We learnt three things as Manchester United got a comfortable 2-0 win over FC Sheriff, thereby registering their first win of the 2022/23 Europa League campaign. Erik ten Hag made five changes to the side which lost 0-1 to Real Sociedad, with the majority of his preferred lineup back this time around. Sheriff came into the game unbeaten at home in the competition but were no match for United’s quality.
Despite an energetic start from the hosts, it was United who broke the deadlock through Jadon Sancho. Christian Eriksen found the winger on the edge of the box after a one-two, with the former Borussia Dortmund man cutting the ball onto his left foot and drilling his shot into the bottom corner.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the season and the team’s second of the night. Casemiro was brought on in the second half to solidify the defensive line and Sheriff’s poor attacking output ensured Ten Hag a comfortable end to the game.
The Moldovan League champions kept trying and did force David de Gea to make a decent save with 15 minutes remaining with a long-range strike from Cedric Badolo. Nevertheless, the Premier League outfit were simply far too good for the team from Tiraspol to launch anything resembling a fightback.
1. Manchester United Were Aided By Sheriff’s Lack Of Intensity
For major parts of the second half, it looked like Sheriff had already accepted the loss which made it easier for United to do game management and bring on the youngsters for game time in Europe.
It’s a long process, but goals like the one from Sancho show what Ten Hag is beginning to drill into this side. The passing and movement were also on show for goals against Leicester City and Arsenal.
United are not consistently performing with the same intensity but the philosophy is starting to show. Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Elanga were able to get some minutes to impress the boss while Casemiro continues to be slowly integrated into the lineup.
The signs are there, with some good moves from the Red Devils, but they do need to continue to improve so that they can beat teams that offer more attacking threats, unlike Sheriff.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo Looked Far From Best But Gets Off The Mark
With Marcus Rashford joining Anthony Martial in the treatment room, the Portuguese started back-to-back games under Ten Hag for the first time. Even the very best need a goal now and then to boost their confidence and Cristiano Ronaldo has certainly looked like he needed any kind of goal. He got off the mark by slotting a penalty down the middle after Diogo Dalot was fouled in the box.
The trademark celebration followed for his 699th professional club goal and his first ever in the Europa League. Ronaldo still does look like he doesn’t have the rhythm. He wasn’t as sharp as he should be generally. He was sloppy in possession against Sheriff Tiraspol, failed to take a couple of half chances and made a weak appeal for a spot kick in the first half.
Cristiano Ronaldo's game by numbers vs Sheriff:
89% passing accuracy in final third
5 final third entries
4 touches in opp. box
2 possession won
1 foul won
His first ever #UEL goal. ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/NsC57wwgUu
— Squawka (@Squawka) September 15, 2022
3. Sancho Responds to England National Team Snub
Sancho had a disappointing first season at Old Trafford. He has not been picked for England since playing against Andorra almost a year ago. There have been encouraging signs that he is returning to form under Ten Hag. But Sancho has yet again been ignored in Thursday’s national squad announcement. Unless others get injured, it does not look like he will be going to the World Cup.
The 22-year-old scored another well-taken goal against Sheriff, shifting his weight as well as the ball calmly under pressure inside the box, before stroking a low shot into the bottom corner. The pass by Christian Eriksen to pick him out was a delight too. That was Sancho’s third goal of the season and he was denied a fourth only by a stunning goal-line clearance.
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Man United claimed a very comfortable win in Moldova. The Red Devils had multiple chances to convert the score into a bigger margin but lacked clinical finishing.
Ten Hag’s side will get a well-deserved break with their Premier League game against Leeds United postponed before going into the international break. This was the strongest team that the Dutch manager could have picked for the Europa League tie, mindful that his side will have played just one game in almost 4 weeks by the time they take on Manchester City on derby day.
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