Manchester United won their first away match since March on Thursday, beating Partizan Belgrade in Europa League group play thanks to a lone penalty kick goal from Anthony Martial. It was a first for a couple of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men: defender Harry Maguire’s first stint as captain, and a full debut for youngster Jimmy Garner. Even while playing in hostile conditions, the Red Devils head into the weekend’s domestic contest with three points. Here’s what we learned from Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Partizan.
Sergio Romero remains one of United’s most consistent athletes
United fans know just how important David de Gea is to the success of this team, but Sergio Romero had an evening to remember himself. The Argentinian recorded two remarkable saves to deny the hosts an equalizer, with one of them coming in some of the final moments of the match. Easily Louis van Gaal’s best signing, Romero consistently eases the anxieties United supporters face when De Gea picks up a knock or sits out to prepare for a more crucial game.
Not many clubs can boast about the talents of both the starting and back-up keeper, and thankfully that’s an advantage United still have across the Premier League and Europe. He’s unproblematic, professional and certainly a catalyst behind United’s Europa League campaign.
Academy graduates showing major promise
In keeping with his 3-5-2 formation that earned him a draw against Liverpool on Sunday, Solskjaer handed 19-year-old academy trainee Brandon Williams left-back responsibilities for Thursday’s contest. It was just the youngster’s second start, with his debut being against AZ Alkmaar earlier this month. It was thanks to Williams that United was initially awarded the penalty with minutes to play in the first half.
Williams brings a unique energy to the defense, and promise for the dreaded left back role that has troubled United as of late. Given his movements across the pitch, roaming forwards and backwards while paying careful attention to his positioning, he appears confident in his decision-making, and that in turn means success for the rest of the backline.
More of McTominay in an attacking role, please
With Pogba still on the mend, the attacking midfielder role remains up for grabs. Typically, Scott McTominay can be found lending his services in a more defensive capacity. On Thursday, the Scottish international played further ahead than fans are probably used to seeing. Thankfully, it paid off. This switch from the boss furthermore proves that he can be versatile in the middle, and if he works on his finishing can score more goals for his side. Even when Partizan found their stride in the second half and looked to be capable of finding an equalizer, McTominay switched up his strategy and found himself in familiar territory playing more of a defensive mid.
It wasn’t the cleanest of matches for United, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to take more risks could soon pay off. Making two offensive substitutions with more than half an hour left to play shows that even with a lead, the Norwegian finally understands that finding the back of the net again instead of playing aggressive defense is the sort of football that win Manchester United games. After all, they can only be granted so many penalties.