Brandon Williams instrumental in Man United's narrow win at Partizan with 7/10 showing
Manchester United's 2-1 Europa League win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday may have been a timely one -- their first away from home since March -- but it was hardly a confidence-boosting one. Partizan excelled in the second half, and the likes of Harry Maguire and Phil Jones were called upon frequently to keep out the hosts' late efforts, while Sergio Romero needed to be on his A-game.
Encouragingly, youngsters James Garner, Brandon Williams and Scott McTominay didn't look out of place, but the lacklustre Anthony Martial -- ironically United's match-winner -- offered little threat up front. Back to the drawing board.
A full debut for an 18-year-old like Garner is always a positive, but even his involvement was minimal. Aaron Wan-Bissaka's work rate was encouraging, as was Williams' dashing runs down the left wing. McTominay often found himself in good spaces, but wasn't able to make the most of his chances.
One shot on target tells the story of the first half for United. In a game in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played a back three initially, the United chief would've wanted more from his team going forward..
The likes of Maguire and Jones were often left trailing by Partizan's determined forwards, backed by a boisterous home crowd. Martial's work rate must be questioned, his reaction to losing possession was generally poor also.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- A tactical tweak was without question required by Solskjaer following Sunday's draw at home to Liverpool, so it was no great surprise to see United adopt a more attacking formation, but few will claim it worked. Of course, seven changes were made and three points it might be, but Partizan held their own in the first half, and grew in confidence as the game went on. Even a double change on the hour mark -- when Marcus Rashford and Daniel James were introduced -- did little to impact the visitors' threat.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sergio Romero, 7 -- Had little to do in the first half, but his distribution wasn't the best and was once saved by the woodwork. Made a good save late on, punching clear a dangerous glanced header.
DF Phil Jones, 6 -- Short of options when looking to advance play forward, his passes were astray and he was dispossessed cheaply more than once. Defensively sound, though, making a number of key tackles.
DF Harry Maguire, 6 -- Occasionally wobbled -- like his mistimed tackle that gifted Partizan a free kick in a dangerous area -- but was generally solid enough in his first proper game of European football.
DF Marcos Rojo, 5 -- Calm and measured in the first half, taking his time when in possession, but mistakes were frequent in the second, which allowed Partizan to excel in the game's concluding moments.
MF Aaron wan-Bissaka, 6 -- Adapted to a wing-back role and linked up fairly well with Jesse Lingard on the right, demonstrating tireless work rate, while his footwork left something to be desired.
MF Scott McTominay, 6 -- Got into great space and wasn't afraid to press forward. Missed a key chance, but can be forgiven considering the heightened atmosphere.
MFJames Garner, 6 -- On his debut, made a couple of basic errors to lose possession in key areas.
MF Juan Mata, 5 -- Crossed over into McTominay's space at times,causing confusion between the pair. Demonstrated good vision during the buildup of play, but didn't get the space he is usually granted. His performance improved once Rashford entered play.
MF Brandon Williams, 7 -- An excellent run to win the first-half penalty that yielded the game's only goal, and continued that trend in the second half despite being a natural left-back. Displayed great work rate, but losing his man on a late corner could've been costly.
MF Jesse Lingard, 5 -- Saw little of the ball early on, but showed off quick feet when he did get possession, and was unlucky not to score in the first half when striking the post.
FW Anthony Martial, 5 -- His clinical penalty masked a lacklustre performance. Lost his footing at key times, his work rate wasn't quite there and United fans will in future no doubt want better reactions to losing possession.
FW Marcus Rashford, 6 -- Executed some brilliant link-up play with Lingard and Mata, and made a strong initial impact before United's collective performance weakened.
MF Daniel James, 6 -- Made determined runs from midfield, provided that injection of energy United required when Martial was slacking.
MF Andreas Pereira, N/R -- Came on for the tiring Garner in the game's concluding minutes.