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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019


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Good evening all. Welcome to our coverage of Manchester United’s clash with Benfica, a game that could see the home side book their place in the knockout stages with two group assignments still to come.

Feel free to send any comments or funny anecdotes to But keep it PG, please. It is Halloween. Think of the children.

We’re expecting official team news from Old Trafford a little later but some fringe players could get a chance to impress.

Early rumblings suggest Scott McTominay could be handed a first Champions League start.

In case you’re wondering who Scott McTominay is, the 20-year-old is pretty highly-regarded at United and has already featured three times this season, including coming on as a substitute in Lisbon. He started the League Cup win over Swansea and Jose Mourinho offered up some praise for the youngster afterwards.

“He did very well, strong in the midfield”.

He made his debut in May, coming on in the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal. He started the final game of the season against Crystal Palace.

Manchester United v Burton Albion - Carabao Cup - Third Round - Old Trafford Source: Martin Rickett


And here’s what we can expect from the Portuguese visitors…


So, Manchester United do hand Scott McTominay a very first Champions League start while the likes of Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are also included in Mourinho’s XI.


For Benfica, meanwhile, veteran centre-back Luisao is suspended and the youngest player in this season’s Champions League – goalkeeper Mile Svilar, who made that unfortunate error in Lisbon, retains his place.

By the way, some interesting programme notes from Mourinho ahead of this game. He was already critical of the United fans’ reaction to the substitution of Marcus Rashford in the 1-0 win over Tottenham last weekend and he’s followed that up with some more of the same.

“I hope that you enjoy the game more than some of you did against Tottenham”, he writes.

At least he’s consistent.

Inching closer to kick-off here. Teams are out and the Champions League anthem is being blasted out at Old Trafford.

Five games without a goal for Romelu Lukaku – can he get on the mark tonight? And can McTominay impress once again? Some have said he can be a long-term replacement for Michael Carrick…though it’s still very, very early days.


Benfica force a corner down the right side and Smalling gets a bit lucky as he’s caught facing his own goal (worrying more about the player he’s marking than the ball) and it comes off his knee. Luckily, it’s straight at David de Gea who makes a comfortable save.

Flag 6Mins

BOOKING! Martial picks up the ball from deep and takes off, brushing off one challenge and just about to head into the area. Ruben Dias hauls him down and goes in the book. Free-kick follows but Martial is too high with the effort. But, good early signs from the Frenchman who will be hoping to have as good an impact from the start as he’s had from the bench recently.


The visitors haven’t started too badly here and they’ve given United some early concern as they look to find some gaps on the edge of the penalty area. Hinting at good things, Benfica.

Flag 14Mins

PENALTY! Well, Martial has bamboozled the Benfica defence here and beaten a couple of players as he bursts into the area from wide left. Douglas ends up on the ground, desperately trying to prevent Martial from getting a shot in. But he handles the ball in the process and it’s a definite penalty.

Flag 15Mins

PENALTY MISSED! Martial doesn’t really strike it with much conviction and Svilar guesses correctly, diving low to his left to push the effort away.


Well, Svilar made the headlines for all the wrong reasons last time out but he’s done really well by stopping that Martial spotter.

Flag 19Mins

VERY CLOSE! Goncalves curls a wonderful effort from distance and it looks like it’s creeping into de Gea’s top left-hand corner. But the keeper stretches a hand to it and superbly pushes it out for a corner. A terrific save and Benfica can’t do much with the resulting set-piece. Entertaining game so far.


Jesse Lingard is struggling here and it looks like he’s going to be replaced by Marcus Rashford.


Lingard is still on after receiving treatment. We’ll keep an eye on that. Meanwhile, game has settled down a bit and Benfica continue to look pretty hungry here.


If I was a betting man, I’d really place a wager on Blind not being at United next summer. He’s struggled tonight in a rare start and just wasted a cross from a really good position.

Flag 29Mins

BOOKING! One of the strangest yellow cards we’ve seen in a while has happened here. Lingard, who still seems to be struggling with injury, doesn’t re-enter the pitch from the half-way line so the referee takes some action.

