Anthony Martial steals the show
With Burton Albion sitting deep to avoid Manchester United exploiting space in behind, Anthony Martial had all the time in the world to pick up the ball and do what he does best: eviscerate defenders.
This was nothing short of an exhibition. Nobody could touch the Frenchman as he seamlessly danced through a series of yellow shirts, time and time again, displaying footwork nothing short of extraterrestrial. He took about four Burton players out of the game with some silky touches before laying the ball to Jesse Lingard to add United’s third after 36 minutes and claimed his fourth goal of the season on the hour mark, calmly stroking the ball past Connor Ripley.
Marcus Rashford’s goalscoring run continues
Nobody can doubt that Marcus Rashford’s 2016/17 season was positive. He made more appearances than any other first team member and claimed two major honours, but he often lacked that goalscoring panache so crucial to his rise under Louis van Gaal.
Needless to say, the teenager has his goalscoring mojo back this season. Composure and confidence is coursing through his veins. He now has six to his name for club and country following what was a ruthless early brace that stamped out any hopes of a Burton upset. The first came via a gorgeous flick on from Lingard, with the 19-year-old lifting the ball gently over the keeper, before adding a second with a thunderous drive.
Phil Neville summed it up perfectly: we really don’t recognise just how good Rashford is.
Luke Shaw needs more minutes on the pitch
The Englishman was finally back on the pitch after over four months on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage, replacing Juan Mata at half time with the home side 3-0 up, and he made a positive start with a bursting run that sent him clear on goal, only to be pegged back by the linesman.
Jose Mourinho has desperately missed that kind of thrust moving forward from the left hand side over the last few weeks and supporters will want to see him receive more minutes on the pitch over the next few weeks – especially with Shaw, despite a few enterprising runs forward, still looking somewhat rusty positionally and short of confidence.
The League Cup still matters… sort of
I’ve always said that the League Cup ought to be labelled the Mickey Mouse Cup until you reach the final, and with Mourinho’s men fighting for bigger honours this season that notion feels more relevant than ever.
That said, the clash with Burton revealed another kind of quality to the League Cup that no other competition can offer: a chance for fringe players to gain confidence and recognition. Players like Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard and Matteo Darmian enjoyed important run outs and, in turn, gave more established first team members a chance to rest and prepare for Saturday’s trip to Southampton.
Victor Lindelof continues to struggle
The Swede still has a long way to go before Mourinho feels confident enough to throw him into the Premier League. His composure on the ball is there for all to see, but that acute positional sense needed to stay afloat at the highest level continues to elude him.
There were too many moments in the first half where Burton’s front two could ghost in behind him and stretch United’s back four, with Sergio Romero being forced to come to the rescue on one occasion after Luke Varney judged a long ball better than the 23-year-old and released Joe Mason.
Supporters shouldn’t be concerned as of yet, but Lindelof still has plenty of work to do.