Wednesday 16 October 2019

Romero saves United blushes after Rochdale scare

Teens cancel each other out before Solskjaer's side scrape through

Manchester Utd 1-1 Rochdale (United win 5-3 on penalties)

Manchester United's Daniel James scores the decisive penalty. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Manchester United's Daniel James scores the decisive penalty. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

James Ducker

For a brief while, this looked like being the second rescue act in less than a week from Manchester United's teenage prodigy, Mason Greenwood. But then the only player on the pitch who was younger than the 17-year-old United striker decided to muscle in on the action and write a fairytale all of his own.

Whatever becomes of Luke Matheson, the Rochdale winger will always remember the moment when, aged just 16 years and 357 days, he silenced Old Trafford with a volley that he is likely to be watching on repeat for weeks to come.

Luke Matheson celebrates after putting away a goal for Rochdale. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Luke Matheson celebrates after putting away a goal for Rochdale. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

It has been a troubled start to the campaign for United but this was a new low - taken to penalties at home by a team currently 17th in League One.

United have played Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Astana and now Rochdale at Old Trafford this season and have failed to score from open play in the first half of every one of those games.

Happily

They would have happily settled for a deflected effort from a contentious corner here mind, anything in fact to break the deadlock and stop this from feeling like a re-run of that trying Astana game.

Rochdale's Luke Matheson applauds the fans after the final whistle. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Rochdale's Luke Matheson applauds the fans after the final whistle. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Manchester City's U-21 side beat this Rochdale team a fortnight ago.

Peterborough stuck six past them. But United departed for the interval goalless. Surely the second half would offer so much more? The shot count read 15-0 in United's favour at half-time but it flattered the home team.

The majority of those shots were speculative efforts from distance, several from the wayward boots of Paul Pogba, back in the starting line-up after three weeks out with a twisted ankle.

The Frenchman should have put United in front after 34 minutes following the one moment of genuine class on show, Greenwood darting inside and clipping a lovely inswinging cross into Pogba who headed narrowly over.

Rochdale were honest and industrious and ready to pounce on any United sloppiness, of which there was plenty.

Fred kept giving the ball away, the workmanlike Andreas Pereira looked like a square peg in a round hole on the right wing. Phil Jones was substituted at the break injured. It all sounds wearily familiar, doesn't it?

Marcos Rojo had a diving header saved after one good United counter and Jesse Lingard glanced a header just over from a cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Greenwood was also denied by Robert Sanchez as he bore down on the Rochdale goalkeeper.

For a short time, it looked like Greenwood had again ridden to United's rescue.

Thwarted

Greenwood was thwarted by a good save shortly after the hour mark from a pass by Daniel James, who had replaced the ineffectual Tahith Chong, but he would not be denied for much longer.

Pereira found Lingard in the D who in turn fed Greenwood, lurking in the penalty area. It was a similar position to where he had picked up the ball against Astana but rather than cut on to his right like then, Greenwood darted inside Rhys Norrington-Davies, creating just enough space to drill a left-foot shot into the bottom corner.

Job done? Rochdale had other ideas. There did not seem to be too much on when Jimmy McNulty floated a long pass forward but the ball sailed over the head of Wan-Bissaka and into the path of Rathbone.

His cross was perfect and there was Matheson to stroke home on the volley. This really was the stuff of dreams for the teenager.

Sergio Romero's shootout heroics saved Manchester United's blushes, and denied Brian Barry-Murphy's side a famous win, but Rochdale left Old Trafford with their heads held high.

Telegraph.co.uk

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