Alexis Sanchez is far down the list of Manchester United‘s heroes on a famous, if fortunate night in Turin. The Chilean was off the pitch when Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini helped change the game in his side’s favour – but there were nonetheless a few shoots of promise from his performance.
Deployed as a central striker in the absence of Romelu Lukaku – whether it’s through injury or a loss of form – Sanchez led the charge at Allianz Stadium.
Here’s a closer look at how he got on …
Goals – 0
Assists – 0
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 0
Touches – 31
Passes – 21
Pass accuracy – 90.5%
Dribbles – 1
Fouled – 2
Sharp runs – After several months of Lukaku doing his best impression of a statue, it has been refreshing to witness some movement from the tip of United’s spear. Juventus were clearly the dominant side yet the quick-twitch movement of Sanchez oh-so-nearly paid off for the visitors in the first half, as he was half a toe away from latching onto a superb Nemanja Matic ball after beating the Juventus line.
Passing in final third – There was one delicious combination with Paul Pogba in the second half that has been lacking from Sanchez’s repertoire ever since he made the move north from London. No real chance came from it, but his cunning flicks and prescient passing radar deep in opposition territory is exactly what United need if they are to dine at the top table again. The trouble was that, even though Sanchez had no trouble retaining the ball, apart from a flash of Pogba here or there was no one to riff off.
Set-pieces – As good as he was when the ball was pinging about near the area, Sanchez failed to inject any life into dead-ball situations. One free-kick in a promising position found a Juventus stomach, and he nearly went from corner flag to corner flag with a satellite-finder in the second half. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci usually gobble up set-pieces for fun – but with chances at a premium, he should at least have made them work. Just look what happened after he came off.
Very few people are going to be beating the drum for Sanchez off the back of this display, but on closer inspection he was quietly effective and gave United a dynamic in attack that they have been sorely lacking.
The 29-year-old has looked bereft when stationed on a flank, often scooting into the running lanes of his team-mates. But with a little more space to operate laterally, and drop off or make an arcing run when required, Sanchez is in a position to showcase his intelligence when played through the middle.
It’ll be interesting to see how long Lukaku is out – but Sanchez still needs a marquee performance to give the big Belgian something to worry about.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
The Football Association is appealing against the decision by an independent regulatory commission to clear Jose Mourinho of using foul language at the end of Manchester United‘s Premier League match against Newcastle.
Last month United rallied to secure a 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle at Old Trafford amid intense scrutiny over the manager’s immediate future.
A report on the eve of the game claimed the Portuguese would be sacked regardless of the outcome of that Premier League encounter, with tensions seemingly boiling over at the final whistle.
Footage showed Mourinho making comments in his mother tongue, at one point looking into a camera, as he headed down the touchline, leading to an FA charge for using abusive, insulting or improper language.
United vigorously contested it and an Independent Regulatory Commission decided against sanctioning him after a hearing on October 31 – a decision that has now been appealed by the FA.
A statement from the governing body on Wednesday read: “Having carefully considered the written reasons of the Independent Regulatory Commission relating to the case involving Jose Mourinho, the FA can confirm it is appealing the decision.”
That move means Mourinho is again facing up to a possible touchline ban, although it is understood he will be available for Sunday’s derby clash with Manchester City.
The appeal hearing will not be until the international break, meaning that a ban could be in place for Crystal Palace’s visit on November 24.
The FA was understood to be submitting its documents to the appeal board on Wednesday, while United will get a chance to see that submission before both parties settle on a date for the hearing.
The written reasons show that the FA instructed Pedro Xavier, an expert in the translation and interpretation of lip reading of colloquial Portuguese language, to provide his opinion on Mourinho’s touchline utterances.
Xavier stated Mourinho used the phrase “vos sois uns filhos da puta” twice, which literally translate as “sons of a w****”.
Mourinho used Simao Valente, an assistant professor at the University of Lisbon and expert in the Portuguese language.
Valente interpreted the repeated phrase as “vao levar no cu, filhos da puta”, which he translated to mean “go take it in the a***, sons of the w****” in the literal sense, and “f*** off you sons of b******” or “f*** off you a*******” as an idiomatic translation.
Valente considered the idiomatic translation was not entirely adequate or accurate as the context of United’s difficult match was needed along with their difficult start to the season and “significant criticism in the media”.
Valente said that “the victory was vindication” and he did not consider the words used in the context to be abusive, insulting or improper.
Mourinho accepted the words ascribed to him by the FA’s expert witness, but claimed they were an “inwardly-directed expression of relief, happiness and determination”.
It was argued that they were inaudible and comprehensive only to “a person possessed of sufficient lip-reading skills and a deep expertise in Portuguese colloquialisms”.
Mourinho asked whether anybody had been insulted, abused and/or offended, as well as contending that the charge was out of step with the FA’s longstanding approach to swearing, citing several high-profile examples that did not lead to a charge.
It led the commission to rule: “We find that JM (Jose Mourinho) was celebrating victory without aiming the words at anyone in particular.
“His words were inaudible. We do not accept that he shouted the expression, as stated by Mr Xavier in his report.
