Friday, 30 September 2016

Zlatan Is United's Head Boy

Manchester United 1 Zorya Luhansk 0

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the difference at the Theatre of Dreams as Manchester United won their first Europa League group game by overcoming relatively unknown Ukraine opposition Zorya Luhansk.

Mourinho has promised to take the competition seriously and this was reflected in his starting XI: Romero, Rojo, Smalling, Bailly, Fosu-Mensah, Fellaini, Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Rashford and Ibrahimovic.

Captain Rooney would once again have to start on the bench and apart from the absences of regulars De Gea, Blind and Herrera, it was a strong side that was given the task of earning the first win in the group stage.

The game kicked off in front of a stadium not exactly full to the rafters as supporters still lacked the enthusiasm for Thursday night football. However, the fans that had turned up got behind the Reds from the start.

The visitors had the first chance of the game after five minutes as Ljubenovic tried his luck against stand in keeper Romero but his effort sailed high over the goal.

United passed the ball around the pitch comfortably without creating any clear openings and it was Fellaini who saw most of the ball as he played safe passes from midfield without finding the killer pass needed to gee up the crowd.

It was left to Ibrahimovic to liven up the proceedings after twenty minutes as he fired in a shot from distance that looked goal bound until a defender slid in and deflected the shot over the bar.

A minute later the crowd rose in unison as they thought a goal had come from Rashford who crashed a thunderbolt of a shot against the underside of the bar that was still rattling as the defenders cleared their lines.

It was a delight to watch the way in which the talented youngster made room for his shot in a crowded area and that one moment of skill made his inclusion in the starting team worth it.

The away side had clearly trained in the art of play acting as they frustrated the United players, fans and Mourinho who was stood on the touchline throughout.

The referee from Israel didn't exactly endear himself to the crowd after allowing play to continue after Mata had been caught very late and was fortunate not to receive a serious injury.

Then Mata and Fellaini both came close to breaking the deadlock with headers that needed better direction. The Mata effort followed excellent work by Pogba who delivered a pinpoint cross that the diminutive Spaniard was unlucky not to convert.

At half time it was all square and to be honest a little like an exhibition match as the crowd was full of school children cheering on their heroes and an away section with only about fifty away fans that did their best to out cheer the United youngsters.

Mourinho would have to inject some form of enthusiasm into his side during the break as they lacked the pace and incisive passing needed to make the breakthrough.

The second half got underway with United attacking the Stretford End and Mourinho decided against making any changes.

Zorya set the early pace and almost took the lead as Ljubenovic just failed to connect with a teasing cross.

Fosu-Mensah, playing at right back, tried his best to create chances from the right and on one occasion he linked well with Lingard whose cross was intercepted by the keeper before Ibrahimovic could connect.

The impressive Bailly was booked just after the hour mark after a hefty challenge on Paulinho.

Paulinho then curled an effort towards goal, but Romero was wide awake to the shot and produced a good save diving fully stretched to his left.

With 67 minutes on the clock, Mourinho decided to bring on his captain Rooney in place of Lingard with time running out in the search for the all important goal.

As so often happens in football a substitution produces the desired effect and it was true again in this match as a cross was delivered into the penalty area by Fosu-Mensah and there was Rooney only on the pitch for two minutes to try his luck.

His effort was badly miskicked into the turf, but thankfully for his side and to save his own blushes, it looped up nicely for Ibrahimovic who leapt at the far post to head the ball downwards into the net to finally give the home side the lead. That was Ibrahimovic's sixth goal in ten matches. Not the prettiest of goals he will score, but they all count.

With fifteen minutes left Mourinho made a double substitution by bringing on Young and Martial in place of Mata and Fosu-Mensah.

Rashford continued to raise pulses on the left as he attempted to dribble his way past a bamboozled right back at every opportunity and if his captain had not misplaced a through ball he would have been clear on goal.

Apart from a Fellaini chance that fizzed over the bar and a free kick well delivered by Ibrahimovic and equally well saved by Shevchenko that was about it for the night as United ended the match as victors and in doing so collected their first three points in the group stage.

