Manchester United bounced back from a disappointing mid-week loss to defeat Huddersfield Town on Saturday, thanks to second half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez. The win takes United to within touching distance (just 13 points now!) of league leaders Manchester City, who dropped points earlier in the day.
José Mourinho responded to the lifeless performance against Spurs by making four changes to his starting XI. Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial, and - most notably - Paul Pogba were all dropped from the lineup. The rotation appeared to pay dividends, as the Reds started the match with purpose, dominating possession and pouring forward in attack.
The home side should have had a penalty in the first half when Pogba’s replacement, Scott McTominay, was clattered into in the box. Inexplicably, the referee failed to award a spot kick despite being just a few feet away. It would not be the last time that a United player found himself on the receiving end of some rough treatment. Huddersfield’s players were intent on making their presence felt, and the referee allowed them to commit rough fouls throughout the course of the game. Sánchez in particular spent about as much time picking himself off the ground in the first half as he did showing his attacking quality.
United started the second half continuing their control of proceedings, and eventually broke through ten minutes after the restart. Nemanja Matić won the ball in midfield and played in Juan Mata down the left. Mata, who had one of his most effective performances in weeks, played a lovely first time low cross in the box, where Lukaku was on hand to finish sharply with his first touch.
With a goal to show for their dominance, Mourinho introduced Pogba for Jesse Lingard, and the Frenchman brought energy and creativity in his cameo appearance. Not long after the change, United doubled their lead. Sánchez was growing in influence, and the new man won a penalty after being brought down just inside the box. Despite a mixed record from the spot, Pogba allowed Sánchez to take the penalty himself. His original effort was saved by Jonas Lössl, but Alexis followed the rebound and put the ball into the net to get off the mark for his new team.
The home team saw out the result from there, controlling possession and not allowing Huddersfield so much as a shot at goal. It wasn’t the most impressive win against a side that may well be back in the Championship next season, but it was an important result, and a good start to what will be a challenging February.,