A late blitz saw Manchester United secure a convincing 3-0 victory against League One side Charlton.
Anthony opened the scoring midway through the first half, before a late brace from Marcus Rashford sealed United’s place in the League Cup semi-finals.
The away side brought an impressive 9000 fans up, despite the long journey on a Tuesday night.
Both sides went into the game on-form, as Charlton had won two consecutive games and United had won seven games in a row.
However, due to the heavy fixture congestion, United made seven changes to the side that beat Everton 3-1 the week prior.
Whereas, Charlton only made one change.
Kobbie Mainoo was the big surprise in Ten Hag’s lineup, making his official debut at just 17 years of age.
The Red Devils have had success when facing Charlton in previous results, winning 39, drawing 11 and only losing 10. This including 10 successive victories against the League One side. Thus, expectation would be on United to win comprehensively.
With confidence oozing, United started the better side, dominating possession and not giving Charlton any comfort on the ball.
However, despite 52 spaces separating Charlton and Manchester United in the footballing pyramid, United struggled to pave their way through their stubborn defence.
It took a magnificent Antony effort, whipping into the top left-hand corner from outside the box, to differentiate the sides.
Shades of Arjen Robben in the Brazilian, as he cut in off the right-hand side and used his left foot to bend the ball deliciously round the defender.
This marks Antony’s fifth goal in United red, second only to Marcus Rashford for team goals.
Due to such a class difference between the sides, after the opener, the expectation was that the floodgates would open, and United would gradually tear Dean Holden’s men apart. This was not the case, as United then struggled to break through their organised defence and Charlton began to frustrate the hosts.
Fred came bitterly close from a freekick, firing just over the wall, destined for the top right corner but for the post to deny him.
During the second half, United played a bit more open, granting Charlton more opportunities on the counter attack.
The Game Changers
This concerned the former Ajax manager as he brought on five-time Champions League winner Casemiro and Danish excellence Christian Eriksen to steady the game.
This changed the game as the Brazilian’s excellent passing range opened gaps, Scott McTominay and Fred couldn’t.
In Manchester United fashion, a quick counter attack put the final nail in the coffin of the South-East London side, as Casemiro crafted a perfect pass into the path of Facundo Pellistri who freed Rashford before the Englishman fired home for his sixth goal in six consecutive games.
Similarly, a couple minutes later, Casemiro picked up the ball in space, slightly off the left flank, and imposed a deft pass in-behind the Charlton defence, setting Rashford away who placed his finish over the outrushing Australian goalkeeper to score in his eighth consecutive home match for Manchester United. The first United player to do so since the great Wayne Rooney.
This marked United’s eighth win in a row, just illustrating the huge effect Ten Hag has had on this side in such a short period of time.
Charlton next face Barnsley at The Valley on Saturday. They’ll take great pride and confidence from a resilient performance against a much stronger side, and will be hoping to make it three league wins a row to make a potential push for the play-offs.
Manchester United next face Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, hoping to enact revenge on their local rivals after recent humiliations at their hand. This comes before two trips to London as United face Palace midweek and then leaders Arsenal on the 22nd of January.
Alejandro Garnacho, Mainoo and Pellistri where the key talking points in the game.
Garnacho was a consistent spark throughout. His explosive pace and eagerness to take players on made him a handful for defenders.
The Argentinian had a few early strikes saved and almost assisted Eriksen in the second half with a clever cutback.
Despite not registering a goal contribution, Garnacho’s performance illustrated a drive that’s been missing at Old Trafford for so long. His ability to run at defenders on his left but also cut in on his right and find the right pass, is a skill that is hard to come by at such a young age.
Ten Hag will be desperate to seal a new contract for Garnacho to ensure he stays at the club due to such talent.
Mainoo, who scored two goals in United’s youth cup final run last season, had a tidy debut, unable to shine comprehensively, but gained invaluable minutes on the big stage at the ‘theatre of dreams.’
Pellistri came off the bench to make his official Manchester United debut over twenty-four months since he signed.
His silky dribbling and composure on the ball provided an outlet not seen with Anthony Elanga. Such attributes secured Rashford’s first as he picked up the ball off the right flank in lots of space and cleverly picked out the right pass to set Rashford away.
Subsequently, questions will now be asked as to whether Pellistri should be given a greater chance in the side; especially with Jadon Sancho still out and a heavy fixture list upcoming.
However, Ten Hag may feel playing time is vital and choose to loan the Uruguayan out to guarantee such.
United’s victory sees them safely through to a two-legged tie in the semi-finals of the League Cup.
Top four challengers, Newcastle United also made it through.
Manchester United could face either Newcastle or the winners of Manchester City vs Southampton and Wolves vs Nottingham Forest.
The draw commences on the 11th January after Southampton’s game.