In the end, it was a match that lacked any conviction from Mourinho's men who can't be blamed for lacking the same enthusiasm as they would for the more important Premier League. However, they got the job done and now face a harder task with a double header against Turkish outfit Fenerbahce next month.

Bailly once again shone at the back and Rashford gave his all as usual and was unlucky not to score. He also spent most of the game chasing poor passes. Fellaini was involved in every movement in the middle without going above and beyond his normal style of play, but the Man of the Match award has to go to Ibrahimovic for scoring the goal that sent the locals home happy and gave the kids something to cheer about.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

United Blow Away the Champions.

Manchester United 4 Leicester City 1

Manchester United turned on the style along with goals which saw off the challenge of Leicester City in an impressive first half of football not seen at Old Trafford for a long time.

In a week in which Jose Mourinho has fended off criticism of himself, his team and his captain it was back to Premier League action and the visit of the reigning champions to Old Trafford.

United returned to winning ways against Northampton Town in the EFL cup in midweek after succumbing to three successive defeats. For that tie, Mourinho made wholesale changes so it was interesting to see which side he would put out against the Foxes.

In the end, he chose a starting XI composed of: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Pogba, Herrera, Lingard, Mata, Rashford and Ibrahimovic.

Rooney was dropped to the bench after some below par displays. Mata started his 150th Premier League game and Lingard was hoping for a better game than his last time out in the derby. At the back, Smalling kept his place alongside Bailly with Blind taking over left back duties in place of Shaw.

Pogba returned in midfield and it would be interesting to see how he would fit in along with Herrera, who was the best player against Northampton. Up front, there was another chance for Rashford to showcase his immense talent alongside Ibrahimovic.

United got the game underway looking to end a run of two Premier League defeats.

Daley Blind had the first speculative effort in the opening exchanges after good work from Valencia down the right. Blind's shot was too high, though.

The pace of Rashford was there for all to see from the off as he stormed into the oppositions box and it needed a good tackle to stop him in his tracks.

A cross was whipped in from the left by Mata aimed for the head of Pogba which it missed, but as it fell to the unmarked Ibrahimovic the crowd held its breath as he tried his standard acrobatic shot but this time it flew past the far post.

There was a neat interchange between Pogba and Mata which finally unleashed Rashford who was just beaten to the ball by the keeper Zieler.

It wasn't all United as the Foxes had their moments to attack without seriously troubling the back four or De Gea in the opening ten minutes.

Leicester had a two-minute spell in which they blasted shots towards United's goal each one being blocked by the resolute defence.

After twenty minutes it was a fairly lacklustre game with no clear cut chance for either side which in turn kept the fans subdued. However, all that changed when Blind sent over a high corner which was met firmly by the head of the captain for the day Smalling, who woke everybody up with the opening goal.

Leicester responded to going behind by immediately going on the attack, but it was United who broke through Herrera. He played a delightful ball forward for Ibrahimovic to chase. He unselfishly fed a rushing Rashford who looked certain to double the lead but for once, his finishing evaded him and he fired wide. The youngster followed that up with an overhead kick which flew over the bar.

All of a sudden the home side were in the ascendancy as Pogba skillfully clipped the ball over the defence to pick out Ibrahimovic, who chested the ball down and powered his volley over the bar.

Record signing Pogba was involved again as he thundered a long-range dipping drive on goal which the keeper didn't take any chances with and punched the ball two handed away for a corner.

What a difference a goal makes as the away side were now on the back foot as before the goal they had most of the possession.

Then in the 36th minute, Mata came up with a big goal as he was involved in a neat passing move with at first Pogba who flicked the ball onto Lingard inside the area he in turn laid the ball off to Mata who collected the flick on and hit a left-footed beauty into the back of the net to give his side a deserved 2-0 lead.

United added a third after Leicester fell asleep at another United corner. Blind was alert enough to see the run along the byline of Mata and rolled the ball into his path. Mata then sent in a low cross into the six-yard area and there was Rashford to slide the ball into the net for one of the easiest goals he will score.

