The future is bright for Benfica’s Joao Felix

In his debut and breakthrough season, Joao Felix has replicated the impressive feats that Kylian Mbappe achieved when at AS Monaco as a teenager. 

The Benfica forward has the eyes of the world fixated on him after what has been a non-stop rollercoaster of a journey throughout this campaign. Remarkably, the Portuguese second striker has a combined 31 goals and assists in 43 first-team appearances this season.

His rise has been meteoric and it is no wonder why the biggest clubs in the world are vying for his signature at the earliest possible chance. Inserted into his contract, which runs until 2023, is a release clause of €120 million – a fee that is very achievable from Benfica’s point of view given the current state of the market.

Felix was an unknown quantity 12 months ago, having played the majority of his football in Portugal’s second division as well as Benfica’s U19 side in the UEFA Youth League. Of course, the Portuguese star was a talent when up against his fellow youth players, but no one had quite anticipated his perfect adjustment to senior football at one of the country’s biggest clubs.

What is perhaps even more staggering, however, is the fact that Felix has only really announced himself to the world since the beginning of this year. Before January, the forward had only managed to start two games in Liga Primeira, with his other four appearances coming from the bench. With that being said, he did manage to start all of Benfica’s Europa League matches.

But since the beginning of January, Felix has netted 13 goals in the league, as well as assisting his team-mates on eight occasions. His numbers speak for themselves, but perhaps even more impressively, it’s Felix’s intuition and decision making that is making him stand out from the crowd.

In Benfica’s 4-4-1-1 formation, Felix sits just behind Haris Seferovic in attack and acts as a patrolling number 10, but with more emphasis on goal-scoring that assisting. The Portugal U21 international has an immense maturity in how he plays the game, as well as his ability to understand where he needs to be at what specific moment; not many, at 19, can think and execute moves so intelligently.

And so with his newfound fame and notoriety, England, Spain, Italy and France’s biggest clubs queue up in an orderly fashion to tell them why their club is best suited to him. Benfica have made it clear, however, that a bid under €100 million will not suffice and will have to break that barrier to acquire their prize possession.

Whether or not he moves this summer, and in practice, he should remain for another season at least, Felix’s future is one of the brightest in Europe and it will be interesting to see how far he can push himself over the next couple of years.

Will Eden Hazard’s last game for Chelsea be in the Europa League final?

With the summer transfer window opening for Premier League teams on Thursday, clubs in England are now working down their shortlist to see who is and is not attainable over the next few months. 

Chelsea are in a peculiar position, due to their transfer ban for two windows being upheld by FIFA last week. The Blues are set to contest this decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but it is fair to say that they will be behind others if the outcome is reversed and they can in fact sign players.

With Christian Pulisic signing last January and joining the club over the summer, one large piece of transfer business has already been concluded – which takes the pressure off somewhat with their foresight that this ban would be coming. However, even with the American touching down in London, all eyes are on Eden Hazard’s decision and whether he will stay or go.

The Belgium international has been with the club since 2012 and has been considered the best of the bunch in those seven years in West London. Hazard has danced in front of the Chelsea faithful every other week with his name being reverberated around the stadium and has won prestigious honours at Stamford Bridge.

But with Real Madrid, who have been chasing his signature for several years, approaching their rebuilding summer with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, the Belgian’s chapter at Chelsea is drawing to a sharp close.

It is likely that Hazard’s last match in a Chelsea shirt will be against Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan, contesting for the Europa League final. After yet another stellar season contributing a combined 35 goals and assists in 51 appearances, it is no wonder that Zidane wants to use the Belgian to rebuild his forward line.

With Gareth Bale potentially leaving the club this summer after the French manager made it clear that he will not be in his plans next season, it makes perfect sense as to why Zidane sees Hazard as the player to come and make an immediate difference.

