Jose Mourinho got one over Pep Guardiola with Manchester United taking care of Manchester City’s rotated squad 1-0 at Old Trafford on Wednesday night in the EFL Cup. Progressing to the quarter finals against West Ham, Mourinho treated the occasion with the respect it required to win the game, and a disjointed squad offered a mixed performance.
They got the job done however, as Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Juan Mata and a very surprising Marcos Rojo led the way all impressing at various stages. It upturns morale in the wake of the Stamford Bridge disaster on Sunday, as the team now turns to the weekend fixture with Burnley as they attempt to start getting their Premier League campaign back on track.
Mata’s Saving Grace
In the Spaniard’s 100th domestic appearance for the club he showed good composure to put away the only goal of the game early into the second half. His overall record at the club continues to impress, with 29 goals in 115 games. In English competitions he has 28 goals, which is an excellent strike rate for an attacking midfielder.
He didn’t dominate the game by any means, but it was a good display from the number eight. Mata is a vastly different player from the one under Mourinho at Chelsea and now works harder defensively and within a team system. There have been doubts on his fit in the team in the past but this season United have only dropped two points in games he has started.
Weirdly enough he has not completed 90 minutes this season, but as his value increases so might his minutes. Mourinho needs Mata right now.
Marcus Rashford is carrying quite the burden for an 18 year old. Often the focal point of the United attack, it appears when things break down and the team is struggling to create, the ball is often lumped to their youth starlet in the hope that he can create something out of nothing. It appears to have weighed on him lately, and he has struggled a tad.
It was very worrisome when he appeared to hobble off with less than 20 minutes left, and headed straight down the tunnel. With Eric Bailly already ruled out into December, fans will be nervously awaiting news on whether United will have to do without him for any amount of time.
After the victory was sealed and the final whistle was blown, Jose Mourinho gestured to the crowd in apology of the horrible defeat they all had suffered last weekend at the hands of Chelsea. Beating their most hated local rival will help heal that wound, but it won’t take care of it entirely.
Mourinho knows this, and his post match comments echoed the good sentiment given to him by the majority of the fans. Particularly the match going and traveling fans, who have stayed loyal to their new manager and given him some of the most vocal game day support available in the Premier League.
“The players did everything and deserved to win. We are happy. In the last week, everything went against us but we are professionals. The fans felt deeply such a negative result and today was a good chance to clear that feeling because a derby knockout and to win gives everyone a better feeling.
We were on a good run of results, but it was a big defeat — numbers that the history of this club doesn’t deserve and, when I’m in a club, my heart belongs to the fans and I felt deeply for them. The reality is that I never had people like these ones. We lost 4-0 and they were supportive. Today the stadium was full of real support and it looks like the love people have for the club is bigger than bad results, bigger than three bad seasons.
We must give something back. The players gave everything but, even if we’d lost, the feeling was fantastic because the players showed they really care and they fought for the fans.”
Carrick Calms As Herrera Continues
With the recent struggles of the first team the call for the return of stalwart Michael Carrick have grown ever louder. Though only in Cup Fixtures, they’ve gotten their wish. Whilst Pep Guardiola called on his youth for the game, Mourinho turned to experience.
It wasn’t a perfect display, but his calmness and experience was a welcome addition to a team who constantly lose their way. Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba will need some time to get with him, but he allowed them to roam further forward and into more natural positions for them to operate.
He made a case for a start against Burnley, and may well get it. Meanwhile his midfield partner Herrera continued his ascension and continued to impress. It was his forward pressing that caused Manchester City to lose possession in the lead up to the goal, and his passion and energy is infectious for fans and teammates. His place in the first XI seems cemented for the near future.
Mkhitaryan Concern, But His Is Not The Only One
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was spotted with the squad of twenty that gathered at the Lowry Hotel pregame. Fans got excited, hoping their mystery man would finally be cast from the shadows to make his grand entrance for United. It wasn’t to be, as he yet again missed out on the squad of eighteen.
Concern is growing and is now hard to ignore with his increasing lack of presence at Old Trafford. He might yet make his presence felt on the weekend at Burnley, but fans are getting anxious at the thought that he might join Angel Di Maria on the list of high priced, well known acquisitions to not make it at Old Trafford. Time will tell, but it isn’t looking good.
Meanwhile it was struggle town also for Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who both had poor days out. Ibrahimovic continues to miss clear cut chances and his place in the first team must be coming under question, whilst Shaw was given serious a run around by Jesus Navas. Navas is the equivalent of Antonio Valencia skill wise (one trick pony), and Shaw should have handled him better. He is still searching for the form that made fans rave about him.