Then the roof was lifted when United added a fourth in the 42nd minute and a first goal for Pogba who rose to power in a header to cap off an impressive display from United. It had to be said that the Leicester defence was a shambles.

Three of the goals had come from corners taken by Blind two long and one short all of which the Leicester defence were at sixes and sevens with.

Half time and four goals to the good. Who needs Rooney? It was the first time since 2001 that United had gone in at half time four goals ahead.

After a quiet start to the match, United eventually kicked into gear and for the first time in what seems like years provided the type of dominant football that has been lacking. They passed the ball well and had too much pace for Leicester who completely switched off after they conceded the second goal.

Pogba was outstanding and showed his class with some neat flicks, but it was Herrera, who once again shone with his all round play.

At the start of the second half, Mourinho wisely decided against making any changes. United started the half in a relaxed manner as it seemed with a lead of four goals they were happy to go through the motions. A feeling clearly not shared by their animated manager who stood on the touchline and urged his players not to lose their focus.

Leicester's Gray scored a fabulous goal from the edge of the area to deny De Gea a clean sheet. In a league that normally ends so tight goal difference is key so United would have to keep their defensive wits about them.

On the hour mark and leading 4-1, the atmosphere was a little underwhelming to say the least and United needed to lift themselves and the crowd.

Lingard tried to raise the pulses with a shot from the edge of the area after good work from Valencia but he was put under pressure from Gray and skied his effort over.

The big Swede Ibrahimovic pulled a fine save out of the keeper with a first time shot that was tipped around the post for a corner.

To their credit, the champions hadn't given up hope of rescuing something credible from the match and you could tell they sensed that United had taken their foot off the pedal as they attacked only for King to fire weakly at De Gea.

The fans filled the Theatre of Dreams with chants of Ander Herrera as the Spaniard mishit his shot from the edge of the area.

As the match entered the final quarter of an hour United started to look for the fifth goal when Valencia attempted a cross to find Ibrahimovic and Blind continued to deliver dangerous crosses from corners that the visitors struggled to deal with.

At the other end scorer Gray tried his luck again from the same spot where he had netted from but this time, De Gea pulled off a brilliant save at full stretch to deny him.

United's first change of the day saw Carrick replace Lingard. It will do Lingard's confidence the world of good to hear the fine reception he received from the home supporters who recognised the effort he had put in. Carrick made his landmark 500th League appearance.

Leicester continued to press forward, albeit a little too late as the minutes ticked by.

The second substitution came with some seven minutes on the clock as scorer Rashford made way for Rooney.

Ibrahimovic did his best to get on the score sheet as he tried to bend the ball into the far corner, but the keeper read it well and collected easily. He then had a shot blocked after being picked out by Mata.

That was Mata's last action as he came off for Young for the last few minutes.

Full time and in the end a comfortable win for United with all the damage done in the first half. There were some outstanding performances for the Reds especially from Bailly, Blind and Herrera. Ibrahimovic played exceedingly well without scoring. However, the man of the match had to be Paul Pogba who had by far his best game for United and topped it off with a goal.

After a week full of criticism from all quarters and 'Einsteins' United delivered a performance worthy of the badge and hopefully that momentum will be carried on over the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

United Crisis Is Cobblers

Northampton Town 1 Manchester United 3

Manchester United returned to winning ways against Northampton to book themselves a derby date at Old Trafford.

It took them an hour to do it, but they did eventually overcome the plucky League One outfit thanks to goals from Carrick, Herrera and Rashford.

It hadn't been the best of weeks for Mourinho and his men as three successive defeats had cast a shadow over the club and raised questions about some of the player's commitment to the cause.

Disaster is too strong a word to be used at this early stage of the season. However, a defeat in the EFL away at Northampton would have had alarm bells ringing.

A lot of the blame for the defeats has been firmly planted at the player's feet and quite rightly too as many of them have not performed to the level expected at the club. So it was interesting to see how Mourinho would approach this match against the League One side.

Only two players Smalling and Rooney kept their places in the starting XI: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Memphis, Herrera, Young and Rooney.

