's final visit to Old Trafford ended in defeat through a classic 'Fergie Time' goal from substitute Marouane Fellaini. Wenger - stepping down at the end of the season - was presented with a silver trophy before kick - off by Messrs Mourinho and Ferguson, in recognition of his 22 years of unstinting service with rivalries put aside and old feuds forgotten. With the priority Thursday's Europa League semi final second leg with Atletico, he named a much - changed Gunners side but it was one that acquitted themselves well.

Fellaini's header in the first minute of stoppage time, though, condemned the visitors to a sixth successive away league loss, and moved United five points clear of Liverpool (with a tie in hand), in the battle for second spot. Arsenal - without a single point away from home in 2018 - saw their already very slim hopes of a top four finish mathematically ended by this result.
 Paul Pogba had given the Reds an early advantage, cancelled out by Henrikh Mkhitaryan on his first return to Old Trafford with his new club. But Fellaini, with his Old Trafford future still yet to resolved, popped up with the winner to poop Wenger's farewell party and saw Jose get one over on his old foe one last time.
Pogba put United ahead in the 16th minute, as he started and finished a flowing move. The Frenchman stroked the ball to Romelu Lukaku, whose cross was met by ex-Arsenal man Alexis Sanchez. His hopes of a dream goal against his former employers were dashed as his deflected header came off a post, but fell kindly for Pogba who snaffled up the rebound.

Ashley Young's cross - shot rattled the crossbar shortly before the interval, before United suffered a blow when Romelu Lukaku limped off with a foot injury on 50 minutes with the FA Cup final on the horizon. Almost immediately, the youthful Arsenal side were level, inevitably through Mikki, who swept home beyond David de Gea having been played in by Granit Xhaka. The Armenian did not celebrate.

Another former United man, Danny Welbeck, went close from distance soon afterwards, and Chris Smalling - on a fine recent run of form in front of goal - narrowly failed to connect with Anthony Martial's probing pass at the other end. Old Trafford erupted three minutes from time, only to be doused when Rashford was flagged offside after he bundled home off a post from Fellaini's knock down.

That looked to be the final chance of a low - key encounter, but the dissapointment was short - lived as the Reds, as they have done so often this season, again found a way to win it. A similar move down the left reaped the rewards as Young's teasing cross was met by the burly Belgian who diverted his header beyond the helpless David Ospina from five yards.

Although Champions League qualification for next season has long since looked certain for United, this result rubber - stamped it. The Reds have a Friday night trip to Brighton to look forward to, with three league games left before the small matter of that cup final vs Chelsea on the 19th.

Overall team performance: 7/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Ashley Young. A constant menace with his surging runs and dangerous supply of bullets.

Friday 27 April 2018

Match preview: United v Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will lead out our old rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford for the last time in United's penultimate home tie of the campaign. Despite the subplot of the Frenchman finally stepping down after 22 years in the job, this is a contest that has a classic end of season feel about it with neither side having much to play for.

The visitors find themselves in a similar situation as we did at the same stage last season, with this tie sandwiched between their Europa League double header with Atletico Madrid, with the contest finely poised at 1-1 after the first leg. Red minds were firmly on that competition when we travelled to the Emirates last May, and Arsenal ran out comfortable winners. With Arsenal in sixth place in the Premier League and Burnley snapping at their heels, Europe's second - tier tournament has taken on huge significance as the north London side look to send their legendary and long - serving manager out on a high. In his 60th - and probably final game against United as a manager - Wenger is likely to shuffle his pack for this one with the return in the Spanish capital looming large on Thursday.
That competition remains their only realistic route back into Europe's elite for next season. Only a win here, which would be the first at OT since 2006, would give the Gunners the slightest mathematical chance of returning to the coveted top four position.

United, meanwhile sit safely in second - three points above Liverpool with a game in hand - and with an FA Cup final to look forward to on 19 May. Both clubs have bigger fish to fry before the season is out with both focused on season - defining cup ties. Sunday's game is likely to be a special one for Alexis Sanchez, however, as he faces his former side for the first time since joining us in January. Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved the other way as part of that deal but is set to miss out on with a knee injury. Mohamed Elneny (ankle) is also doubtful, but Santi Cazorla - who has not played for over two years - was seen running on the pitch at the Emirates before that draw with Atletico. United boss Jose Mourinho has a fully fit squad to pick from, with the exception of injured keeper Sergio Romero. Antonio Valencia is expected to feature having been forced off with a knock against Spurs.

On Arsenal and opposite number Wenger, Jose said "I always feel that our biggest rivals are also our biggest friends, everyone knows of the rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal for a decade. It was between Sir Alex and Mr Wenger, these great teams they fight shoulder to shoulder and I think they made Manchester United better, there is respect there now and I hope they have that feeling. For us, this season is better than last season, we finished sixth, this season I believe and I hope that we can finish second and win the FA Cup too. We have more points, more goals, less goals conceded, so overall there has been a clear evolution in the team and next season we look to do better again."

Form guide: United W W W L W W Arsenal W W D L W D
Match odds: United 4/9 Draw 15/4 Arsenal 7/1
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Monday 23 April 2018

Why Jose and United deserve more credit than we're getting

By this club's illustrious high standards, it may not be considered as 'great' season, but it's certainly not as bad as has been made out. United deserve more credit than we're getting. Since the turn of the year, the Reds have put together a run reminiscent of some of our swashbuckling sides of old. We've toppled Jurgen Klopp's "heavy metal" Liverpool and seen off a supposedly superior Tottenham side to set up another major cup final. That's before you even factor in the stirring, come from behind wins over the deposed champions Chelsea and their recently crowned counterparts Manchester City - the latter on their own turf after a deficit of 0-2. You can't help but feel that any other team would have earned more lavish praise from the media, pundits and other fans for those impressive heavyweight scalps. That's a luxury often afforded to Messrs Klopp and Pochettino, but Jose has outmanouevred them both and we sit above both of those teams in the table.Yet this has been met with virtually no acknowledgement and barely even an approving nod in our direction.

More pertinently, Mourinho has beaten Pochettino twice this season, including of course Saturday's FA Cup semi final defeat - the north London club's eighth successive loss at the last four stage, to ensure they will end the season without a trophy again. In contrast, Jose will lead United into our third major cup final in two seasons, and the fourth in three years since the retirement of Sir Alex. Not a bad recent record for a team we're told are not the force of old, not bad at all for a team supposedly in decline. Critics have said Jose is outdated, out of touch and past his best - yet he's got the better of all his major rivals who had purportedly left him behind.