Although Karim Benzema has had a more prolific season than his last few, the manager is evidently also taking into consideration that the centre forward will be turning 32 by the end of this year. With Hazard alongside the Frenchman, goals should come at a more frequent rate – especially when they matter and without the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Even with a year left on his contract, Chelsea are demanding a hefty fee for Hazard. The transfer fee is rumoured to be in the region of £90 million, which would be a healthy return rate for a player who is nearing the end of his contract and has delivered on his talent for seven years at the club.

Hazard first announced that he was joining the ‘Champions of Europe’ when Chelsea won the European cup in 2012, and it would be somewhat fitting if the Belgium international bowed out by winning the Europa League for the club before heading over to the Spanish capital and starting the next phase of his career.

Is it time for Paulo Dybala to move on from Juventus?

Since joining Italian champions Juventus in 2015 for £36 million, Paulo Dybala has become a fan’s favourite in Turin over the four years he has been at the club.

The Argentina international is a magisterial player that can turn on sixpence and find the winning goal when the odds are heavily stacked against him. In the same way to Lionel Messi, Dybala is one of the most gifted players of his generation and likes to occupy the ‘half spaces’ between the opposition’s midfield and defence.

However, it has not been plain sailing for the Argentinean. There have been a few issues on-and-off the field since moving to the Allianz Stadium, and this season suggests that there might be thoughts from Dybala to leave for pastures new.

The playmaker has featured in 39 games this season from a possible 48 so far, which is not a poor record, but when diving deeper into his game time, Massimiliano Allegri has often opted to remove Dybala after 75 minutes, or not even start him.

Since the turn of the year, Dybala has routinely found himself either on the bench or not starting. There have been five games from 11 in which he has been fit enough to feature in that he either failed to come on at all or made a cameo role towards the end of the match.

For someone who is a fully fledged international player and now in the prime of his career when turning 26-years-old this November, Dybala has the capacity to be one of the leaders in any squad. His talent is unquestionable, but evidently, Allegri views him as a liability at times and does not always find room for Dybala in his very intricate system.

Which then begs the question as to what the Argentine might decide to do this summer. Around Europe’s top five league, there will be plenty of suitors, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid the more likely destinations for the playmaker.

Dybala has three years left on his contract from this summer onwards, which means Juventus are in no hurry or pressure to sell. The Bianconeri will likely only listen to offers that eclipse £75 million due to market inflation over the past number of years, but the aforementioned clubs would not be put off that price given the quality they think they are purchasing.

One of the Argentinean’s greatest strengths is his versatility, which could also been seen as a weakness in the sense that he is yet to nail down his own position and stamp his authority for Juventus. But any prospective buying club will see Dybala as a solution to many holes in their squad, with being able to fill it across the forward line and in his more preferred number 10 role.

In Dybala’s 39 matches this season, he has found the back of the net on 10 occasions and recorded six assists, which is respectable given his lack of match rhythm throughout the season and various on-going injury problems.

Dybala, however, needs to now make a choice over his long-term future. Should he remain at Juventus for his prime years, it looks likely that he will have to settle for his role in the squad that is not cemented, or he can move to a club that values him as one of their best and most important players which will entitle him to a more central role.

Dybala is still young enough to move on and make this decision, but the longer he leaves it, the harder it will be to state his argument of being one of the best overall players of his generation.

Manchester United are feeling the effects of signing Alexis Sanchez

It has been over a year since Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United from Arsenal on a free transfer, and yet the Chilean has only managed 29 appearances in all competitions for the club. 

Out of those 29 appearances, perhaps only a handful have been worth remembering. Through injuries, a lack of confidence and irregular minutes on the pitch, Sanchez has been nothing short of a disappointment by Manchester United fans. By all accounts, he is not justifying his immense £350,000 per-week deal (plus bonuses).

It was well documented back in January 2018 that to beat Manchester City to the acquisition of the Chile international, the Red Devils would have to increase their offer and make it as lucrative as possible. The club succumbed to the demands and offered Sanchez an overall package that thumped not only every other player at the club, but also in the Premier League and most of Europe.

With his pedigree and reputation, however, and with the fact that there was no transfer fee to pay, Manchester United thought they would receive his stellar, match-winning performances that he had shown in the years previous at Arsenal.