The United captain had been chosen as the main striker and Mourinho expected only one thing from him and that was goals and if he didn't deliver there was a strong bench including Ibrahimovic and Rashford.

United kicked off inside a packed Sixfields stadium under some pressure, but with the great away support behind them.

Rooney had the first clear chance of the game with a weak shot inside the area. United won the first corner of the match after a couple of minutes from a deflected shot by Herrera.

It was Rooney again, who was guilty of missing an open goal after a cross was played into the danger area from the right. The skipper inexplicably side-footed his effort wide when it seemed easier to tuck the ball away.

After five minutes United had enjoyed 75 percent of the possession with the majority of the attacks coming from build up play by Young on the right wing, but it was a cross this time from the left by Rojo that was whisked across the six-yard box that only needed the slightest of touches from someone.

The away side were awarded a free kick inside the area after the home side were guilty of a back pass just before the twenty-minute mark. Depay rolled it into the path of Rooney, whose shot was blocked by the wall only for it to find Carrick loitering on the edge of the area.

He calmly hit the ball first time and managed to send it flying into the top corner of the net. That was Carrick's first goal since March 2015 and a welcome one it was too.

In the ten minutes following the goal United stroked the ball around in a confident fashion and totally dominated the play with Northampton struggling to get a sniff of the ball.

Rooney had a headed goal ruled for offside on the half hour after Fosu-Mensah had seen his effort rebound off the bar.

United didn't have it all their own way however, as the home side almost pulled level with a cracking drive from former red academy player Gorre that stand in keeper Romero had to push over the bar.

In fact, it was Northampton who pulled their socks up and began to find another gear as they piled on the pressure and it paid off five minutes before the break when they won a penalty after Blind clumsily brought down Hoskins after a combination of Rojo, Fosu-Mensah and Schneiderlin failed to clear the ball from their own area.

Revell stepped up and sent Romero the wrong way to level the scores and gave Mourinho plenty to think about during the break.

Half time and all square after United were guilty of allowing the League One side back into the game after some terrible defending. At 1-0 everything looked fairly routine for the Reds, but not for the first time this season they shot themselves in the foot which made for an interesting cup tie.

Northampton got the second half underway with Mourinho deciding against making any changes at the restart.

The home side were put on the back foot by the Red Devils as Young tried his best to create openings down the right flank.

It only took Mourinho ten minutes to change things around with Rashford replacing defender Fosu-Mensah and Ibrahimovic coming on for the hapless Memphis, which meant Young switched to the wing back position to make way for the forwards.

Herrera was unlucky with a firm strike that smacked against the post. That was the closest United had come after the substitutions as they made life difficult for themselves by giving the opposition hope which in turn lifted the home crowd.

As the match entered the final twenty minutes player of the night Herrera finally found the back of the net after he hit a brilliant right-footed drive that gave the keeper no chance and handed the visitors the lead.

Fellaini entered the fray for the last fifteen minutes in place of Schneiderlin to offer a different variety to the play.

They say that you should never give up a lost cause and that was certainly the case as United increased their lead to end the tie as a contest.

It was Herrera, who from the half way line hooked a hopeful ball high into the air and as it fell from the skies it looked, for all intents and purposes a routine clearance for keeper Smith, but as he raced out to the edge of his area there was Rashford bearing down on him at speed.

The sight of the young forward rushing towards him caused the keeper to panic and he completely mistimed his attempted clearance and Rashford reaped the rewards and blasted the ball gleefully into the empty net.

It was a pure opportunist goal by the impressive striker and one that ensured United would progress into the next round. It was also a landmark goal for the youngster as he has now scored on yet another debut.

United saw out the game and in the end dispelled any talks of a crisis to book a place in the next round which threw up a mouth-watering home draw against Manchester City and an early opportunity for Mourinho to gain revenge over Guardiola.

Even with the win, Mourinho will know that some of his players underperformed once again with Rojo the weakest link in defence and up front Memphis failed to impress and one has to wonder how long the manager will put up with the winger.

