Six things we learned as Wayne Rooney saved Manchester United against Stoke

United must learn to take their chances and Ibrahimovic is a key culprit 

Jack Austin@jackaustin_1
Saturday 21 January 2017 18:05
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Ibrahimovic needs to be more clinical - despite his 14 goals
Ibrahimovic needs to be more clinical - despite his 14 goals

Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs to be more clinical

For someone who scored 50 goals in the last calendar year and is leading the Premier League goalscoring charts, Ibrahimovic sure wastes a number of chances. He was guilty of it on several occasions against Burnley earlier in the season and it was a similar story away to Stoke. Most notably was just after the hosts scored and the Swede peeled away at the back post, only to allow the ball to escape him after a poor chest down. He was put through again by Henrikh Mkhitaryan towards the end of the first half but he chose to square the ball when the goal was for the taking.

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Michael Carrick is United’s key man

When a team contains a goalscoring phenomenon and an £89m player, it is easy to not notice Carrick’s impact but his absence was felt at the Britannia, with Paul Pogba having to do more of the donkey work. United missed his fluid, metronomic passing and Carrick’s absence left the centre of the park a scrappier place. Jose Mourinho’s real challenge in the transfer market will not be signing Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, but replacing Carrick.

Joe Allen may not be a Stoke player for much longer

Allen never found himself at Liverpool and was finally let go in the summer, despite a supreme Euro 2016 showing – which earned him a spot in the team of tournament. He has been Stoke’s best player all season and the ease he glided around the field with short and neat passing against United showed why. He did not have his best game in a Stoke shirt but he ironically would look at home in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.

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Marouane Fellaini is most effective as a substitute

Mourinho was right in his pre-match press conference – Fellaini has turned his United career around in recent weeks, since being booed off against Everton. However, playing in the No 10 position from the start is not one which suits United’s style of play. It also meant that Juan Mata and Mkhitaryan were forced to drift inside to create chances, leaving United terribly narrow. He did not play poorly by any stretch, but his presence in the team seems to inhibit the ability of others to excel to their full potential. Still a fantastic option from the bench however.

Ander Herrera – not Paul Pogba – is captain material

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Mourinho spoke a few weeks ago how Pogba had all the credentials to be a future United captain, but Herrera has looked more like he could carry the armband this season. The Spaniard has the fire to get the fans out of their seats and is not afraid to get in the faces of his opponents. He can be slightly rash at times but his energy and commitment is something all his teammates should aspire to. He wants to spend the rest of his career at Old Trafford and United would be lucky to have him.

Wayne Rooney achieves legendary status in a legendary way

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He hasn't scored many this season but what a way to remind the world that you still exist. Rooney's 93rd-minute equaliser - his 250th for the club - wrote himself into United legend in the most United way possible. His stunning free kick - which he had no right to be shooting from - stretched Mourinho's unbeaten record to 17 games to keep the club's momentum going. Herrera may be a United captain in waiting but Rooney is still very much the owner of the armband and his goal is exactly what the armband demands of a player. Now he is free of the shackles of Sir Bobby Charlton's record, he could well kick on and add even more to his tally.

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