Jose Mourinho sent on Old Trafford pariah Marouane Felliani to seek the second goal that was the least his team deserved against Hull at Old Trafford last night. Manchester United played some excellent football on the night but there was one aspect of their game that let them down; finishing. The score could, perhaps should have been four or five. Even in the middle of this great run of victories, a few questions remain.
For example, had it been Louis Van Gaal who sent on Felliani to aid his team in the hunt for a goal and the big Belgian delivered that exact same goal, there would be grumblings. Van Gaal employed the exact same tactic, get Felliani isolated with the full back at the back post and pump it in. Even when it worked the Dutchman was criticised for not playing the brand of football Man United fans have come to expect.
Now, the difference is that in Van Gaal’s case it seemed the only way his team could create a chance. Whereas tonight United created a host of chances but just couldn’t put Hull to the sword. Mkhitaryan was guilty of missing one particularly open chance following a cut back from Juan Mata. Paul Pogba’s shooting from outside the box was so poor and regular Mourinho should create a ‘balloon jar’ into which the Frenchman must donate a fiver every time his cross hairs are so far off. Marcus Rashford was productive without being clinical, he bagged two against Reading in the FA Cup on Saturday but could have easily had four.
A two goal lead should be enough to see United through against a poor Hull side. However, it doesn’t really afford Mourinho the chance to rest many players for the second leg. In an ideal world, the Portuguese coach would have a fatter lead and be able to coast through the second leg.
A large distinctive shadow looms over this tie; Zlatan Ibrahimovc. When Zlatan doesn’t play United tend to struggle for goals. When he does play he often seems to contribute the bare minimum aside from getting his name on the score sheet. That’s all that counts for strikers, though. You can see why Mourinho insists on starting him in every game.
Mata got another important goal for his team tonight, the little Spaniard has developed a real habit of popping up at just the right time. If Mourinho can get Rashford, Mkhitaryan and Martial hitting the net with a little more regularity the burden on Zlatan will be considerably eased.
When it comes to the games against Reading and Hull this may seem like pedantic nit-picking. When United face Liverpool on Sunday afternoon chances will not be so plentiful. Will the likes of Mkhitaryan and Rashford be so easily forgiven for chances spurned against Jurgen Klopp’s men?
Its seems the longer the season wears on, the more important Zlatan becomes to Man United.