Rooney also did little to quieten his critics after a lacklustre display on a night when goals were expected from him.

Not for the first time in his fledgling career, Rashford had a huge impact on the result with an assist and a goal of his own as his eagerness showed the older heads how pure enthusiasm can change a game in an instant.

The hope for the future is that he never loses that desire to play the game as it should be played when others around him have forgotten as they have aged.

One player who did roll back the years with an assured performance in midfield was Michael Carrick. His contribution proved that he still has what it takes as long as he gets enough rest and before people get carried away it was against lower opposition, so the question will be whether or not he can sustain that level on a regular basis in the Premier League.

The Man of the Match award has to be handed to Ander Herrera, who never gave up at a time when others around him wavered. His strike to put his side in the lead was sublime and the Spaniard does seem to enjoy an away cup tie as it's not the first time in his United career that he has kept the club in a cup competition.

Next up is the visit to Old Trafford of the current champions Leicester City who United defeated in the Community Shield last month. However, we can expect a different type of game at the Theatre of Dreams.

Until then thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

United Left Frustrated By Feyenoord

Feyenoord 1 Manchester United 0

After making wholesale changes to his starting line-up it wasn't exactly the start Jose Mourinho wanted in his first European tie as United manager as his side fell to their second defeat in a week.

Hopes were high as Manchester United returned to the scene of Sir Alex Ferguson's first European triumph as United's manager. It was at the De Kuip stadium that the Red Devils enjoyed a glorious victory by defeating Barcelona 2-1 to lift the old European Cup Winners Cup back in 1991.

Their attention was now fully focused on the Europa League and a tricky opening group match against Dutch side Feyenoord, which would be the shortest trip for Mourinho's men in a group that will see them face longer journeys to Turkey and The Ukraine.

United departed Manchester with a squad that didn't include rested captain Rooney and injured Shaw but still had a side capable of seeing off the threat of the Dutch team.

Mourinho's starting XI for his first European match as manager of the side: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Pogba, Mata, Herrera, Martial and Rashford.

Only three players started the game from the eleven that played in the derby so there was a chance for Smalling to partner Bailly in place of Blind and defensive duo Rojo and Darmian replaced Valencia and Shaw.

In midfield, Pogba remained but he had a new partner in Schneiderlin with Herrera and Mata in support.

Up front, the impressive Rashford was handed his first start of the season alongside Martial.

The opening ten minutes was a cagey affair with both sides weighing each other up until the home side tested De Gea with a curling shot from the edge of the area by Berghuis. The United number one was alert to the early threat.

The rock in the United defence Eric Bailly took a knock to the thigh as he cleared his lines and stayed down for a worrying few minutes. He was thankfully able to continue after running it off.

A surging run from Herrera was halted by a foul which Pogba took but his effort on goal was easily saved by keeper Brad Jones.

United's first real chance fell to Martial in the 24th minute following good work from Darmian on the right side of the penalty area. His cross was low and hard and as it fell to Martial you felt it was goal-bound until it flew inches past the post.

The bright spark in the United side was the recalled Ander Herrera, who was covering every blade of grass on the pitch as he helped both the attack and defence.

Feyenoord had a slightly aggressive style to their play, which was shown in the number of free kicks they conceded as they tried to bully United out of their rhythm.

Record signing Pogba failed to stamp his authority on the game as he was dispossessed far too easily on a few occasions.

As the home side saw more of the ball the home supporters raised the atmosphere as they sensed their team were in the ascendancy this, in turn, prompted Mourinho to urge his players to calm down as he watched from the touchline.

As the half entered its final ten minutes it has to be said that United's play had been passive with no real threat in attack.

Mata almost got onto the end of a headed flick-on but that was as close it got as the half ended in a boring goalless draw.

Half time and not a lot to talk about as both sides struggled to get out of third gear. Neither keeper had been troubled and Mourinho will have to gee his players up if they are going to take control of the match and impose themselves further up the field.

Rashford cut a lone figure up front as he lacked any decent service and when he did gain possession he gave it away far too easily. The more he plays the quicker he will improve his all round game as his potential is immense.