Earlier in the campaign, the Reds welded together a sequence of six clean sheets in seven games, but it was a run that was treated with contempt by many. If it was any other team with any other manager, there would have been a vastly different reaction. I am not saying for a minute that United shouldn't be immune to negativity, football doesn't work like that and nor should it, but it seems as though many naysayers have swung too far the other way in their unjustified criticism of the team. There have been some disappointing results, but no other club suffers such a deep rooted over analysis and a blowing out of all proportion following a defeat - the recent West Brom result a case in point. Liverpool's draw with the Baggies at the weekend was glossed over and is already forgotten about, but the inquest went on for days and weeks when the bottom side came to Old Trafford and won.
The chances are, we'll finish as runners up this season - with the possible and not insigificant fillip of an FA Cup thrown in for good measure. Yet this will only be dressed up as a failure by many.

Spurs, who remember have not won a trophy since 2008, were showered with nothing but praise for a second placed finish last season and hailed as the best thing since sliced bread, but despite our clean upward trajectory, there's a determination to discredit United. It could because of our name, it could be because Jose is not as well liked as some of the other managers, but we've 100% been harshly treated. It's time the team and the boss get the credit and recognition they deserve.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Jose's United showing the fight and resolve of old

The great 2018 comeback kings have only gone and done it again.

Many may continue to question Jose Mourinho, but there can be no doubting that the boss is building something special at Old Trafford. Yes it's true that the title has evaded us again this season, and it's also true that this side may lack the panache of old - but what cannot be doubted is the character, courage, fighting spirit and never-say-die- attitude that Jose has unrelentingly instilled into his United identikit. Forget free-flowing, all out attacking play, the precious commodity of never knowing when you're beaten and finding a way to win from even the most precarious of positions is what I consider to be the true charateristic of the so called "United Way" - if there is even such a thing. Surely the latter is what you want from your team far more than the former. Just ask Tottenham. There is a steely grit and guile about us that was missing for much of last term, and such resolve has become ingrained in this team.

In a manner befitting of some of Sir Alex's vintage teams, this side just won't lie down and refuse to be beaten by anyone, no matter their might. Back in February, the Reds were behind against Chelsea but turned the tie on its head to win it. At Crystal Palace eight days later, there was an even greater recovery from a 0-2 deficit. Then Manchester City went 2-0 up in the derby but even that was not enough to silence United's spirit. Again on Saturday at Wembley, despited being pegged back by Spurs early opening gambit, the Reds refused to buckle and completed another brilliant climb-off-the-canvas comeback, our fourth since the turn of the year. We needed to call on all those reserves to turn this one around in the face of a fierce early onslaught from Mauricio Pochettino's side.
 Mourinho - now on course for a third major trophy in two seasons at United - prides himself, just like Sir Alex did, on his ability to inject the mental strength and resolve winners require into his players. We're showing that week in week out now as Jose's rebuilding job continues to gather impressive and ominous momentum.
 Many thought that our club's once famed ability to snatch the unlikeliest of victories from the very jaws of defeat had left us forever and ridden off into the sunset with Sir Alex in 2013. Those doubts were only bolstered when the nature of such victories became conspicious by their absence during Jose's first season - the team having come from behind to win only twice during his debut campaign at the helm, and a paltry once in the league.  This season, however - a campaign of progress - there's an unbreakable spirit once more coursing through the veins of this great club. The players have been brilliant, but Jose has to take a huge chunk of credit for instilling a newly found winning mentality - and also the influence of recently appointed coach Michael Carrick has possibly helped our cause. It's a trend that's sure to stand us in good stead for the future. The team are proving those critics wrong and long may it continue. COYR!

Match report: United 2-1 Tottenham

United completed another come-from-behind victory to condemn Spurs to an eighth successive FA Cup semi final defeat and deservedly set up our own record - equalling 20th final. Dele Alli put Mauricio Pochettino's side ahead early on but - unlike our last visit to Wembley in January - the Reds responded through Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera, who fired home the winner shortly after the hour mark to send the team into our third major showpiece in two seasons. United will face Chelsea or Southampton, who meet on Sunday, back at the national stadium on 19th May.

Ten of the side who started that 0-2 horror show were picked again here, and there was a sense of unfolding deja vu as Spurs started strongly and forced a flurry of early corners. Having gone behind after eleven seconds last time, United had time for a chance of their own this time when Romelu Lukaku headed over the bar from a Jesse Lingard cross. The Reds were made to rue that miss when Tottenham drew first blood again, through Alli, as Christian Eriksen this time turned provider. The talented Dane burst clear down the left and swung in a cross to pick out the onrushing Alli, who slid in and poked home beyond David de Gea. Spurs continued to press and went close twice in quick succession, through Eriksen's drive from distance and then Heung - min Son, who fired wide on the turn.

With seven goals at Wembley for club and country, there is something about the place that brings out the best in Alexis, and he was at it again on 24 minutes.Booed with every touch by the Tottenham faithful because of his Arsenal connection, Sanchez silenced their support as he met Paul Pogba's inviting cross with an athletic header which he planted beyond goalkeeper Michel Vorm for United's leveller against the run of play.
With both sides needing this Cup as silverware salvation, many had predicted a typically tight and tactical battle, but both sides continued to trade chances and Spurs almost moved ahead again as Eric Dier's deflected drive from distance wrong-footed DDG and rebounded to safety off a post.

Then, in the 62nd minute, United and Herrera played the decisive hand. Alexis was involved again but this time there was possibly an element of fortune about the build - up as his cut-back ran beyond both Lukaku and Lingard to drop invitingly for the onrushing Herrera, who steered home a low effort from 20 yards.

Spurs were ragged and reeling, and the 'home' side were unable to find anything by way of response as United almost put the result beyond doubt through Alexis, who headed narrowly wide. Pochettino's side have won praise for their effervescent energy and guile, but a lack of that killer edge that United have in abundance remains their Achilles heel. So back we go to Wembley then with the prospect of a 13th FA Cup win at stake. Roll on 19 May.

Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez

Friday 20 April 2018

Arsene Wenger: Our tribute to a managerial great

It's the end of an era, not just for our, ahem, friends from the red half of north London, but also for the Premier League and English football as a whole. Arsene Wenger - Le Proffeseur - Arsenal's iconic figurehead for more than two decades, is finally hanging up his jacket at the end of the season. You may be wondering why we, a Manchester United blog, have broken from tradition and written a piece on one of our rivals - especially a rival that were our most hated adversary in the late 90s and early 00s. I may be a United fan first and foremost, but I'm also a lover of the sport of football itself and it's only right that Wenger - a pioneering visionary who changed the face of the English game - gets the recognition he richly deserves from friend and foe alike.
The fact is, he's second to only our very own Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to the question of the greatest manager to grace the Premier League era. Before City and Chelsea rode into the limelight with their mega - rich sugar daddies, Arsenal and United were the dominant forces in the country, often inextricably intertwined in a long and gruelling struggle for supremacy. Arsenal at their peak made United better, and vice - versa.

Wenger's Arsenal sides proved the most challenging and formidable obstacle to SAF's Old Trafford dynasty - a dynasty that Wenger himself derailed, albeit briefly, with the Invincible season in 2003-04. The rivalry was strong and deep - rooted, a compelling clash of the titans fuelled by two men who rarely saw eye to eye - two heavyweight managerial maestros whose utmost priority was on getting the better of each other. With all this is mind, was it any surprise that the bitter feuding - a fierce hatred encapsulated between captain Keano and opposite number Patrick Vieira - often spilled over into what quite literally became an hyper - aggressive war of attrition. The Battle of Old Trafford, preceded by that infamous tie when Martin Keown's unprovoked attack on Ruud van Nistelrooy sparked a mass melee, outrage and record fines - I miss those days. It's certainly now a duopoly that has dissipated over time - to the point where there's almost respect between the two. Liverpool and City may still be our two biggest games of the season, but they just don't make them like that any more. It was a gripping rivalry that was the best in the Premier League and one that will never be bettered.
At their peak, Wenger's Arsenal were always the opponents you feared the most. It look us a long while to live down Sylvan Wiltord's winner at the Stretford End that sealed the title for them in 2002. That triumph formed part of the Gunners "double double" - winning the league and FA Cup at our expense - in 1998 and then again four years later. Despite the fact European glory eluded the Frenchman, he put together some of the finest teams the Premier League has seen - superb, swashbuckling sides that gave the best United had to offer a run for their money - like Fergie, teams built on passion, skill and unstinting determination. He created a legacy to last a lifetime and I wish him nothing but the best for the future (apart from when we play them next Sunday). 

Oh, and Monsieur Wenger, we owe you a big thank you... for selling RvP to us and bringing title number 20 to Old Trafford back in 2013. Oh, and for THAT 8-2, and for when we beat you 2-0 in the cup with seven defenders on the team - sheet. Those were the days.. Au revoir, Arsene!

United and Spurs to take centre stage in FA Cup semi

In a semi final played against a backdrop of events elsewhere in north London, the Reds 51st tie at the national stadium has all the hallmarks of our biggest and most important of the season so far.
With City confirmed as Premier League champions, English football's oldest, most famous and most prestigious competition represents United's last remaining chance of a trophy - a record-equalling 13th success in this tournament would represent a third cup win in two seasons, coupled with a second placed league finish this time around for Jose's improving but inconsistent Reds. It would also throw down a marker ahead of next season.
With a top four place wrapped up and that runners up spot all but made safe, the FA Cup is now United's priority. Jose has only ever won this trophy once in his career - at the expense of us during his first spell at Chelsea in 2007 - and has made no secret of his desire to get his hands on it again.This will be the Reds first FA Cup semi final under Jose, but his third visit to Wembley as our boss, following last season's Community Shield and EFL Cup victories.

Lying in wait at their temporary home - even though this is a neutral fixture -  are Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham team in their second successive last four tie, having lost 4-2 to eventual league champions and FA Cup runners up Chelsea in the corresponding stage last year. Spurs have risen from the shadows of their more illustrious neighbours Arsenal to become the dominant force in north London, but are yet to win a trophy under the tutelage of the likeable Argentine and have struggled to shake off the tag as the league's biggest 'bottlers'. Their own upward trajectory has been marked, but there's no silverware to show for it with Spurs bidding for a first major trophy since the 2008 League Cup.

For all the progress that has been this season in our highest league finish since 2013 - and, despite what the ABU agenda mongers will tell you, its tangible improvement -  any campaign without a trophy has to be considered one of huge dissapointment. For Spurs, winning the FA Cup would be massive, but for us, many would view it as merely a minor consolation prize. I don't buy that - whilst it may be second to the league title, such is the ultra competitive world of the modern English game that any trophy is one worth winning.

 The prize on offer is the same for both United and Tottenham, but ambitions, expectations and aspirations between the two are very different. Despite the fact we haven't challenged for either in years, many still expect us to bring back the Premier League and Champions League every season.

In terms of the tactics, expect this to pan out completely at odds with what happened the last time we played Spurs at Wembley - a masterpiece in how NOT to do so when Christian Eriksen scored the second fastest Premier League goal ever. Mourinho won't want an open encounter, so he will keep things tight and try to play on the counter attack. Pogba was deployed in a deep defensive position and United were brutally exposed when he wandered out wide. It's likely that - if he plays - he'll be given a freer role with Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera sitting behind him. It will be fascinating to see if Mourinho's big - game nous will have the decisive hand.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Match report: Bournemouth 0-2 United

United's second string side returned to winning ways and strengthened our grip on the runners up place in the league table with a solid win on the south coast. Having suffered a shock defeat to bottom placed West Brom at the weekend, Jose's rotated Reds gave a strong reaction to move four points ahead of Liverpool with four games to go through Chris Smalling's third successive away goal and an excellent lob from substitute Romelu Lukaku.

With Saturday's FA Cup semi - final with Spurs at Wembley on the horizon, there were seven changes to the team and the Reds responded accordingly, with several fringe players given the chance to play their way into the manager's thinking for that tie.
Steve Cook's intervention prevented an early third minute opener for Anthony Martial, but Eddie Howe's side then went close themselves at the other end through Jordon Ibe, who flashed his shot wide after good link up between Charlie Daniels and Callum Wilson.
Phil Jones cleared well under pressure from Ryan Fraser, but United then took the lead shortly before the half hour mark with a classic counter attacking goal. At the culmination of a slick four-man move, Jesse Lingard collected the ball from Ander Herrera and drove into the box, where he picked out Smalling for his third goal of 2018.

