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Manchester United 2-0 Benfica: 3 things we learned

Wednesday 1st November 2017
Manchester United effectively secured qualification into Champions League knockout stages - though not mathematically, it would take a catastrophic collapse to mean otherwise - with a 2-0 win against Benfica on Tuesday night.

From an Anthony Martial microcosm to Scott McTominay's promising display, here are three things we learned.

Silky Scott

Jose Mourinho was keen to press that Scott McTominay had 'earned' his starting berth against Benfica, while also conceding the need to rest Ander Herrera in light of United's midfield injury crisis. That Mourinho, who is notoriously reticent in fielding youngsters, was adamant he deserved a chance speaks volumes about McTominay's drive, commitment and, above all, quality.
McTominay grasped his opportunity with both hands, forming a pivot-partnership with Nemanja Matic. The 20-year-old was neat in possession, tidy in distribution and defensively aware. A few forays forward also hinted at an enterprising nature. It was a mature, impressive performance from the academy graduate in Europe's elite club competition - that he didn't look out of place demonstrates his potential.

The young man's performance had shades of Darren Fletcher; an underappreciated, underrated servant during Sir Alex Ferguson's glory years. Industrious in the middle but equipped with grace and poise, enabling Fletcher to spark a tempo, setting his side on the attack. The Scot's game suited the balanced style Ferguson looked to implement: attack supported by work-rate.

McTominay appears to have similar attributes, if not more - he has an adventurous side that Fletcher never really possessed. If Mourinho gives the young star further opportunities, United might have produced another academy graduate who has the ability to play for this prestigious club.

Two matches to forget for Svilar?

Maybe not, for Mile Svilar was upbeat after the game: "I ain't going to lie. It is really magnificent to play at the Theatre of Dreams at my age."
His calamitous error led to United securing a 1-0 victory in Benfica two weeks ago. Then on Tuesday night, Matic's strike cannoned off the post, only to rebound into the net from Svilar's back. Therefore, one wouldn't blame the 18-year-old for wanting to purge his memory of Manchester United.

His comments after the game, however, suggest a keeper who remains confident and buoyant about the future. After all, he did save a first-half penalty at Old Trafford - it was a smart stop too.

The footballing community collectively winced when Svilar contributed another own goal, but it appears the Benfica shot-stopper has the steel to knock off such misfortune. It certainly bodes well for his future.

Martial Microcosm

A dazzling run, beguiling footwork and burst of acceleration confounded Benfica's defence and led to a penalty being awarded. It was a mesmerising few seconds from Anthony Martial, which showed his immense potential. Naturally, he stepped up to finish what he started - only he didn't, as his shot was saved.
Now, one doesn't want to be overcritical as the Frenchman's goal ensured a vital victory for the Red Devils against Spurs last weekend. However, that particular play symbolised the inconsistency plaguing the winger in recent seasons: moments of brilliance met with moments of despair.

Will Martial come good? Yes is the common verdict. He must inject consistency into his game, though, before becoming a Manchester United regular and realising his extraordinary talent.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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