Manchester Evening News
WHAT WE LEARNED
■ THE VALUE OF MARTINEZ
THIS wasn’t a game that was ever going to overly test the defensive abilities of Lisandro Martinez, despite United’s wobbles, but it did display some of his other characteristics – notably his ability on the ball.
Omonia set out in a very defensive shape, often putting all 10 outfield players behind the ball. That left space at a premium, but Martinez was vital in creating openings.
The Argentine was happy to carry the ball out of defence and trying to take players out of the game but his passing was incisive and aggressive as well.
He fired passes out wide to Tyrell Malacia and Jadon Sancho, attracting players to him before releasing the ball. There was also a line-breaking pass that freed Antony in the early stages, only for the Brazilian to spurn the shot and fluff his lay-off to Bruno Fernandes.
Martinez did eventually get himself involved in a goal, firing a sharp pass into Marcus Rashford, whose clever flick handed possession to Anthony Martial and the Frenchman put United in front and in control.
Breaking down deep defences is never easy, but with a centre-back as confident and cultured on the ball as Martinez, it can make a difference.
■ TEN HAG’S RUTHLESS STREAK
UNITED’S subs are learning that they need to be ready early under Erik ten Hag, with the two changes he made at half-time here the ninth and 10 substitutions he’s made at the interval in 10 games in charge.
Some of them have been pre-planned, some tactical and some the result of poor performances and he was ruthless again in Cyprus with United under pressure.
Luke Shaw and Rashford came on and improved United. Martial also scored twice off the bench on Sunday and that means United’s last five goals have all now been scored by substitutes.
■ A WEAKNESS EXPOSED
TEN Hag said rules had been broken by his United players in the 6-3 defeat to City and on the eve of this Europa League game Fernandes suggested they revolved around being weak on transitions.
City, a team who rarely look to counter-attack, scored three goals on the break at the Etihad, but evidently nobody had read the rule book on the fivehour flight to Cyprus.
United completely dominated the first 34 minutes of this game, enjoying 81 per cent possession and nine shots to nil. But when Christian Eriksen’s free-kick was cleared, they were hopelessly exposed.
Malacia made a poor error, but Omonia’s players swarmed forward and United were poorly organised, with not enough defenders alert to the danger and not enough of them working hard enough to get back.
It was an awful goal to concede to a team who had won one of their last 26 games in European competition proper.
The weakness on the counter-attack is also going to be something the opposition starts focusing on.