The recalled Martial was flagged offside when clean through, and David De Gea - named in the PFA Team of the Year for the fifth successive season - saved superbly from the impressive Wilson on 42 minutes as the Cherries started to up the ante. Rashford fired narrowly off target on the angle having been found by Martial, and Bournemouth then had half - hearted penalty appeals waved away when Wilson went down in a coming together with Jones in what looked no more than a 50/50. The Reds then had a spot-kick shout of their own when Lys Mousset scythed down Paul Pogba but referee Mr Scott deemed the foul to have occured outside the area.

No doubt aware of Bournemouth's burgeoning reputation as kings of the comeback, Jose shuffled his pack and introduced Lukaku shortly after the hour. It took only seven minutes for the big Belgian to make his mark, as another blistering counter attack saw Paul Pogba pick out Lukaku, and he placed an unerring one - on - one finish beyond the advancing Asmir Begovic.

The south coast side, set for a fourth consecutive top flight season, battled gamely but were unable to find their famed powers of recovery, as United picked up the points and completed a first ever league double over Bournemouth in the process.

Overall team performance: Much improved - 8/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Much like the team, Paul Pogba enjoyed a much better day at the office

Monday 16 April 2018

United's inconsistency has seen title elude us again

It would be churlish to not credit Manchester City for a campaign which has seen them be crowned fully deserved champions as Pep Guardiola's side laid down a blistering benchmark that - until last week - showed no signs of slowing down. From our perspective, it's been a campaign that started superbly with a run of form akin to our heyday as 4-0 win followed 4-0 win. It's not over yet of course, with five league games left and the prospect of an FA Cup final at Wembley awaits, should we clear the not insignificant hurdle of Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday's semi - final. Second place and a 13th FA Cup win would represent a marked improvement but the biggest prize of all - the one we want above all others - namely the league title, has eluded us once more for a fifth successive season. City have been so far ahead of not only us but everyone else that the challenge for the chasing pack next season is to close the gap between them and the rest. It's difficult to imagine Guardiola's side being this dominant again but they will remain the team to beat. Our defeat at the weekend officially confirmed them as champions, but in truth its been a formality since Christmas.

Consistency is key to any title-winning team, and for all their swashbucking brilliance that's a precious commodity that Guardiola's team have had in abundance. We may have picked up the scalps of all the league's heavyweights and beaten each of the other 19 teams for the first time since 2011, but we've dropped points in ties we shouldn't have done and that's what has proved costly. You can lose games in this league but inconsistency won't win you the title and neither will defeats to Huddersfield, Newcastle and WBA or draws to Burnley and Southampton. It's the failure to win these fixtures that have plagued our season and cast a frustrating shadow over a campaign in which there has been tangible progress. The fact we beat City and then lost to WBA one week later was a microcosm of our erratic campaign. 
The dye was cast as early as October in a run of results that would encapsulate our season. It was a topsy turvy month which started with the creditable - if infamous - draw at Anfield and ended with Anthony Martial's late winner that sunk high-flying Spurs at OT. In between those two high profile fixtures however came the unpalatable setback of a 2-1 defeat to David Wagner's side at the John Smith's Stadium. Fast forward five months and it's deja vu - the brilliant wins over Chelsea, Liverpool and Palace offset by the reverse at SJP and a two-legged horror show against Sevilla. It's all the more frustrating because we've seen what this side is capable of - on our day we have the firepower, talent and technical ability to give Europe's elite a run for their money. It's frustrating because 'our day' doesn't seem to come around often enough. I'm not sure you can coach consistency in a team or an individual player, so it begs the question whether this is an issue of mentality or attitude... I just can't put my finger on it.

Pogba the frustrating epitome of our inconsistency

Can anyone, please, explain how you can go from beating the best team in the country on their own patch from 0-2 down, to then losing at home to the worst team in the league - a side on the very precipice of the relegation trapdoor - the very next match. Welcome to life as a Manchester United fan. In a football week of comebacks, shocks, surprises and drama, West Bromwich Albion sprung another major upset with their third Old Trafford victory in five seasons thanks to a Jay Rodriguez header. After the feast came the famine, a sense of after the Lord Mayor's show and having denied City the title on derby day, they were gifted it here in underwhelming and anticlimatic fashion. In the past seven days, all logic, sense and rationale seems to have gone out the window.

I'd be surprised if this was a new feeling, but indeed it isn't - more a case of an infuriatingly frustrating sense of deja vu. The exact same thing happened a little over a month ago. We beat Liverpool in the league before an ignominous Champions League KO at the hands of an eminently beatable Sevilla side three days later. It would not surprise me in the slightest if we lose to Bournemouth in midweek but then go out and turn over Tottenham in the semi final on Saturday.. indeed that would be our season in a nutshell. Our record against the league's heavweights has been almost exlempary having beaten all of the top six, and we've shown that we can beat anyone on our day, but defeats to Huddersfield, Newcastle and now WBA - with an EFL exit to second tier Bristol City thrown in to the mix - have undermined those impressive big name scalps.
There's no doubting that progress has been made - if it hadn't then how have we gone from sixth to second, and the potential this sie possesses in frightening, but an infuriating lack of consistency continues to plague us. Why is anyone's guess - I can't put my finger on it. The line-up that Jose went with should have been good enough to get the job done, bearing in mind it was - bar Mata and Lindelof - the same one that performed so well in the derby. It's not as if Jose tells them to play superb one week and complete garbage the next - are we perhaps instead looking at a mentality and attitude problem. That would certainly help to explain why we have found life more difficult against the league's lesser lights..
The epitome of our erratic season sits with £89m Paul Pogba. The second half against Manchester City was Pogba at his brilliant and bullying best, driving United on, dictating the play, causing havoc with his passing and driving runs, an immense lung - busting performance, arguably his best for us so far - capped with a superb brace. He looked a world beater. In stark contrast against WBA, a game made for Pogba to dominate and boss, he was hooked after an hour having been stymied and stifled by Jake Livermore. Jake. Livermore!
Granted he had been booked, and that surely played a part in his premature departure, but there seem more to it than that - it seemed as if Jose did not trust him to be the man to lead an ultimately futile turnaround.  Pogba's inconsistency encapsulated United as a collective. He, like his team-mates, lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous. It's an all too familiar feeling.

