United returned to Champions League actions in high spirits. A massive home win against Spurs at the weekend kept them close to City in 1st, and dispelled any notions of a crisis at the club.
However, that game took a lot out of the players, so Mourinho had to change up the lineup yet again; the biggest surprise in the starting eleven being McTominay. The youth academy product has been given some first team minutes this season, but to be given a start in a Champions League game is a big step up in his development. He was paired in the midfield with Matic, with Mata playing in front of them. Lukaku got the start up top, flanked by Martial and Lingard.
United started on the front foot. Lingard seemed to have been played through on goal, but the assistant’s flag went up. Martial then picked up the ball and drove at the defence, before being tripped up and winning a free kick. However, he then took the free kick, and hit it miles over.
Martial seemed to make up for it soon after by winning a penalty for United. He dribbled by roughly four defenders before being taken down by a fifth. Martial placed the ball down to take the penalty. He tried to send the Benfica goalie the wrong way, but couldn’t, and his tame effort was saved by the teenage keeper. It was a nice bit of redemption for Svilar, whose mistake gave United a goal in the reverse fixture.
David De Gea reminded everyone that he is the best goalkeeper in the world. Goncalves cut inside, and unleashed a rocket of a shot. It was headed for the upper corner, but De Gea reached across and hit it away. It was an especially impressive save, as De Gea hadn’t had much to do in the game, but had to be alert to make the save.
In a worrisome sight for United fans, Jesse Lingard pulled up lame. United can’t afford many more injuries, and thankfully Jesse was able to continue.
McTominay, who had a rough first half, was megged by Salvio, which was a harsh welcome to the big stage of the Champions League.
Lingard was then booked for coming on to the field without the permission of the referee.
Lukaku finally got a touch on the and created a chance. He was able to cut inside onto his stronger left foot, but was only able to force a good save at the near post. Lukaku had another chance soon after, but he couldn’t keep his header down.
United were finally able to grab a goal soon before the end of the half. Matic picked up the ball in the midfield, and found himself in space. He decided to let rip, and his low shot hit the post. Thankfully for United, the ball bounced off the post, and then off the back of the Benfica keeper, and into the back of the net. It was very unfortunate for Slivar, as it will go down as an own goal on his behalf, even though he had done so well up to that point.
Lukaku could’ve added another right before the half, but was surrounded by defenders, and his shot was saved.
Mkhitaryan came on for Lingard to start the second-half.
A slow start to the half kicked into gear when Benfica carved out a decent chance. It was Goncalves who was played through on goal, but his low shot was saved by De Gea.
Benfica continued to pressure, and really should’ve scored. Bailly passed the ball away to Jimenez, and the Benfica striker was through on goal. Smalling was able to put some pressure, and the shot hit off the post and out of play. It was yet another lucky break for United.
Mata then came off for Herrera in an attempt to shore up the defense and keep a clean sheet.
Martial came off for Rashford, and the Frenchman didn’t seem to be too pleased to be coming off. It was a frustrating night for Tony, as he did well to glide by defender after defender, but will be disappointed in himself for missing the penalty.
Rashford, in an attempt to show he can do anything Martial can, won a penalty right after coming into the game. He cut inside, before dribbling back to the left, and was hacked down by a Benfica defender. Interestingly enough, Blind stepped up to take the penalty. He did not disappoint, smashing the pen down the middle as the goalie dived to the side. The goal made it 2-0, and effectively put this match to rest.
Not much happened after the second goal, as Benfica had no hope left in them, and United locked up shop defensively.
With CSKA Moscow winning away to Basel, United now have a 6 point lead in Group A. Man U have 12 points, while both CSKA and Basel have 6. Benfica have 0 points, and need a miracle to advance to the Round of 16.
United’s next match is in the Premier League, as they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Sunday.