Man United miss ill Pogba but lethal Lukaku provides tonic to midfield malaise

ShareClose Comments
Manchester United were far from convincing at Huddersfield on Saturday but the big striker's two goals took them to the FA Cup quarter-finals

After a week dominated by the travails of Paul Pogba, it was Romelu Lukaku who snatched the headlines on Saturday with a showing of real potency in front of goal which sent Manchester United into the FA Cup quarter-finals for the third successive year.

But the 2-0 win against Huddersfield Town at John Smith’s Stadium gave Jose Mourinho few answers in terms of the best shape for his side, with United riding their luck for long periods before Lukaku’s second goal had put the game to bed.

Pogba’s poor performances of late were set to be overlooked until he pulled out due to illness on the morning of the game. But, in the 4-3-3 shape many believe the Frenchman to have been crying out to play in, United struggled to take control of the game and found themselves chasing shadows for much of the first half in particular.

United got off to the perfect start when Lukaku was released by Juan Mata and proceeded to turn Christopher Schindler this way and that before firing inside Jonas Lossl’s near post. You would think it might settle the away team down but instead it helped to encourage Huddersfield to go for broke.

As the hosts piled on the pressure, United had little in the way of a threat on the counter. Too often their three-man midfield failed to sufficiently cover their full-backs, forcing Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez to drop deeper, meaning any gaining of possession was largely pointless with no out-ball of real note available in the opposition half.

The lack of a driving presence in midfield was their most obvious failing. With Michael Carrick providing steady but immobile performances, too much was asked of Scott McTominay when it came to adding legs to the attack.

Mourinho reiterated this week that he will look to add to the engine room in the summer transfer market, and whether with or without Pogba in recent weeks, the need for a more positive midfield influence has become increasingly obvious.

If Huddersfield were unfortunate to find themselves one behind at the break it could so easily have been worse were it not for a dubious decision by the video assistant referee to overturn Kevin Friend’s on-field call after Mata had slotted home from an Ashley Young through-ball.

The sight of Friend standing with his hand to his ear was all the fans had to amuse themselves for a full two minutes before it was eventually confirmed that Mata’s goal would not stand. The later emergence of a video replay with wobbly lines drawn to judge the decision didn’t help anyone’s reception of the VAR system in full effect.

Kevin Friend VAR Juan Mata Ashley Young Manchester United FA Cup

Thankfully for United, they didn’t have to wait long to double their lead for keeps. As Lukaku broke out from his own third, he fed Sanchez and continued to make a driving run. When the Chilean found him with a first-time pass, the centre-forward bore down on Lossl and slotted home a second.

It was the Belgian’s 21st goal of the season, taking his tally past 20 for a fourth straight year. Moreover, it showed what a key man he can be when supplied with the type of service upon which he thrives. If only United had been able to get him into such areas more often, both today and during the season as a whole.

His second was a real game-changer. Suddenly, Huddersfield had very little threat and United looked far more confident and controlled when on the ball. The stuffing had been knocked out of the home side and then some.

Article continues below

Romelu Lukaku Manchester United Huddersfield

The name of the game is winning football matches, and United, thanks to Lukaku, did their job on this occasion. Yet there will be an acceptance among those of a red persuasion that this was far from a convincing response to the murmurings of the last few weeks.

Mourinho takes his side to Sevilla next for the resumption of their Champions League campaign. Pogba is expected to return, as will the questions about where he fits and what is United’s best approach. Getting Lukaku into better scoring positions more often might not be a bad place to start.

Next article:
AC Milan set to re-enter Europa League as CAS rules to overturn ban
Next article:
Percy Tau signs for Brighton & Hove Albion from Mamelodi Sundowns
Next article:
African All Stars Transfer News & Rumours: Swansea demand £12m for Ayew brothers
Next article:
Croatia's Kalinic turns down World Cup medal after being sent home
Next article:
Criticism is a weapon of the weak – Dani Alves defends Neymar
Close

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Show more Accept