Alex Sanchez’s first Manchester United goal capped a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Reds over relegation-threatened Huddersfield Town on Saturday afternoon, to reduce the gap with league leaders Manchester City to 13 points. Jose Mourinho’s men went into the clash at Old Trafford on the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur and having seen their cross-town rivals drop points at Burnley earlier in the day, knew that a victory over the Terriers was imperative.
There were a number of changes made to the side that stuttered to defeat at Wembley Stadium, with the most notable being Paul Pogba’s relegation to the bench as Scott McTominay partnered Nemanja Matic in the middle of the park. The in-form Anthony Martial, who put in a subdued performance against Spurs, was also removed from the starting XI, as Juan Mata returned to the fold in his place.
At the back, Mourinho made two changes, as Luke Shaw came in for Ashley Young at left-back, whilst Marcos Rojo took the place of Phil Jones at the heart of defence following the England international’s own goal at Wembley.
The opening 45 minutes of football at Old Trafford was far from eventful, with United failing to create any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities, despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession. Midway through the first half, the hosts had strong appeals for a penalty turned down by referee Stuart Attwell, who saw nothing untoward with a forceful challenge on McTominay, who required treatment. Sanchez, stationed on the left-hand side of United’s attack, was the Reds’ most inventive player but struggled to break down a stubborn Huddersfield backline.
United started the second half with more purpose and vigour and it did not take long for them to open the scoring. Winning the ball deep in the Terriers’ half, Matic shifted the ball out wide onto the left for Mata who whipped in a terrific first-time cross into the box. At the end of the Spaniard’s delivery was Romelu Lukaku, who stole a march on his marker to expertly guide the ball past Jonas Lossl in the Huddersfield goal for his 19th strike of the campaign.
Whilst the introduction of Pogba in place of Jesse Lingard may have pleased many inside Old Trafford, United’s attacking verve seemed to decrease in the England international’s absence. It was all about seeing the remainder of the game out and maintaining David de Gea’s clean sheet.
By the end of the afternoon, however, the Reds could look back on a job well done as they closed the gap to leaders City on a day in which all of those in attendance at Old Trafford paid tribute to the victims of the Munich air disaster, 60 years on.
United are back on action next Sunday, when they face a tricky trip to Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle United, as they look to build up steam ahead of a number of crunch fixtures, including their clash with Sevilla in the Champions League round of 16.