Title teams find ways to win games. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it may not be glamorous, but you get three points. That was exactly what happened here tonight. Missed chances that could have been rued, weren’t. A solid performance was rewarded with a win, and the chase for 21 marches on.
Ole Gunner Solskjaer – A formation change out of necessity due to a questionable suspension meant OGS had to get the lineup right. He did. Ignoring the outside noise surrounding Pogba, and riding the hot hand in Bailly paid dividends. Substitutions screamed “Just get the win” and that’s exactly what happened. In recent seasons, we’ve seen this move backfire, and lead to a draw. The lads pulled it out – albeit in nerveracking fashion, and started the new year hot. 7.5.
David De Gea – Recovered from a possible knock via a Traore wall in the last game to keep his place in the side. Made some incredible saves that had once been his trademark. Bailed out some lapses in concentration from his back line to keep the 3 points in the bag. 8.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Mentioned early in the week that the coaching staff has started working with him on his attacking game. Boy does it show. Though he still isn’t at the level of Trent Alexander-Arnold, he certainly seems to be pushing forward with more confidence and belief. Made a slick run in a 1-2 with Rashford in the first half that was unlucky to not yield an assist. 7.
Eric Bailly – Proving that when healthy, he should be in the team. Aggressive, decisive defense set the tone from the back. Made the right reads, and made sure the Villains knew he was not going to let them through without a bump. Massive block on one of the last touches of the game iced the win. 8.
Harry Maguire – Still can”t seem to replicate his attacking box presence he imposed while a Fox in Leicester. Slow to read the play on the goal, and not for the first time. May be a respected figure in the locker room, but is a far cry from the authoritative figures of Rio and Vidic. Looks solid with Bailly, but more needs to be produced on the field from the $80 million dollar man. 6.5.
Luke Shaw – Solid enough. Moved forward well, though also seems to suffer from indecisiveness. Seems hesitant to make the gutsy pass forward, and would rather play back to his center backs. Tracked back well, though was caught out of position for the equalizer. 6.5.
Fred – A spark plug form minute 1 to minute 90. The Brazilian never stopped running, and putting in key challenges or crucial holdup defending. Picked the right pass most of the time, and more than made up for the handful of times he was caught in possession. Could have done better from an effort in the first half. 7.5.
Scott McTominay – Looked to push the tempo in the first half, though seemed a tick off with his passing. Provided stability in the defensive third, and was still able to get forward well. Nothing truly special, but didn’t have to provide magic from the defensive midfield position to help deliver the win. 7.
Paul Pogba – If this is the performance the Frenchman delivers from now until his possible departure, United fans will be sad to see his back. Popped up all over the field, and shoed a chemistry with Bruno that nobody else seems to have. Oozed potential with every drive forward, and his long ball passing vision was evident early and often. Should have scored to ice the game. 7.5.
Bruno Fernandes – Grew into the game early, and always seemed to be in the right position to dictate terms. Though the clear focal point of the attack, the burden of possession was lessened by the quality in the midfield top to bottom. Never a doubt from the spot, the ice in his veins can can chill an ocean. 7.5.
Marcus Rashford – The man is desperate for a signature performance, and his selfishness was obvious. Seems to be trying to drag the team on his back, but it is no longer needed. Frustrated throughout, though when those moves come off, it’s a work of genius. Needs to consider taking what is in front of him, especially when the rest of the team is clicking around him. 6.5.
Anthony Martial – Drifted in and out of the game throughout. Needed to be there to score in the first half, but that was more down to Mings’ miss, than sublimity from Martial. His invisibility was covered up by the other members of the team. 7.
Nemanja Matic – Came on to shore up the back 4 late, and not let Villa back in the game. 6.
Daniel James – Came in purely to run about and chase down the ball, and did just that. 5.5.
Axel Tuanzebe – Came on to provide an extra defender, and eat up clock. N/R