At the start of the second half, Pogba slotted in higher up the pitch clearly looking to become more involved in the play than he was in the first forty-five minutes.

In fact, it was Pogba who tried a speculative effort from long range five minutes after the restart, but his shot was high over the bar. An effort more in frustration than anything else as there was nothing else happening in front of him.

By the 55th minute the pace of the game hadn't picked up and it badly needed an infusion of energy from somewhere as Ibrahimovic started to warm up down on the touchline.

Pogba once again tried his luck from distance but his shot was wide of the mark.

After the hour mark, Mourinho had seen enough and made a triple substitution by bringing on Ibrahimovic, Memphis and Young in place of Rashford, Martial and Mata.

A message of intent had been made by the manager as he sensed the game was there to be won. Immediately following the changes the three substitutes almost created a goal as Young did well on the right and delivered a cross to the far post that was met by the head of Ibrahimovic and Memphis almost connected with the ball.

As the match entered its final fifteen minutes it was a match even in chances, but with United edging the amount of possession without managing to create any clear-cut openings.

Ibrahimovic did manage to rise the highest to another Young delivery from a free kick, but the big Swede directed his header too high.

Under fire Memphis showed the lack of confidence in his game at the moment as he fired a volley high into the jeering crowd. That summed up United's night.

Then Feyenoord took the lead on the counter with a goal that should have been ruled out for offside during the build up. Jorgensen was allowed to play on and crossed from the right and found an unmarked Vilhena in the box to fire easily past De Gea.

It was shocking defensive play by United who seemed to stop for the offside flag that never came and ended up conceding a sloppy goal.

To their credit United did go on the attack immediately after conceding and it was Smalling who almost benefitted from a neat flick from Ibrahimovic but his shot was blocked by a crowd of defenders.

Memphis failed to impress again as his free kick, which should have been aimed at a host of teammates in the box, was high wide and handsome.

As the clock hit 90 minutes Ibrahimovic took over the free kick duties and fired a thirty yard effort hard and goal bound that the keeper did well to get his body behind.

It was then the turn of Herrera, who was just about to pull the trigger until a late tackle on him denied him the chance of grabbing an equaliser. That was the last piece of action on a night that will not linger in the memory as there was absolutely nothing memorable in United's play whatsoever.

An opening defeat in the group stage isn't a disaster. However, there are tougher matches ahead and if United do in fact want to add this trophy to their museum showcase then Mourinho will have to put a bomb under his players.

Too many players that were given a chance to shine by Mourinho were off their game, including the recalled defending trio of Smalling, Darmian and Rojo. Maybe it was down to rustiness as they have all lacked valuable game time.

Mata and Herrera huffed and puffed without creating anything of substance. Pogba has yet to hit his stride and he played with a new midfield partner in Schneiderlin who did his job well enough after a spell on the sidelines.

Up front Martial has yet to hit the heights of last season and you would expect a player of his quality to hit top form soon. Rashford failed to live up to the hype surrounding his recent exploits, but he is young and will hopefully learn from the bad games as well as the good ones.

Ibramovich and Young did manage to lift the tempo of the game slightly when they were brought on. On the other hand, there is the matter of Memphis who once again failed to give his manager any reason to call on him anytime in the near future. He may drive a Rolls Royce but he is playing like a clapped out banger.

Two defeats on the bounce now and Mourinho will have to pick a side capable of beating Watford in the Premier League to avoid a hat-trick of defeats.

Until then thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

United's Derby Doldrums

Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2

Manchester United's unbeaten start to the season was derailed by a combination of Mourinho's own tactics and his arch rival Guardiola. A defeat that left a sour taste in the mouth after a handful of players fell short of the level expected along with some very debatable refereeing decisions.

Not only was this the first meeting of the season between the two Manchester clubs, but it was also the continuing rivalry of two of the game's most successful managers in the modern era.

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola did use to get along in their time together at Barcelona when Mourinho was a fledgling coach and translator. However, since then their talents have clashed on numerous occasions, especially during their days as coaches for the Spanish giants Real and Barca.

