Manchester United 1-0 Young Boys: Five talking points from the game
United have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League
Last Updated: 27/11/18 11:07pm
Marouane Fellaini's stoppage-time winner against Young Boys earned Manchester United a 1-0 win at Old Trafford and secured the team's place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. But Jose Mourinho's search for fluency goes on…
United dominated the ball but were wasteful early on and then appeared to run out of ideas as the visitors grew in confidence. But with Valencia losing away to Juventus, Fellaini's goal was enough to qualify from Group H and ensure United's European ambitions are alive.
Here, we pick out the talking points from the game…
Slow starts continue
Mourinho had stressed that it was not him encouraging his Manchester United players to start games with the handbrake on. He distanced himself from that particular problem, making it clear that, just like the supporters, he wanted to see his side start with more verve.
"They think 'Jose told them to start slow', 'Jose told them to play nice and easy and wait to see what happens' or 'to be losing for then to react'. It is exactly the opposite. I want the team to start strong, I want the team to have a go immediately and it is a bit frustrating," he said pre-match.
That may be the desire but United's first-half record over the past two months tells the tale. In the 11 matches they have played during that period, Mourinho's team have drawn a blank in nine of them and scored once in each of the other two games.
Fellaini delivers again
The good news is that they got there in the end. The hair might be gone but Fellaini retains his ability to make things happen for United. It was the Belgian, who else, who latched onto Romelu Lukaku's header and, after a handball, drilled the ball low into the corner of the net.
It is far from the first time that Fellaini has popped up with an important late goal. His last-gasp equaliser against Derby in the Carabao Cup counted for little when United were beaten anyway in the shootout, but he also produced the late winner over Arsenal at Old Trafford in April.
This was just the latest reminder of what a threat he can be inside the box. United just need to find a way to start games as well as they are finishing them.
Rashford is wasteful
Marcus Rashford had chances to change that but could only chip the ball over the bar when put through on goal in the early stages. According to Opta, Rashford has now missed six of his seven big chances this season - and it is safe to say that Mourinho is frustrated.
"You need a thick skin to play under this manager," Luke Shaw had said beforehand and when Rashford sees Mourinho's very public display of disgust at his miss, one can only imagine how he will feel. It is not likely to improve his dwindling confidence.
The England striker was among a quartet of players accused of "lacking maturity" by Mourinho recently, but is he getting the support and encouragement he needs? Whatever the solution, this is a difficult period for him.
De Gea to the rescue
Fortunately for United, they have David de Gea. The game was goalless with 20 minutes remaining when the goalkeeper pulled off an unbelievable save, clawing the ball back off the line after it had taken two deflections off Chris Smalling and Kevin Mbabu.
De Gea had a difficult World Cup for Spain and has been a little short of his absolute best this season, not least because of the lack of protection ahead of him, but this was typical of his ability to come up with the saves that others simply do not.
It was the only one he had to make but who else could have made it? Mourinho called it a "phenomenal" save afterwards and he was right. Had De Gea let that one in and United had been denied the win, they would be going to Valencia needing to avoid defeat.
Hope for the future?
Instead, United are into the last 16 of the Champions League yet again. Mourinho has got the job done in Europe and will not have to worry about it again until February. It gives him the chance to focus on domestic matters and the task of moving up the Premier League table.
Southampton are the opponents at the weekend. It is a winnable game and victories breed confidence but, as Mourinho himself noted afterwards, problems remain. He will have to solve them if United are to gain any meaningful momentum from Fellaini's late show.