Match report: United 0-1 West Brom

United again proved the epitome of inconsistent as a solitary goal from Jay Rodriguez saw the Baggies emerge victorious from Old Trafford for the third time in five seasons.The Reds lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous as doomed bottom club Albion - under the temporary tutelage of caretaker boss Darren Moore - prolonged their relegation and handed the title to City in the process.

After the high octane drama of a magnificent climb off the canvas victory in the derby last time out, United were overwhelming favourites for a far more routine win against a West Brom side who will be a Championship side next season. But the team never got going and struggled for fluidity throughout as the visitors won for only the fourth time all season. The Reds almost exclusively dominated possession and territory, but were unable to make this superiority count in key areas and paid the price as the Baggies stole a shock smash and grab win.

David de Gea saved well from Jake Livermore before United had a strong shout for a penalty waved away by Paul Tierney when Ander Herrera went down under a challenge from Craig Dawson. Former Red Ben Foster was then called into action twice in as many minutes as United finally began to threaten. He first denied Romelu Lukaku in an orthodox manner with his face, before he blocked well with his leg from Alexis Sanchez on the rebound. United's threat disappointingly petered out and allowed Albion to recover.

United boss Jose Mourinho was clearly frustrated by the team's first half showing and made a change at the interval as Herrera was replaced by Jesse Lingard. It was a switch that almost paid dividends within minutes as the lively Lingard collected the ball and drove forward, only to see his shot blocked by Ahmed Hegazi from close range. Foster tipped a Lukaku header to safety with a superb reflex save and Nemanja Matic went close from distance, but - with Marcus Rashford brought on in a final throw of the dice - WBA stunned Old Trafford and took a shock lead on 73 minutes.

Dawson and Matic contested a high ball from a Chris Brunt corner, and the Serb could only inadvartently flick the ball back into the six yard box into the path of Rodriguez, who stooped to nod in from five yards. Come from behind victories have proved a common occurence for United of late, but this time there was to be no late twist in the tale as the Baggies held on for a first win since January. It will come too late to save them, but nevertheless it was another win at OT and they are quickly becoming our 'bogey' side.

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Romelu Lukaku 

Saturday 14 April 2018

Match preview: United v West Bromwich Albion

Darren Moore's struggling WBA side make the trip to Old Trafford for a tie with all the hallmarks of a typical end of season look about it. United have all but secured Champions League football for next season and need two more wins to seal the runners - up spot. The two sides are in vastly contrasting form, with the Reds on a superb run of five successive league wins, off the back of our incredible and dramatic derby day delight last time out. This tie marks the start of an important week for the team with three matches in seven days, culminating in the FA Cup semi final with Spurs at Wembley.
 In contrast, basement boys Baggies have endured a torrid and tumultous season, with Moore their third manager of a campaign that has seen them pick up only three league wins, along with the departures of Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew and a host of off-field problems. The return fixture shortly before Christmas ended 2-1 to us with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard.

The visitors draw with Swansea last weekend stopped a  terrible slump of eight consecutive defeats - a club record - but, having long since been consigned to their fate, relegation to the Championship would finally be confirmed with another loss at Old Trafford. They come into this one rock - bottom of the table and sit twelve points adrift of safety with five games to go. Moore was placed in caretaker charge for the remainder of the campaign after Pardew left following only one win in 19 games at the Hawthorns.
Nacer Chadli, Sam Field and Daniel Sturridge could be welcomed back into the West Brom fold but their captain and former Red Jonny Evans is a doubt with a knee injury. United have a fully fit squad at our disposal. Ander Herrera marked his return from injury in last weekend's stunning derby win, while Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind are also available again. Back up keeper Sergio Romero remains sidelined.

Despite Albion's lowly position at the foot of the Premier League, United boss Jose is expecting a tough assignment against Moore's men. He said: "I think it will be a big challenge because they know in football that anything is possible. So they will fight with everything until mathematically it is possible. Every match that is played, if they don't get points, then they are closer of course to relegation and they know that, but I think they still believe that in this moment it's possible. They have quality, experience and many years of stability so I am surprised at their position but from our case, we come from a big result trying to make the players understand that it's not enough to deserve to finish second, we need six or seven points so in this moment that is our ambition."

Form guide: United W W L W W W West Brom L L L L L D
Match odds: United 4/1 Draw 25/4 West Brom 31/2
Referee: Wigan official Paul Tierney takes charge of his first ever Old Trafford tie

Monday 9 April 2018

Jose's United on course for best post Sir-Alex season

United's dramatic, never-to-be-forgotten derby win turned the tables on City, ruined their big day and cemented the Reds status as best of the rest. Second may not be what we set out for, but there's no disgrace in finishing there, considering how dominantly impressive the champions elect have been. It would represent our highest Premier League position since the 2013 retirement of Sir Alex, under whom United never finished lower than third. In the four seasons since, we've wound up in seventh, fourth, fifth and sixth under three different bosses - alien territory for a club of our size and stature. Alien territory for a club accustomed to fighting all the way at the upper echelons of English football's elite. The league title has remained frustratingly out of reach in Jose's second campaign at the helm, but there can be no debating that the team's improvement has been marked.
United currently sit second on 71 points, four clear of closest challengers Liverpool with a game in hand. Having already surpassed last season's tally of 69, should we win our last six ties we'd end up with 89 points, enough to sit top of the pile in any other season. Indeed, that was our haul the last time we lited the trophy in Sir Alex's final 2012-13 farewell. Putting that in context, 89 points would crown you as champions for 21 of the 25 Premier League seasons and each of the last ten.
It's just our luck that City look set to become the first team to break the 100-point barrier and smash several other existing top flights records on their way to doing so. This term also sees a new high in terms of wins and goals scored too, coupled with the beating of each of the top six sides in a single season for the first time in the post-Ferguson era. We've largely boasted a miserly defence in 2017-18, with only 25 conceded, but that column last time out stood at 29 from the entire 38-game programme - our best since the 2011/12 season - so the side will have to go some during the run-in this time to eclipse that statistic. 

