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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Sanchez stars on home debut as 'kid' McTominay impresses in Man United win over Huddersfield

Chilean scored on his first appearance at Old Trafford, doubling United's lead after Lukaku's opener.

Alexis Sanchez has his penalty saved before tapping in the rebound to score his first goal for Manchester United. Rui Vieira / EPA
Alexis Sanchez has his penalty saved before tapping in the rebound to score his first goal for Manchester United. Rui Vieira / EPA

Alexis Sanchez scored and provided Manchester United’s spark as Jose Mourinho’s side bounced back from a midweek defeat to beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 on Saturday.

The Chilean was all over the pitch on his home debut; he also lost the ball more times than any other player in a Premier League game this season. He was regularly fouled too and picked up a yellow card himself, but he was – and by some distance – the best player on the field on a day when Old Trafford remembered the victims of the Munich Air Disaster as Tuesday’s 60th anniversary approaches.

With Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial dropped to the bench after Wednesday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, 21-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay was given only his second Premier League start.

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“I changed a few players but the intention was not to punish anyone,” Mourinho said. “I made a few changes thinking about the characteristics of this game.”

The United manager denied it was bold move to drop Pogba for an inexperienced 21-year-old and he was vindicated as McTominay survived a bruising first half of heavy challenges to play the full match.

“I prefer to look at it in a beautiful way of a little kid that arrives here aged nine with his mum for the first training session,” Mourinho said. “Ten or 11 years after, he’s playing in a Manchester United shirt in an important match.”

Mourinho has regularly given young homegrown players opportunities and McTominay barely put a foot wrong beyond being disposed at the start of the game.

The promoted Terriers, who inflicted United’s first league defeat of the season in October, were as tenacious as their nickname. McTominay was clattered by Philip Billing after 14 minutes, while referee Stuart Atwell overlooked Terence Kongolo smashing into the slight midfielder after 33 minutes. Old Trafford winced at the challenge, but Atwell incredibly awarded a drop-ball.

United’s No 39 passed an impromptu test on his vision, dusted himself down and continued intercepting, making simple passes and always wanting the ball. His positioning was faultless and he had the confidence to ask Antonio Valencia why he hadn’t given him the ball.

“The kid (McTominay) started a little bit nervous but he grew up with the game,” Mourinho said. “He was fundamental for us in the way he gave us the desire to recover the ball. We were solid and by being solid all the time we could play.

“This kid has a great desire to recover the ball. When the team is not in possession, he’s a kid that chases the ball and tries to recover high on the pitch. When he has the ball he plays always simple and sometimes against opponents like Huddersfield (who are) so close with so many bodies behind the ball, simplicity is genius.”

Huddersfield were hard to break down.

“It was difficult at half time because it was 0-0,” Mourinho said. “We were in control from the first minute, but no goals. The second half was important to be calm and to play. At 1-0 I felt the game was ours.”

Romelu Lukaku put United ahead, flicking in a 54th minute Juan Mata cross at the near post in a move started by Sanchez. The former Arsenal forward won a penalty 12 minutes later, one he took and saw saved by Jonas Lossl before he scored with a follow up shot.

Sanchez was exhausted when he returned the dressing room, but his constant running and creativity was appreciated by the home crowd, one criticised by Mourinho for being "quiet". It was overall, but Sanchez often brought it to life as his side kept yet another clean sheet to stay second.

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