“JM repeats the words, first looking away and then the second time we do accept that he is seen briefly glancing towards the lens of the broadcaster’s camera. The words mouthed were a Portuguese colloquial profanity.
“Thus, the objective person would have had to lip read JM’s mouth and interpret Portuguese colloquialisms to accurately decipher the comments.”
The commission continued: “We do not consider JM’s language constituted abusive or insulting or improper act so that it was in breach of FA Rule E3, therefore on the balance of probabilities the charge is unanimously not proved.
“Consequently, it was superfluous to go on to consider the remaining issue of legitimate expectation.”
There is a school of thought among Manchester United fans that Marcus Rashford may never fulfill his true potential at the club, and is in fact already a disappointment.
Funny how some players can be written off despite being in the infant stages of their careers.
Who can forget that magical European night (magical for Rashford, not United, it was the Europa League after all). February 25, 2016, an 18-year-old Rashford exploded onto the scene, coming off the bench and scoring two goals in a 5-1 win against Denmark’s FC Midtjylland.
It made him United’s youngest ever scorer in European competition, beating a record previously held by George Best. Not bad for a player who only made the squad following an injury to Anthony Martial in the warm-up.
He went on to score two more goals and supply the assist for the other in the Premier League three days later as Arsenal were beaten 3-2 at Old Trafford.
The new darling of the Stretford End would finish the 2015/16 campaign with an impressive eight goals in 18 outings.
Since then, however, his expected meteoric rise has been grounded. Perhaps by a mixture of Jose Mourinho’s negative tactics and perceived lack of trust in youth.
If you sit on the other side of the fence, though, you’ll say he’s just a flash in the pan, not a United player, and ultimately will amount to nothing.
Some United fans have already washed their hands of him. One Twitter user last week described him as “consistently United’s worst player, offers nothing and had one great game since his debut season”.
Some see him as the next Danny Welbeck, who left United in search of establishing himself, yet is arguably no better off four years later.
In 142 United games from 2008-14, Welbeck scored 29 goals, at a rate of 0.2 goals per game. At Arsenal, in 124 games he has notched 32 goals, at a slightly higher rate of 0.25.
As much promise as Longsight-born Welbeck showed in his early years, he was never able to establish himself or convince Sir Alex Ferguson of his worth. He was never able to oust the likes of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov and Robin van Persie from the starting XI.
Rightly so, too. As has been proven since his move to the Gunners, the 27-year-old has failed to fully push on and fulfil his promise, which was once deemed so immense.
A player who went from being a frustrated back-up at United has gone on to become, well, a frustrated back-up to Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the Emirates Stadium.
Rashford is certainly no Welbeck – which is meant as a compliment. There is, however, a pressing need for him to climb to the next level. His career statistics read: 34 games, 134 goals. Welbeck’s output is 69 from 302.
His United goals per game ratio is 0.25, slightly better than Welbeck. It must be noted he has scored five more times from less than three seasons, whereas Welbeck’s tally came during five full campaigns and three as a regular.
So there is an argument to be made Rashford is on the same path.
Again, age is the decisive factor here. Welbeck is six years older. The Wythenshawe native reached a seminal moment a week ago, turning 21. His future is now, but is there honestly many who think he will plummet to the depths of Welbeck?
Even though the pair have similar records, another importing factor in Rashford’s favour is he is playing in a very different era to the one Welbeck was nurtured in. Welbeck was part of a hugely successful and terrifying United squad. One that strolled to success with powerful regularity.
The dour and defeatist tactics of Mourinho are not aiding Rashford’s development. United have been in decline ever since Ferguson retired, struggling in the mire as rivals Liverpool and Manchester City now aspire.
Welbeck played in a glorious era where swashbuckling, scintillating football was the norm, a way of life. There were myriad of opportunities presented every game for the forwards to gobble up.
But while Welbeck showed glimpses, he was never able to, or was prevented from, making his mark.
Whereas Rashford may not be grabbing the headlines as he did initially, he is a better player than Welbeck in all areas.
Every facet of his game – even if it might still need tweaking or perfecting – is better. From shooting to first touch, work rate, movement off the ball, tracking back and even finishing – which is one of fans and critics’ biggest criticisms of him – he is superior.
Rashford is likely to get another chance to prove his worth in Turin on Wednesday as he should start against Juventus in the continued absence of Romelu Lukaku.
He has shown in recent weeks he is learning and improving all the time, even if fans can’t see it.
The England international started centrally as Lukaku was dropped for the 2-1 Everton win. And even though he was shunted into the shadows by the brilliance of Martial, his contribution cannot be overlooked, in what was overall a much more vivacious United performance.
He probed and stretched Everton’s defence, chased and harried into the channels and opened up space for the likes of Martial and Paul Pogba.
Of course, he needs to be more consistent in front of goal and after scoring the winner against Bournemouth he has a chance to go on a run. But that will come with a more consistent and prolonged run of games in the team.
Should Mourinho put his faith and trust in Rashford, he can become what Welbeck could not, the next local lad to become a United great.