 The Reds stuttered and drew their way to a disappointing sixth last term despite only losing five games - the same number as this season. The difference though, lies with the 15 draws and only 18 wins. We picked up 20 wins from our 38 league games in 2014/15 - Louis van Gaal's first in charge - but have surpassed that with plenty to spare this time, with 22 victories to our name with a month of the season still to go, scoring 63 goals in the process - one short so far of our previous high, the 64 in the David Moyes campaign. At the corresponding stage last season after 32 games ,we were fifth in the table with 17 wins and 63 points. Whichever way you want to look at it - and there are plenty of doom-mongering naysayers, this has been a campaign of huge progress. Our win over City also saw us hit heights not reached since two years before SAF called it a day. It marked the first time we've beaten every other Premier League opponent at least once in a single season since the 2010-11 title-winning term. Yet more evidence of this side's upward trajectory. We may have to settle for second this time, but than in itself is an achievement, and it sends out a message ahead of 2018-19 that we're a team on a mission to go one better.

Sunday 8 April 2018

176th derby will go down in the annals as the greatest ever

Football eh, bloody hell. An immortal quote by the most successful manager in United's history and an equally apt description of the 176th Manchester derby - a rip-roaring contest that will go down in the annals as surely the greatest of all time. Michael Owen's last gasp winner in the dying embers of City's visit to OT in 2009 will always be fondly remembered and rightly so, but what happened in the derby on the 7th April 2018 will be immortalised as one of the best and most remarkable results in the history of this great club. It's a derby that will go down in United folklore as the most titanic of all derbies and one that we will talk about forever.

Where to even begin after yesterday? I'm still in shock at the incredible scenes that unfolded in front of my disbelieving eyes in the second half at the Etihad. It was one of the most astonishing, pinch-yourself, remarkable, unbelievable chain of events in a football match that I have ever witnessed. A half in which our club - a club that believe in making the impossible possible - did just that as we rose from the depths of despair that City's slickers had plunged us into after a first half in which they had left us not only beaten but battered, bruised and blasted to pieces. From embarrasment to euphoria in 45 minutes - 45 minutes in which the team showed exactly why we love them so much. It was a complete reversal of fortunes and emotions. 2-0 down against a side that many have touted as the best the land has ever seen - we were dead and buried and the unwanted guests at a title party that was only just beginning. If anyone asks what's so special about this crazy game we call football, just show them this.

This team have had their critics this season - sometimes justifiably so - but they deserve immense credit for turning the tables and winning a tie that had looked out of reach. No one - not even the most ardent of Reds -  gave us a sniff of a chance at half-time, but the team responded absolutely magnificently and set about their task in the manner of the never-say-die sides in the halycon days under Sir Alex.  First came the slumber, then the stirring of hope, and then the siege, an insatiable and irrepressible Red tide that even this City side were unable to resist as United swarmed forward like men possessed. To a man, every single one of those players gave every last drop for the shirt, in an immense and lung busting 45-minute performance of grit, courage, spirit, passion, character and unstinting determination. That's all you can ask for in a derby, and boy how we delivered. It was a sensational second half showing that the watching Sir Alex would have been proud of.
I'd love to know what Jose said at half-time, but whatever it was must have been Herculean and the team-talk of his career. This feels more than just a derby victory, this was a statement that - however good City may think they are - United will always overshadow them as the proverbial annoying big brother. The potential in this young United side is frightening and we've thrown down a marker that we're coming for them next season. On this evidence, it's a tantalising proposition. Anyone who thinks United are a spent force, think again. It's true there may still be flaws in this team, but there can no doubting the team spirit, desire and never give up attitude this group possess in abundance.

Of course, that does not disguise the fact that there's a gaping chasm between City and the rest, with the mere delaying of an inevitably for Pep Guardiola and his side. But on what was supposed to be their coronation day, the celebrations in Manchester were only for those of a Red persuasion.

Manchester is Red! Get innnn!

Chaotic and logic defying: How United pooped City's title party

Punch-drunk, battered and outclassed, United were reeling and on the ropes with a jubilant Etihad rocking to the beat of a two-goal City lead that looked unassailable. The stadium stood to applaud their champions-elect with their coronation countdown a mere 45 minutes away.

The epitome of our struggles was £89m man Paul Pogba - a player whose fractured relationship with Jose had again come under the microscope in the wake of opposite number Pep Guardiola's sensational claim that he was offered the player in January. The leggy, mercurial Frenchman did not look like a player in the thoughts of Guardiola, in a first half in which United were carved open at will.

 City went into this derby with a 16-point lead so their triumph is a formality, but they and their fans wanted it now, a show of power and glory to run our noses in it and to never let us live down the fact that they won the league on derby day. It seemed nothing could deny City their wish as they led 2-0 with goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan and even the most ardent United fan could not have predicted what was to follow. No one could have foreseen the dramatic reversal of fortunes, an unlikely turn of events that saw City's dreams broken into tatters at their feet as Jose's United revelled in their role of gatecrashing party poopers. 

And yet for all their glittering brilliance, a fraility has suddenly appeared in a City side that appeared to have none. It was in evidence in Liverpool's 19-minute blitz in the Champions League in midweek, and a weakness which was exploited brutally and clincally once more by a United side inspired by the efforts of the revitalised Pogba and magnificent Alexis Sanchez.

Where United's first half horror show was in keeping with the performance of Pogba, so the second co-incided with the Frenchman's best 45 in Red. As United improbably and inexorably climbed off the canvas, Pogba was at the heart of a turnaround that was in keeping with some of the greatest in the history of this great club. His header created a feeling of mild anxiety, and the equaliser two minutes later one of panic, disbelief and desperation. Sanchez, who by his own admission has struggled to adapt since his signing in January, was simply immense and belatedly came to the party - the Chilean created two of the goals and was at the heart of everything we did going forward. This was by far his best performance in the Red of United, a shirt in which he is finally beginning to look the part in.

This was a tie that epitomised everything we love in our club, and the beautiful game: frenetic, exciting, unpredictable and thrill-a-minute - for all the talk of 'boring' United, we've been involved in four of the best Premier League ties of the season - 3-1 at Arsenal, and the three comeback wins over Chelsea, Palace and again here.  City still hold a 13-point with six games left and this merely delayed the inevitable, yet it was their supporters with heads in hands whilst for us it was one to celebrate wildly having trailed in their slipstream all season.