Flag 31Mins

CLOSE! Lukaku, who has been really quiet, picks it up on the right side of the area, jinks inside and quickly arrows one towards the near post. Svilar gets down and palms it out for a corner but it looked like it was going wide anyway.


The away fans are making much more of a racket than the United supporters, to be honest.

Flag 45Mins

GOAL! Svilar (own goal)

Well, just as I was typing about how unimpressive United have been, they take the lead in bizarre circumstances. Matic drives a left-footer low and catches it superbly. It smacks off the upright, ricochets off the outstretched Svilar and rolls over the line for an own goal. Can’t help but feel for the keeper, especially after his mistake last week.

Flag 45Mins

CLOSE! Lukaku almost doubles United’s lead as he picks up a wayward pass and races towards goal, holding off a couple of challenges. Svilar races off his line and does very well to smother the effort.


Despite being in front and having been awarded a penalty earlier in the half, United haven’t been impressive. They’ve been loose and Benfica have been able to find plenty of space in midfield and cause the home side a few problems. Goncalves forced de Gea into a terrific stop but there hasn’t been much outside of that – just good general play, really.

Still, United should be 2-0 up. Martial’s penalty was a poor one though Svilar did well to make the stop. Unfortunately, the young goalkeeper seemed to exhaust all his good luck because he got none when Matic’s shot cannoned back off the post, struck him on the back and rolled into the net just before the interval.

Flag 47Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Mkhitaryan (on) – Lingard (off)

So, Lingard hasn’t been risked for the second-half after he picked up that knock to his hip in the opening period. The Armenian comes in to replace him.


Martial, again, does so well with a flick on the right touchline. From the resulting cross, Mata tries his luck with his weaker right foot and blazes it over the bar.



That’s twice in quick succession that Martial has got in behind and wasted decent opportunities. The first sees him get a lucky break, race into the left channel but completely skew his left-foot shot well wide. Moments later, he’s played in and, at full tilt, looks to check back onto his right, then decides to switch back to his left and the ball just rolls harmlessly over the touchline. Mourinho won’t be enthused by that.

Flag 61Mins

GOOD CHANCE! Goncalves forced a superb stop from de Gea in the first half and he’s at it again here. He gets away from Smalling this time and space opens up for him. He looks to drive the shot across goal and into the far right corner but the keeper manages to get down, get a hand to it and tip it away for a corner.

Flag 65Mins

SO CLOSE! Goodness me. That should be 1-1. Just what is Bailly thinking? He plays a ridiculous pass across to Smalling but leaves him short and Jiminez intercepts. He’s in on goal but Smalling gets across and applies some pressure. Jiminez’s shot takes a nick off the defender and hits the outside of the post. No corner is awarded and United are so fortunate.

Flag 70Mins

SUBSTITUTIONS! Eliseu (in) – Grimaldo (out) & Ander Herrera (in) – Juan Mata (out)

A couple of changes for both teams with 20 minutes to go.

Flag 75Mins

SUBSTITUTIONS! Seferović (in) – Jiménez (out) & Rashford (in) – Martial (out)

Rashford is 20 today so he’s chasing what would be a pretty neat birthday gift.

Flag 76Mins

PENALTY! Rashford is taken down, stupidly, by Samaris – who is shown a yellow card – and United have the chance to seal the deal here.

Flag 78Mins

GOAL! Blind (penalty)! 

It’s the left-back who steps up – quite surprisingly – and thumps it right down the middle of the goal. He’s not been very good tonight but interesting he was handed penalty duties.



Rashford has been electric since coming on. What a terrific player he is.


Lots of debate about the United penalty. With Lukaku off-form, many expected him to have taken the kick. But that’s completely goes against Mourinho’s ethos. A win is a win. He would never take such a gamble.


It hasn’t been very pretty but it has been effective. Four wins from four. To ensure qualification to the knockout stages, we still need to wait for the result from Basel/CSKA.



An own goal and a penalty. But it’s three points for United and their 100% record continues.

Largely unimpressive and Benfica went close on a couple of occasions, hitting the woodwork in the second-half, but the home side got the job done.

Thanks for staying with us tonight. Lots of reaction still to come on the site.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan


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