But, as of present day, that has not been the case. Injuries have plagued the 30 year old and he has yet to ignite in a Red Devils jersey. There were issues with style of play under Jose Mourinho which evidently did not help, but even when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in as interim manager and gave everyone a lift, Sanchez remained unaffected.

Whether the Chilean is moved on at the end of the season or not is another story – and it will not be easy – but what is more prevalent than his on-pitch performances is how his pay packet is now affecting how the club operates. Given the extortionate sums Sanchez is receiving, his teammates, who are well within their rights to ask, are wondering why they cannot increase their contracts by a considerable figure.

Ander Herrera, for example, is the latest player to ask for a sizeable increase on his contract, which currently expires at the end of the season. With interest looming large from Paris Saint-Germain, the Spain international is using Sanchez’s situation, as well as the attraction from other clubs, to his advantage.

The Spanish midfielder is a classy player and has served United well over the years. He might be considered a squad player more than an essential starter, but there is no denying that he has acted accordingly and fans have grown fond of him since arriving in Manchester in 2014.

Sanchez’s teammates are now expecting similar luxury treatment after understanding the full extent of the Chilean’s contract. Especially given the fact that he has barely played for the club, the likes of Herrera and Luke Shaw feel it is well within their rights to ask for what they think they deserve with the performances they have shown.

If the Chilean never came to Man United in early 2018 and decided to opt for Pep Guardiola’s Man City instead, it would be an immensely difficult sell for Herrera to receive the £200,000 per-week he is asking for.

But alas, given the indentation that Sanchez has done to the books at Old Trafford, the average wages are going to soar with players asking for the ridiculous. There is now no sense of control over what the club can be signing these players up for, because the new ‘normal’ has increased dramatically.

So not only has Sanchez wildly underperformed during his 13 months at Manchester United, but he has also put the club in a difficult situation when trying to re-negotiate contracts with important members of the squad. It will be interesting to see how this pans out with Herrera especially, but the Red Devils have to, at some point, say enough is enough.

How hard should Manchester United pursue Jadon Sancho?

It hasn’t taken long for Jadon Sancho to become an England international and last Friday night he made his first competitive start in the European Qualifiers against Czech Republic.

Recording his first assist, England fans waited with anticipation and excitement every time he received the ball. His unpredictability and jaw-dropping quick feet did the talking for the night and will be a debut that he, nor the fans, will ever forget.

This season, the Englishman has netted nine goals and recorded a staggering 17 assists. Not many would have thought Sancho would have had this type of impact in his second full season in Germany.

Such is his high profile status nowadays, it hasn’t taken long for Europe’s elite to come calling. While Dortmund are not inclined to sell the gem they have on their books, it is widely accepted that money makes the football world go round and it is simply about the price being right for them.

Manchester United have longed for a right-sided winger for a number of years. After failing in securing one, they have had to play Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard in the position, which is a waste of talent given their prowess through the middle occupying the spaces in between midfield and defence.

Diogo Dalot, who only joined last summer as a prospect, has been featuring on the wing in recent weeks, and has done well, but it is about time the Red Devils delved deep into their pockets and signed a world-class superstar-in-the-making.

Even from just seeing him for the 90 minutes against Czech Republic, Sancho has it all at his disposal. The turn of speed, the spatial intelligence of what is around him, his ability to come inside as well take them on in the outside channels, and the mindset of knowing when to give a pass and when to produce an individual action.

In a similar way to some of the best players on the planet, Sancho has that innate sense of unpredictability and surprise in his game. Especially as a winger, it is paramount to keep their opposite man on their toes at all times and confuse them with every move: cause them to think twice every time the ball lands at their feet. And that is exactly what Sancho has shown this season – his raw talent of beating the person in front of him.

There will be a long list of clubs ready to offer Sancho the next step up potentially, but Manchester United will have an advantage over some of their competitors by making sure he has the best opportunity to start. With the right wing barren, Sancho can make that position his own in a Red Devils jersey for a decade if he wanted to.