It was symbolic of a day that we'll never forget - a day that was brilliantly chaotic and defied all reasonable logic.

Match report: City 2-3 United

United turned the tables on City's title celebrations and completed a stunning second half comeback with a magnificent climb off the canvas victory at a disbelieving Etihad.
Pep Guardiola's side - looking to hit back after their Champions League defeat in midweek with the win that would seal the title - left Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero on the bench, but this did not deter them as the hosts raced into a 2-0 lead by the half hour mark to leave United reeling and bewildered.

In truth, the seemingly dead and buried Reds could have been even further behind at the break, with Raheem Sterling having missed three clear cut openings to extend the advantage further.  But Paul Pogba pulled the Reds level with a close range finish and a header, before Chris Smalling volleyed home an Alexis Sanchez set-piece on 69 minutes to ensure that City will be forced to wait at least another week to get their hands on the coveted prize.

There was little hint of the breath-taking drama to follow as the tie started in a cagey manner, with both sides feeling each other out early on. But City began to exert their authority on the contest and took the lead in the 25th minute. Antonio Valencia's risible clearance resulted in a set-piece, and from Leroy Sane's inswinging corner, Vincent Kompany rose above Chris Smalling and planted his header beyond De Gea in a repeat of the 2012 meeting. City now had their tails up with United struggling to lay a glove on their superior counterparts. Five minutes later, we were 0-2 down and facing humiliation. Uncharacteristcally, DDG was this time partly at fault as his weak clearance fell only as far as Ilkay Gundogan, who started and finished the swift and clinical passing move after he steered home an unerring finish on the turn. The shell-shocked Reds were reeling and on the ropes.
Sterling was then presented with two gilt-edged openings in quick succession but fortunately for United he put both of his efforts over the bar from close range when well placed. De Gea saved well from Gundogan who then rattled the upright as the torment continued in the early stages of the second half.

The Reds desperately needed a route back into the derby and Pogba improbably provided it. After having an effort saved by Ederson, he struck twice in 97 seconds to turn the tide in United's favour. The first - in the 53rd minute - saw Alexis and Ander Herrera link up to play in the Frenchman, who ghosted into space and slotted home. Then came the equaliser when another Alexis cross found Pogba, who guided his header beyond the despairing keeper.

Incredibly, there was more to come as the unbelievable comeback culminated in another assist for Alexis and what turned out to be the winner from an unlikely source. Smalling showed all the technique of a striker as he latched on to a floated Sanchez delivery and planted the ball in from eight yards.

Inevitably, there were some fiery flashpoints but the football continued apace as De Gea's magnificent one-handed stop from Aguero preserved United's slender lead and the substitute striker then went down under a challenge from Ashley Young but referee Martin Atkinson was unmoved.

On a remarkable day, United took the plaudits and left City's champagne on ice.

Overall team performance: 9/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Paul Pogba. Honourable mentions must go to Alexis and Ander Herrera. 

Saturday 7 April 2018

All we can do is play for pride and honour on derby day

The 176th Manchester derby has the potential to be one of our most humiliating and painful - whilst for City its the dream scenario of a title win on their own territory against their fiercest rivals. For them, this is more than merely than bragging rights  - it could represent a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Premier League title awaits, and Pep Guardiola's side only need one more win to seal the crown that has been all but theirs since Christmas. It would only merely be delaying the inevitable, but never have the derby day traditions of honour, pride and passion mattered more in this one. Neither set of fans will ever forget THAT 2011-12 season for entirely contrasting reasons, but we'll never be allowed to live things down if they win the title on derby day. Their fans - already unbearable - would never let us hear the end of it and that's a prospect not one of us want.  We simply can't allow that to happen, and the mission is simple: stop them.
 When you need something special to stop a team that have been close to unbeatable all season, what better manager than Jose - the ultimate spoiling tactician and a man who will be hell bent on pooping Pep's party by any means possible. What price of the boss to come up with another tactical masterclass that we've seen so many times before and leave the hosts champagne on ice...that would be great to see!

The one small sliver of hope for us is that, with their Champions League quarter final second leg with Liverpool on the horizon, Pep has hinted at the possibility of fielding a 'weakened' team against United. Despite the fact they're 0-3 down, Pep has seemingly prioritised Tuesday night's tie as they attempt to pull off what would rank as one of the greatest European turnarounds of all time. Whether its an attempt to take on Jose at his own mind games, or whether indeed City actually have what could be considered a 'second string' side given their staggering resources and strength in depth remains to be seen. But it could represent an avenue of hope - however improbable - for the team.

It's been a while since United have gone into a tie as rank outsiders and genuine underdogs, but that's genuinely the case here - everyone is expecting City to win and anything we can get from this tie is a bonus. As Reds, that may be a bitter pill to swallow and an unfamiliar feeling but - as much as we don't want to admit it - this is a City side that have swept all before them this season. United's 40-match unbeaten Old Trafford run was bookended by 2-1 home defeats to City - the latter of which, in our last meeting in December, in truth could have been more. There would be no disgrace in finishing second to one of the most dominant champions the land has ever seen. The gaping chasm they have over not only us but everyone else tells you everything you need to know.

I can't see anything other than a comprehensive City win, but all I want to see from my team is to play for the shirt and do their best for the badge. That's all you can ask.

City v United derby day preview

In-form United make the shortest away trip of the season to face a City side smarting in the wake of a stunning Champions League demolition against Liverpool in midweek. For Pep Guardiola's men, that proved a rare setback in what has been a magnificent campaign, with a formidable and free-scoring City on the verge of a league title that have run away with - so much so that it's now a case of when, rather than if, the get their hands on the prize. As they've been so keen to keep telling us, they could win the league on derby day - not a scenario that any United fan ever wants to witness. Anything other than a City win would put their inevitable celebrations on hold for another week. The Reds have responded impressively since the Sevill debacle, with successive 2-0 wins over Brighton and Swansea either side of the international break.

