Manchester United advanced to the EFL Cup semifinals with a largely dominant performance. Penned back by West Ham after they had taken an early lead, they emerged as 4-1 winners thanks to some of the most cohesive attacking play they have produced all season.
There was excellence throughout United’s attack, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney the stars while Zlatan Ibrahimovic ended up not too far behind. Antonio Valencia’s final ball was pleasingly decisive and Marcos Rojo continued his recent vein of impressive form.
If there are any criticisms, they must involve Ibrahimovic’s indecisive finishing after he scored the game’s opening goal. Also, his team’s lull in intensity for the latter stages of the first half, typified by David De Gea’s failure to hold a routine shot from Dmitri Payet and thus gifting Ashley Fletcher an equaliser. Yet United recovered from these setbacks in style.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Rui Faria was standing in for Jose Mourinho, who was serving a touchline ban, but between them they contrived to produce a very good tactical performance. Though West Ham have been poor of late, it still took a degree of skill to unpick them, and the attacking line-up that United fielded was thoroughly rewarded.
GK David De Gea, 6 — Made a very poor mistake to allow Fletcher his equaliser. Was untroubled either side of that error. It is the rarest of matchdays when he is his team’s least distinguished player.
DF Antonio Valencia, 8 — Yet again, he covered a prodigious amount of ground on his flank while his ball for Martial’s second showed wonderful composure.
DF Marcos Rojo, 8 — His passing could have been better, again, but his anticipation of threats was very good and his turn of speed to cover busy opposing forwards was very impressive. As strong a performance as he has shown in some time.
DF Phil Jones, 7 — Stepped out of defence with notable confidence and produced a couple of touches of rare class. Had One or two anxious moments but was generally sound.
DF Luke Shaw, 7 — Subdued his opposite man with his uncommon speed, got forward well on a couple of occasions, and was getting into the game before an injury saw him withdrawn at the half.
MF Michael Carrick, 8 — Controlled the midfield, stepping into attack time and again and passing the ball sharply through the lines. One second-half dummy left the pressing forward looking for him for a few seconds.
MF Ander Herrera, 9 — Like Valencia, he did a remarkable amount of unseen work, sometimes even taking the ball from his centre-backs. He even got forward to produce a superb assist for Ibrahimovic’s second and his team’s fourth, revealing a seldom-seen stepover in the process.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 9 — Started the game with a magnificent back-heel to assist Ibrahimovic’s opener, played the ball forward with remarkable promptness for the next 25 minutes or so, and then entered a brief lull. After the half, he was resurgent, supplying Martial beautifully for his first goal and proving unstoppable until he was withdrawn to a loud ovation.
MF Anthony Martial, 9 — Full of running and enterprise throughout, he cut inside his markers and went down the touchline with equal ease. Also found himself in central positions for two decisive strikes. Made a strong case for a starting role.
No. 10 Wayne Rooney, 8 — Looked as happy as he has for some time, playing and creating with freedom. His touch was assured, and he moved the ball forward without hesitation. Could have been stronger from dead balls, but otherwise excellent.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 8 — Started and ended the game very well, losing composure at times — perhaps partly due to a very poor challenge from Adrian in the act of scoring — but after the break he pressed with as much intensity as he has all season, built play from deep and defended well. Was rewarded with a late and final goal.
DF Daley Blind, 7 (for Shaw, 46) — Stepped in dependably for Shaw and snuffed out West Ham’s limited threat in the second half.
MF Bastian Schweinsteiger, NR (for Martial, 86) — Emerged to maybe the greatest cheer of the night and his wide smile said everything. Some neat touches, a shot on goal and even managed to play Herrera in for his assist for the final goal.
MF Marcus Rashford, NR (for Mkhitaryan, 90) — Was barely able to touch the ball, and it was a pleasing sign of United’s attacking strength that he did not need to be used.
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