Borussia Dortmund are a talent factory with their whole modus operandi being emphasised on buying low and selling high. While they might come out to the public and say that he is strictly not for sale, they know that a fee of around £80 million is what will satisfy them.

The German side had also not expected any teams to become infatuated with Sancho in the way that Man United are currently this season. While the inevitable would eventually happen and English clubs come calling in the next two years, it shows what a meteoric rise the England international has been on for certain European teams to be queuing up for his signature.

Manchester United will need to shop for a number of positions this summer, but if they are serious about challenging for major honours next season, a player of Sancho’s calibre must be acquired in order to achieve the next step.

Letting Ander Herrera leave on a free transfer would be a mistake

With the summer transfer window right around the corner, speculation is certainly heating up with contracts coming to an end. 

One Manchester United player in particular, Ander Herrera, has been the subject of rumours this week, suggesting that he is in advanced stages of negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Given the Spain midfielder’s contract expires at the end of June, the player is evaluating all his options and will obviously use the interest he gathers from other top European clubs to his advantage when discussing with the Red Devils.

It is reported that Herrera is asking for around £100,000 per-week, which, for a starting player at Manchester United, is not extortionate by any means. The Spaniard has been a valuable squad player since arriving in 2014 and has been a pivotal midfield player under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s new regime.

Some fans will question Herrera’s ability and suggest there are alternatives out there, on the market, that could come in at Old Trafford and rise to the level necessary in order to win titles and European competitions. While that is, in essence true, there is more at stake here than the option of upgrading in central midfield.

For starters, Herrera’s leadership qualities are outstanding. He is a player who ‘gets’ what the club is about and the foundations it prides itself on. That might be a cliché to some and how ‘passion’ is meaningless when challenging for the biggest prizes of all, but Manchester United have needed leaders in their squad for a number of years and players to fully understand what it means to put the jersey on.

The focus, determination and willingness to fight that Herrera brings should not be underestimated in this day and age. Not many players are forthcoming in putting their bodies on the line for the cause and taking one for the team, but Herrera has shown he does just that and fulfils the role perfectly. Every club needs a ‘scrapper’ in their team and the Spaniard is one of the world’s best at playing the dark arts.

Secondly, with the cost of the overall package of transfers – wages included – rising year-on-year, it will not be a modest operation in signing a new player that can significantly upgrade Manchester United’s midfield.

Herrera would be let go of for free, so the Red Devils would be dipping deep into their pockets in order to sign someone of the required level. Some would suggest the acquisition of PSG’s Adrien Rabiot on a free transfer, but the wages and complications would put the Mancunian club off with troubles arising just around the corner.

Another issue with Herrera walking out the door would be Manchester United having to allocate some of their transfer kitty in order to replace him. With centre back, defensive midfield and a right winger already on the wish list, it is highly unlikely that United extend that to another player in midfield and broach the £200 million mark – if not more.

With that being the case, one or possibly even two of the priority positions mentioned will be neglected for another season. The Red Devils have been longing for a right-sided player for a number of years, while Nemanja Matić is starting to wind down and the need for a central defender to shore up their organisation.

It would be a monumental mistake to ignore those positions and get dragged into signing a central midfielder when they already have one that carries out his job well. Players have come and gone from United that have lacked the enthusiasm fans desire, but Herrera has shown why he should be adored by the supporters.

The danger of awarding Alexis Sánchez with his monumental contract was always going to be the knock-on effect it would have on the other squad players. Herrera is not extorting the club in any way, he is merely asking for what he deserves.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a freak of nature

It’s not hard to see why he is so admired by the masses. For year after year, Cristiano Ronaldo has been on top of the world with his performances at Manchester United and Real Madrid. And in Tuesday evening’s Champions League second leg in Turin, the Portuguese superstar rose to the occasion once more.

After losing 2-0 away at Atletico Madrid, not many gave the Bianconeri much hope in qualifying for the quarter finals, especially giving Diego Simeone’s robust and relentless defensive solidity at the back. The Argentine manager has a reputation of seeing out wins and the ability to nullify other teams’ offensive weapons.