As painful as it is, even the most ardent United fan has to doff their cap to a team who have swept all before them domestically this season on their way to the title. Inspired by string-pulling in chief Player of the Year contender Kevin De Bruyne, Guardiola's City team of swashbuckling superstars have won 27 of their 31 ties in the Premier League, are unbeaten at home all season and have only failed to score once in the league. They also look set to break many records before the season is out - with United in the rare position of rank outsiders and underdogs ahead of the 176th Manchester derby. There could be a glimmer of hope for the Reds, however, with Pep Guardiola hinting at the proposition of fielding a 'weakened' team with the second leg of that European quarter - final on Tuesday at the forefront of his mind. United manager Jose Mourinho has a fully fit squad to pick from, with the exception of injured Argentinian Sergio Romero. Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera have all returned to fitness, whilst Daley Blind trained in midweek and could be in contention. For City, top scorer Sergio Aguero is a doubt, but John Stones and Fabian Delph - unused substitutes at Anfield - are set to feature but full-back Benjamin Mendy is expected to remain sidelined.

The Blues can seal the title with victory in the 176th derby but Jose is more concerned with the congested battle for second spot, and said: "My motivation is to finish second, there is still the motivation to finish in the top four because mathematically it is not done - it is a good distance but not mathematically done. That is the first objective but I don't hide in practical terms and next season to finish second, third, fourth is exactly the same - because you don't win the title and you go to the Champions League. However, I prefer to finish third not fourth and I prefer to finish second not third and, because we are in the second position for many, many, many, many months.
"Obviously, it's our objective to fight for that and for that we need points, so my objective for tomorrow is to try to have the points that can help us to finish second."

The Premier League have confirmed that there will be a minute's silence at grounds up and down the country in memory of former United man Ray Wilkins, who tragically died on Wednesday at the age of 61. RIP Ray.

Form guide: City W W L W W L United W W W L W W
Match odds: City 8/11 Draw 14/5 United 7/2
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

Thursday 5 April 2018

United aim to poop Pep's party on derby day

When the fixtures were released back in July, the presence of the Manchester derby at the Etihad deep into the season's run-in looked to be pivotal and potentially decisive. The hotly-anticipated title tussle has, however, failed to materialise and United head into Saturday's tie with Pep's mob in damage limitation mode. This is a derby that feels almost insignificant given the permutations.
It's a question of when, not if, City are crowned champions but for United the assignment is simple: stop City winning on derby day, poop their party, and delay their inevitable title celebrations by at least another week - we simply can't have them popping open the bubbly having completed a first double over us since 2013-14, and with it a fifth top flight title. Their fans have been unbearable at the best of times this season, but this would be a day they would never let us live down...

This tie - the 176th Manchester derby - is sandwiched between the two legs of City's Champions League quarter final double header with Liverpool (if only we could have had that luxury). Pep Guardiola had already floated the notion of selecting a 'weakened' side with minds very much focused on European commitments, and that's even more likely now given that his side's hopes of European glory are hanging by the thinnest of threads ahead of the return at the Etihad on Tuesday. Whether there is such a concept as an understrength City team, given their vast resources and staggering strength in depth remains to be seen, but whatever XI Guardiola selects, this will prove an acid test of the Reds credentials.
Liverpool exposed City's hidden flaws in brutal fashion at Anfield, as the best team in the land - a team that have swept all before them in the league on their way to a yawning 16-point advantage - were reduced to rubble and made to look anything like the champions they are soon to be. This proved two things: that everyone else in the Premier League needs to raise their game when up against Pep's team, and also, more pertinently, that City can be beaten. Wigan knocked them out of the FA Cup, Liverpool have now beaten them twice and Basel also prevailed (albeit in the deadest of rubbers) from their trip to the Etihad. City have been simply formidable and fully deserve to be champions, make no mistake. As painful as it is to have to witness, caps must be doffed, but infallible they are not.

United may well need to copy the blueprint of our greatest adversaries to even plunder a point from this one: we'll need to be disciplined, resilient, organised, get in their faces and our tactics absolutely spot on. We're underdogs for this one and have nothing to lose, an unusual position to be in and one that we're not used to as United fans but that's the reality of the situation. We might as well go down fighting and make City work for their prize.

Sunday 1 April 2018

Match report: United 2-0 Swansea City

Romelu Lukaku scored his 100th Premier League goal as quickfire United regained second spot in the table with an early opening salvo. Liverpool had temporarily leapfrogged the team with their win at Palace in the lunchtime tie, but - from the moment Lukaku put the Reds ahead in the fifth minute - this result never looked in doubt.

United made a fast start against Carlos Carvalhal's in-form Swansea as we answered our critics in style with a high tempo performance of pace and intensity. The slickest move reaped early rewards as Nemanja Matic picked out Jesse Lingard whom in turned flicked on to Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean spun his marker and played in Lukaku, who capped the intricate and incisive build-up with his landmark goal, albeit with the aid of a deflection off the stretching Alfie Mawson. It was the big Belgian's century of goals in the top flight and his 26th of an increasingly prolific debut season at Old Trafford. The south Wales side have been rejuvenated since the arrival of Carvalhal in December, but Jose got the better of his compatriot as a dominant and fluid United had too much for the visitors, who despite their upturn in form remain in a perilous position, three places and points above the drop zone.

By his own admission, Alexis has suffered a disappointing and underwhelming start to life in United red, but this was probably the Chilean's best performance so far - he pulled the strings in attack and was energetically involved in everything we did going forward. It was he who extended our advantage further on 20 minutes, as he scored his first 'proper' United goal from open play. Lingard - operating in the number ten role - was again at the heart of things - as he picked out Alexis with a pinpoint pass and Sanchez fired in a clinical low finish beyond ex Arsenal team-mate Lukasz Fabianski.
Alexis headed over the bar having been released by Lukaku at the culmination of another flowing move, before Juan Mata went close with an acrobatic effort shortly after the interval.
Swansea finally stirred from their slumber and David de Gea - a spectator throughout to this point - was called into action twice in quick succession as the visitors threatened a fightback. DDG saved superbly from Swans sub Tammy Abraham from distance, before lightning-quick reactions denied the same player on the rebound when he looked poised to score.

Federico Fernandez blocked well from Lukaku, and Andre Ayew fired wide at the other end but Swansea's threat had fizzled out with those two Abraham efforts as United held out in comfortable - if rather anti-climatic - fashion.

Next up, the derby...

Overall team performance: 7.5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez. His best performance for us since his move in January. Much needed.