Now they will pit their wits against each other from the less sunny climes of the North West of England. The weather may not be on a comparison with Spain, but once they make their way home after their first derby experience they will realise that the passion and hatred between the two rival fans are certainly hotter.

Mourinho's first derby starting XI saw some minor changes with the inclusion of Mkhitaryan, who would start his first league game and the return of Lingard after injury: De Gea, Valencia, Blind, Bailly, Shaw, Fellaini, Pogba, Lingard, Mkhitaryan, Rooney and Ibrahimovic.

The trio of Martial, Mata and Herrera would all start on the bench alongside last week's goal hero Rashford who had another wonderful debut in midweek this time scoring a hat-trick for the England U21's.

Once again Mourinho's defence was unchanged, which meant Smalling would have to bide his time a little longer. Fellaini kept his spot alongside Pogba in midfield with Ibrahimovic once again leading the line up front with Rooney slotted in behind him.

So the stage was set for the 172nd instalment of the battle of Manchester.

City got the match underway amid a highly charged atmosphere that was certainly the loudest heard at the Theatre of Dreams in a very long time.

The visitors created the first opening as De Bruyne whipped a low cross across the United box which thankfully evaded everyone. Lingard started out on the left with Mkhitaryan occupying the right channel. Lingard seemed to struggle to begin with after he misplaced passes and was slow to interact with his teammates.

Pogba had the first chance for the Red Devils as early as the sixth minute when he side-footed an effort from outside of the area that was only a whisper over the bar. The opening ten minutes was a fairly even affair as both sides battled for superiority.

At the back, Bailly was in the same fine form that has won him so many plaudits in his new United career. His gung-ho approach to defending is exactly what United have missed since Vidic departed.

The home side was guilty of giving the ball away too easily and this hit home as City drew the first blood on the quarter hour mark.

Rooney's attempted pass to set Mkhitaryan off and running down the right was blocked and the Armenian gave up the chase for the ball all too easily. The ball was collected down by his own corner flag by Kolarov and after exchanging passes with his keeper he hoofed a long pass forward which was headed on by Iheanacho and there was De Bruyne who managed to nip in ahead of Blind to collect the ball and coolly slotted it into the corner of De Gea's net.

The setup that Mourinho had chosen with the two wide midfielders Lingard and Mkhitaryan was just not working as they were both off the pace and maybe Rashford and Martial would have been a better option.

There was an extremely close call for offside against Mkhitaryan as he raced onto a ball through the middle and was upended in the penalty area.

The opening half an hour belonged to the blues as they were the first to every ball and the reds were very careless with their positional play. At least Fellaini was covering the pitch and getting in some sturdy defensive work to help out his back four.

Then, ten minutes before half time disaster for United as City extended their lead. De Bruyne was the thorn in United's side once again as his snapshot rebounded off De Gea's far post into the path of Iheanacho who had the easiest of tasks to slot the ball home as the home defence appealed for offside. It was Blind who had played the attacker onside.

Two nil down it would have to be another one of United's famous comebacks if they were going to get anything out of this derby.

United captain Rooney was guilty of giving the ball away twice while his team were in promising positions. That summed up the way United had played up to that point.

However, it was from a Rooney free-kick that United pulled a precious goal back. The captain floated over a high ball into the area which looked easy for new City keeper Bravo, but he somehow misjudged the ball, flapped and there was new hero Ibrahimovic to smack the ball into the net. The big Swede's technique made it look so easy as he netted his fifth goal in as many games.

Just before half time, Ibrahimovic had two chances to grab the equaliser.The first was a far post header that Bravo only just managed to keep hold of following neat work and a cross from Rooney.

That was followed by complete mayhem in the City defence as the keeper inexplicably presented the ball on a plate for Ibrahimovic, but his first time shot was far too weak.The visiting keeper started to show some nerves and dodgy decision making on his debut.

Half time and at least United had started to show some fight towards the end of the half. Some of the players were not having a good time of it and their concentration was not on song as City made them pay for some poor play.