However, with Ronaldo one the opposition’s team, and his fantastic record against Atletico, it was only a matter of time before the floodgates were opened by the Portugal captain. It can be argued that Ronaldo is the best header of the football to ever play the game, and his opening two goals justify that.

The way the centre forward leaps in the air and maintains his hang time is nothing short of magnificent. In his opening goal, Diego Godin had no chance of matching his aerial height and rose above the Uruguayan to sneak the  ball past Jan Oblak. For his second, Ronaldo’s movement in between the two central defenders allowed him some space to meet the ball in the air and just about get it over the line.

Ronaldo does not feel nerves and relishes high pressure situations. Time after time, he has come up trumps for Real Madrid, which is exactly why they have struggled so magnificently to uphold their own standards domestically and in Europe. Perhaps some at Los Blancos didn’t give as much credit to Ronaldo as they needed to.

If having won the Champions League five times throughout his career wasn’t enough, Ronaldo also has the most goals, assists, headed goals, home goals, away goals, free-kick goals and many other type of goals to his names. To put simply: Ronaldo is a machine that simply cannot be stopped in Europe.

There is not another footballer currently playing that has the same drive and devotion to his craft than Ronaldo, which is consistently being talked about by ex-teammates that have played with him throughout the years. The typical anecdotes of being the first one there and the last one to leave might seem endless, but that sacrifice is what has made Ronaldo the superstar he is today.

Whichever club Juventus are paired with in the quarter finals will know that, no matter the lead they have, it is going to always be an uphill battle when keeping Ronaldo quiet. Manchester United managed to do it in Turin under José Mourinho, but that was in a group stage game with little consequences. In a knockout format, Ronaldo raises his performances levels tenfold – only then is when you see the real player at work.

At 34 years old, it is clear that Ronaldo is slowing down somewhat and cherry picks his games, but Juventus are only after one thing that has eluded them for many years: the Champions League. There is no better player to deliver that than the Portugal international, who has already delivered an amazing comeback spectacle at the Allianz Stadium.

Fred’s turning point at Parc des Princes

It has been a struggle for Brazilian Fred since arriving last summer under José Mourinho for £50 million. 

Since first stepping foot in England, the team had crumbled and reached a new low with the manager eventually being sacked and relieved of his duties by Christmas. Fred signed up to a team that had the potential, under one of the most successful managers in the game, to challenge on all fronts and win major honours.

It soon became apparent that the Brazil international had walked into a dressing room that had been divided by the Portuguese manager, with matters only getting worse in the lead up to the end of 2018.

However, brighter skies appeared soon after with Ole Gunnar Solskjær returning to Old Trafford as interim manager and giving players a new lease of life. It was evident to see Fred finding it difficult to adjust to the Premier League and football in England, but there was hope on the horizon that the Norwegian manager could give him the confidence to express himself on the pitch.

Confidence is a huge factor in football, no matter your talent. Alexis Sánchez, for example, is one of the most gifted players on the planet, but with his confidence reaching rock bottom, he is playing well within himself and looks lost at times out there. Fred has been similar this season and looked a completely different player from what his team-mates and fans had thought when first acquiring him from Shakhtar Donetsk.

That was until the Miracle in Paris. With very little belief from all around Manchester United that they had the knowhow and tools to overturn their 2-0 deficit suffered in the first leg, they were written off before a ball had been kicked. Suffering from nine injuries and a suspension to Paul Pogba, the Red Devils had a severely weakened side.

Like his team-mates around him, Fred rose to the occasion. Unbothered by the players on the opposite team, the Brazilian made his breakthrough performance for Manchester United – and what a time to have made it.

From what fans have seen this season, Fred has looked panicked when on the ball in the Premier League. As if he is running out of time to make the pass or beat his man and is petrified of making a mistake and losing possession. He has not slotted in as well as some would have hoped and has been poor in both an offensive and defensive manner.

