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Manchester United have a new big game player after Man City win – Manchester Evening News, Manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Manchester United have a new big game player after Man City win – Manchester Evening News, Manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Big game goals

In the first half an hour of the fourth Manchester derby of the season Anthony Martial’s best contribution was in his own six-yard box, heading clear when under pressure from Nicolas Otamendi.

In an attacking sense he’d been sloppy. He was slow to react to a loose ball that might have seen him through on goal then spurned a simple pass to Bruno Fernandes to send a tame shot straight at Ederson.

But Martial has become United’s go-to gun in the big games over the last Couple of seasons and he was going to be kept quiet here either. When Fernandes chipped a free-kick over City’s static defense, in what looked a well rehearsed routine, his volley squirmed under Ederson to match his best tally in a Premier League season to date.

It also completed a rare feat for a striker. Martial has scored in all four Premier League games against Manchester City and Chelsea this season. In fact he’s scored in his last six starts against those two clubs, four of which have been away from home.

For a player whose mentality has been questioned for so much of his United career that is an impressive return. The goal certainly sparked the £ 50 million man into life and has he plowed a lone furrow in the second half he continually made life difficult for Fernandinho and Otamendi.

Martial has come to the fore since Marcus Rashford’s injury and he’s now turning it on in big games on a fairly regular basis. Gradually he is establishing himself as a proper United No. 9.

Wan-Bissaka

It’s to Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s misfortune that right-back might just be the most competitive position in the England squad. The United defender is competing against Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and the teenager Reece James for a place in the squad, but on this evidence his chance on the international stage has to be coming soon.

The attacking play in Wan-Bissaka’s game still requires some refinement, although a lot of it may be down to confidence and there were signs he was growing in stature in the final third against City, but defensively there is nobody better .

Raheem Sterling might not be having his best season but few right-backs would want to be left one-on-one with him. Three times that was exactly what faced Wan-Bissaka in the first half, but three times he emerged with the ball, timing tackles to perfection to take the ball away from the England winger and emerge in possession. The third of those, in front of the technical areas, elicited a round of applause from Solskjaer.

Fred and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were superb for United in the 2-0 win against City

Gareth Southgate was in the directors’ box just above the dugouts watching on. He has to have been impressed by the defensive brilliance of Wan-Bissaka’s game.

Fantastic Fred

This might have been a midfield battle lacking the stardust of Kevin De Bruyne, but in terms of individuals there was one player who was head and shoulders above the rest, especially in the first half.

That’s not a sentence anybody expected to write about Fred at the start of this season, but the Brazilian has to be in the frame to be United’s player of the season. He’s certainly been the most improved player in this squad.

He was aggressive from the off against City, coming away with possession from a – with Bernardo Silva and charging around the middle of the pitch to put out fires and try and take control of the game.

His passing was crisp and incisive as well , something that is easier to do when you have targets ahead of you such as Fernandes and Martial. As City had more and more of the ball in the second half Fred continued to work energetically in front of his defense, getting a foot in where possible and breaking up play efficiently.

How to start games

We’ve seen both sides of the United in the early stages of games over the past days. Against Club Brugge and Everton – despite conceding the early goal – they flew out of the blocks and were the better team in the opening exchanges.

They looked confident and aggressive in both games, creating chances and clearly taking the upper hand.

Yet against Derby County on Thursday and City on Sunday we were back to the sluggish United, who look like the first whistle comes as a surprise and they take much of the first half to warm to the task.

Martial was slow to react to an early opening and United were fortunate to escape some sluggish moments at the back, notably twice from Harry Maguire, as well as from Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams.

Having got away with a slow start United began to come to life and Martial’s opening goal was like a bucket of cold water thrown into their collective faces, but they need to be starting games like they did last week on a more consistent basis, rather than the slow beginnings we’ve seen this week.

Selection mind games

When United checked into the Lowry on Saturday without (Harry Maguire) or Daniel James in their ranks nobody was reading too much into it this time.

They did the same a week ago, arriving without Anthony Martial, only for the striker to appear the following morning when they departed for Goodison. Sure enough when United set off for Old Trafford on Sunday morning Maguire and James both exited the hotel, presumably sneaking in through the tradesman’s entrance under the cover of darkness.

Solskjaer may just have been keen for his players with a knock to get extra rest but both were straight into the starting XI and even with Maguire not arriving with the rest of the squad on Saturday, nobody really expected him to be absent for this game, given his importance to the side.

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