Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 victory against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League this evening.
Erik ten Hag fielded a strong starting XI, seemingly with the intention of ensuring that United has every chance possible of finishing top of the group ahead of Real Sociedad.
Cristiano Ronaldo started after he was axed from the matchday squad that travelled to face Chelsea. However, the surprise inclusion in the team was Alejandro Garnacho.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s triumph against Sheriff.
Authoritative first half
The Red Devils were by far the dominant side in the opening 45 minutes.
To highlight this, United went into the break having mustered an enormous 77% possession of the ball and registered 13 shots at goal, with five being on target.
United took the lead just a minute before half-time courtesy of Diogo Dalot, who headed a whipped Cristian Eriksen ball from the corner flag into the back of Sheriff’s net.
Dalot’s goal came after the creation of an avalanche of chances from United who were also solid defensively and never looked in any danger of being penetrated by their opposition.
Sheriff were limited to a few advances in United’s territory but these incursions were rapidly snuffed out by a combination of Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro and Lindelof who were exceptional in shoring up the backline.
United had a few standout performers but the one that stood head and shoulders above everyone else was Garnacho.
The 18-year-old showed United fans just what they have been missing on the left wing, with the way he kept taking on his man and committing defenders with his pace and intricate skill moves.
There is a real buzz every time Garnacho gets on the ball. He isn’t fazed at all and looks really positive in possession, always looking to beat his man and get the ball into the box #mufc
— Rich Fay (@RichFay) October 27, 2022
The Argentine put a few brilliant crosses into the box for Ronaldo. The biggest credit that could be paid to the youngster is that he was one of the players who shone the brightest in a team full of experienced professionals and some of the biggest players in the world.
Ronaldo still unconvincing
Ronaldo’s return was tipped by some of his staunchest supporters as him having a point to prove after the fiasco that surrounded his banishment by the manager.
However, on evidence of his display against Sheriff, he may have done little to convince most supporters as well as the manager as to why he needs to be a guaranteed starter.
The 37-year-old still looked a level or two below most of his teammates despite scoring in the second half.
He had numerous chances in the game to grab a goal but failed on each occasion before he finally put away a rebound from another failed effort.
His most bizarre miss came in the first half when his Portuguese compatriot Bruno Fernandes teed him up with the ball on a plate, but he was unable to tap it in from close range.
Ronaldo was not especially excellent in his link-up play and holding of the ball and was dispossessed in a number of extremely promising instances.
It will be interesting to see whether Ten Hag persists with Ronaldo on Sunday against West Ham.
United are in desperate need of right-sided options
An element of the game that stuck out in the win against Sheriff is United’s lack of credible options on the right-hand side.
When Antony was taken off immediately after the interval, it fell on Fernandes, naturally, a number ten, to play as the right winger.
On top of this, when Dalot was taken out of proceedings by Ten Hag, Malacia was tasked with covering the right-back position.
While Fernandes and Malacia can do a job in there, they are hardly masters of the trade on the right, which as a consequence saw the Reds engineer most of their attacks from the left.
Ten Hag could have brought on Sancho, but chose not to, perhaps after the Englishman’s poor showing in the Chelsea game.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was not named on the bench, and even if he were it is unlikely he would have come on. It looks like the manager has made it clear that Wan Bissaka is not in his plans.
A new right-back is a must-buy as early as January. It is imperative that Ten Hag integrates Facundo Pellistri into the team, or even restores Sancho to the right to provide competition for Antony.