Yet, against PSG, arguably United’s biggest game of the season at present, Fred rediscovered what it was that the club first saw in him. His desire and restlessness was clear throughout the 90 minutes, in which he screened the defence almost perfectly and distributed the ball with clarity. There were no rushed passes or positional errors, just calculated moments of play that helped United take charge of the midfield battle in the second half.

Fred is not known for his defensive qualities and is more of a box-to-box midfielder, but he showed his prowess in front of his two, sometimes three, central defenders when thwarting danger.

There was a moment when the Brazilian was in a one-on-one situation with Kylian Mbappé which would have sounded alarm bells to many United fans. Instead of diving in against the French wizard, Fred stood his ground and waited for the attacker to make his move. When Mbappé did just that, Fred was wise to the piece of trickery, quickly cut it out at source and started a counter-attack. It embodied the player people had seen at Shakhtar.

After the game, Fred told ESPN: “Ole has helped me a lot. He had a lot of chats with me. [Carrick] also speaks to me a lot. That brings me calm that things will turn around for me.

“I’m very, very happy. My confidence is getting better.”

And that is all it is for Fred. He has the ability, he has the talent and he has the desire and hunger to make it work at Manchester United. His celebrations in Paris encompassed his feelings towards the club and how much he wants it to work out there. Fred might just have had his turning point as a Red Devil.

Should Nicolas Pepe be Manchester United’s next big purchase?

There has been talk for many years about updating Manchester United’s right wing, given the lack of out-and-out wide players that occupy their flank. Both Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, more natural to the number 10 position, have routinely been placed out wide, while centre forwards Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford have also had stints in unfamiliar territory. 

The Red Devils have lost a part of their attacking force due to the predictability of their right wing.Ashley Young, who has been filling in at right back, is usually ever present in offensive positions, but with his teammate ahead of him usually cutting inside, the opposition know that if they can put two players on Young and cover the space effectively, United’s attacks will come to void.

The Englishman has also received stark criticism over his poor execution of crosses, which is prohibiting their chances of putting the ball into the box.

And so it is about time that Manchester United reinforced their ring with some new talent, with Nicolas Pepe of Lille being the name on the tip of many fans’ tongues.

Ligue 1 is consistently slandered by supporters claiming it is a ‘farmer’s league’, suggesting that because of Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance, the whole division is weak in comparison to the almighty Premier League. But there is a clear reason why English and European clubs continually go to the French market, and that is because they produce some of the best players in the world.

From Ousmane Dembélé  to Samuel Umtiti to Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappé, Ligue 1 has nurtured some of the finest players this generation has and will see, so it remains bemusing as to see why the mockery continues to grow.

This year, the 23 year old Pepe has become a household name, rising to prominence with a high-flying Lille side. Coming into his prime years, the Ivory Coast international would be a catch to Manchester United given his directness and ability to create something from nothing – he is fantastic at unbalancing his opposite man and creating space for either the key pass or incisive shot.

Remarkably, so far this season, Pepe has 17 goals and 11 assists in 28 games, averaging a goal contribution in every single match in all competitions. While the Ivorian traditionally is not an orthodox winger in the sense that he will take on his defender at every opportunity, he does hold his width far more than the likes of Lingard and Mata, and has speed to burn.

Over the last few years, under Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho, Man United’s players have somewhat lacked the courage to move in a direct manner. There have been a lot of sideways passes and a crowding in the middle of the pitch – a lack of considerable width was missing from their game.

That has somewhat changed under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, but the right wing is still a problem area, with not enough happening down it in comparison to the left. Pepe, on the other hand, is an incredibly direct and forward-thinking player, he has the confidence to beat the player in front of him and the ability to pull it off nine times out of 10.

What has been so impressive about Pepe’s performances this season is the consistency. Some players can start explosively and peter out, but the Ivorian has kept up his goal rate and assist tally throughout the season, which is why some of Europe’s biggest clubs will be eyeing him up for a summer transfer.