Mourinho had seen enough and made two important changes at the start of the second half. Rashford and Herrera replaced the ineffective duo of Lingard and Mkhitaryan. United kicked off the half attacking the Stretford End.

Rashford had an immediate effect on the match as his speed took him down the left and he produced a wonderful cross which Ibrahimovic met but put it over the bar.

The introduction of Rashford completely changed the tempo of United's game as his awareness, speed and overall ability gave the City defenders a lot to ponder.

There were two bookings in quick succession for United as they chased the game. One each for Ibrahimovic and Fellaini. The Belgium was adjudged to have used his elbow, not for the first time in his career.

United should have been awarded a clear penalty after City's Bravo lunged two-footed into Rooney after another blunder from the keeper. Clattenburg saw it differently from everyone else and waved play on. An interesting aspect of the challenge is that anywhere else on the pitch and it would have resulted in a free kick. A poor decision by the referee and one that would have a huge impact on the result.

It was all United now as the fans urged their heroes to attack and attack they did this time down the right when a cross was averted by the elbow of Otamendi. For the third time in the game referee Clattenburg waved away the home side's claims for a spot kick.

There was a distinctive difference to United's play as they had an urgency about them that had been lacking in the first half.

Ibrahimovic took a slight knock to the shin after he tried to connect with a Fellaini header. True to the big man's character he got up, ran it off and got on with his game.

The pace of Rashford almost paid off as he raced towards the penalty area and struck a well-aimed shot into the net only for it to be rightly called for offside against Ibrahimovic. So unlucky for both the youngster and his side who deserved to be back on level terms.

United keeper De Gea produced the goods to keep his side in the game from a spate of City corners with a double save followed by a catch at full stretch to prevent a certain goal.

The match was a full bloodied end to end spectacle as it entered the last fifteen minutes as both sides pushed forward. De Bruyne saw an effort hit the near post and trickle agonisingly across the goal line and Silva wasted a golden chance to put the game beyond United's reach.

At the other end, United were also guilty of wasted opportunities when on the attack and needed to aim more balls at the hapless keeper who looked like a fish out of water.

The last change of the match for United saw Martial enter the fray in place of Shaw to add an extra body to the attack for the remaining ten minutes.

Rooney was cautioned for catching the keeper late after Bravo had dithered on the ball in his own area. As a referee, Clattenburg gave the home side nothing in the way of balanced decisions and the Rooney caution was another example of this.

In the next attack, Rooney stayed on his feet after being caught inside the area. He probably realised that if he had gone to ground the referee wouldn't have given anything anyway.

As the match entered the added five minutes of injury time United threw everything forward in search of the valuable equaliser. As they did it left the back door open for counter attacks which City managed on at least two occasions. Both times Bailly was there to snuff out the danger. He is such a great addition to the side and will only become stronger as he gains more experience as the season progresses.

In the end, it was a disappointing first defeat of the season for Mourinho's men, but in fairness they didn't start to play until the introduction of Rashford at the beginning of the second half. In hindsight, maybe he should have started from the off.

United's cause wasn't helped by a terrible performance by referee Clattenburg who made a number of poor decisions. The main one being the Bravo challenge on Rooney. The inconsistency of Premier League referees is a huge problem that has to be looked into as each game throws up more than one contentious decision week in week out.

It has to be said Mourinho got it wrong in his team selection with the choice of Lingard, who had only just come back from injury and Mkhitaryan who had picked up a knock while on international duty and was clearly not in the right mindset.

Another issue has to be when United were chasing a goal what was the point in forsaking a defender for an extra attacker and then have Rooney play deep trying to dictate the attacks when he would have been better suited in the danger areas. Also, is Rooney now the only player capable of delivering free kicks from deep positions into the opposition's penalty area?

Obviously, Mourinho's tactics are still a work in progress and one poor result doesn't spell a disaster. However, some of the players need to raise their game to justify their inclusion.

A bad day at the office and one in which lessons will hopefully be learnt by Mourinho and his coaches as they try to pick up the players ahead of their opening Europa League game against Feyenoord.

Until then thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.