Even if Lille are in a spot of financial bother, Pepe is unlikely to be sold for anything less than £50 million this summer. Given his age, ability shown and potential to take his game to the next level, the French club are going to play the long game during the transfer window and make sure that a bidding war arises. Based on what has been shown this season, Pepe looks to be one of the outstanding candidates from Europe’s top five leagues.

For a long time now, United have been longing for a goal-scoring right winger, someone to take the game by the horns and provide a threat every time they get the ball. In Martial, they have that on the left, and with Rashford they have it through the middle, but no one of the same ilk on the right. Pepe stakes a commendable claim to be the missing piece to Solskjær’s puzzle in attack.

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Talking Points: Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjær staked a further claim to be made Manchester United’s permanent manager come the end of the season with a historic and crucial win against Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round.

The Red Devils have notoriously struggled at Stamford Bridge, managing to record only three wins in the last 17 years, but Solskjær’s men showed a compact and concise game plan that utilised their strengths and exposed Chelsea’s weaknesses.

Here are four talking points from Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United: 

Marcus Rashford doesn’t stop

What has been ever so impressive about Marcus Rashford’s game since the Norwegian took charge in late December is his relentless, non-stop energy when pressing the opposition. Playing through the middle, the England international consistently put the Blues’ centre backs under heaps of scrutiny, which was forcing Chelsea back deep inside their own half.

Even with the game sealed and Man United into the next round, Rashford did not neglect his duties and continue to harass the Chelsea defence. From every corner the Blues had, Solskjær’s men would turn it into an opportunity to go down the other end through Rashford, who kept showing his desire to take on the men in front of him with his ferocious speed.

The Englishman’s finishing has improved drastically under the management, while his crossing ability has too. Rashford showed great patience when waiting for Paul Pogba to make his darting run into the box and picked him out expertly in between two Chelsea defenders.

Rashford can lead the Manchester United line for many, many years.

Ander Herrera’s leadership qualities

One player who has really risen under Solskjær is Ander Herrera. A peripheral figure under José Mourinho in his final year in charge, the Spaniard has become one of Man United’s most important players.

The ever-reliant Spaniard has been in sensational form, constantly breaking up opposition’s defences while also providing aplenty in attack. Against the Blues, he was incessant in making sure Jorginho did not have the time to play his game, as well as being in the right place at the right time to fend off any crosses that would come into United’s box. 

Herrera has shown his leadership qualities through his own performances, but it is clear to see how much of an effect he has on the players by motivating them vocally, just as he did when Alexis Sánchez entered the fray.

The Spanish midfielder has to be tied down to a new contract and should arguably be given the captain’s armband – there are few who deserve it more than he does.

Victor Lindelöf has come of age 

Manchester United’s fans are now seeing the true Victor Lindelöf. The one who is a ball-playing central defender that also has the capabilities of outmuscling his opposition.

Once again, the Sweden international was utterly superb in defence, making sure that Chelsea’s Gonzalo Higuaín was quiet throughout and clearing any danger that presented itself inside the 16-yard box.

There was a chance in which Eden Hazard had clear sight of the goal and hammered it towards Sergio Romero, only for Lindelöf to come out of nowhere and get in the way of the forceful shot, causing it to go over the bar and out for a corner. The Swede’s positional awareness is sublime and fans have been delighted to see what great progress he has made since Solskjær took to the dugout.

Given he has not yet reached his prime years, there is still plenty to come from Lindelöf. 

Romelu Lukaku’s worrying lack of movement

The only downside to Manchester United’s performance against Chelsea was the performance of Romelu Lukaku, who watched as the game passed him by.

Once spearheading the United attack, now used as a secondary centre forward to supplement Marcus Rashford. The Belgian has lost his place as the main striker in the team and does not appear to be anywhere near to reclaiming it.

Contrasting Lukaku to that of Rashford, there are stark differences in their overall input into the game. When the Englishman was chasing ball after ball, even if they were a lost cause, Lukaku would watch aimlessly on and fail to press his man, standing in no man’s land watching the ball go from side to side.

It is clear to see that Lukaku does not fit into this Man United team, and so will be very interesting to see what the Red Devils’ management decide to do with him come the summer months.

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