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Transfer Rater: Mertens to Man United

 By Musa Okwonga

Smalling stands out as Man United breeze past Shrewsbury in FA Cup

After a week in which Manchester United had given their supporters great cause for anxiety, after back-to-back losses to Sunderland and Midtjylland, they made their way through to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with surprising ease. They overcame Shrewsbury Town 3-0, and were up by two at the break after strikes from Chris Smalling and Juan Mata, the scoring being completed by Jesse Lingard.

United have been criticised -- rightly -- for their patient approach play in recent months, which at times has been stultifying, but here their contemplative passing regularly undid a home side who appeared lacking in ambition for much of the match, content to sit narrow and contain their visitors.

United's dominance -- they had three-quarters of possession -- allowed them to give game time to some promising young players, one of whom, Will Keane, had to depart because of injury shortly after his introduction. That, though, was the only blemish on a night when United proceeded with an authority that has been all too rare this season, and a margin of victory that was thoroughly deserved.

Shrewsbury TownShrewsbury Town
Manchester UnitedManchester United
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Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Sergio Romero, 7 -- Dealt competently with every threat that came his way, though there were not too many, and his swift distribution led to United's decisive goal in the second half.

DF Guillermo Varela, 7 -- Showed composure in the early stages and considerable enterprise when getting forward, and was untroubled throughout.

DF Chris Smalling, 8 -- Probably his team's best player. Had an early, free header that -- though off target -- was a promising sign of attacking intent, and was rewarded for his ambition with the game's opening goal. Covered and passed well throughout.

DF Daley Blind, 8 -- Strode forward impressively from the start, taking the initiative with incisive runs and passes. Technically and tactically sharp all game.

DF Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, 7 -- Withdrawn at half-time, but not before he had shown what a useful deputy he has proved for Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw. Frequently took advantage of Shrewsbury's narrow shape to advance high up the pitch.

MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 7 -- Shrewsbury's concession of space in central midfield allowed him to step forward and control possession, but he was a formidable barrier on the rare occasions that they broke out of their defensive crouch.

MF Ander Herrera, 7 -- Quietly busy rather than the dynamic threat he poses at his best, but was continually looking for spaces and conjured a superb second-half assist for Lingard.

Chris Smalling stood out as Manchester United's best player in Shrewsbury on Monday night.

MF Juan Mata, 7 -- Like his fellow Spaniard, Mata moved with great intelligence, and though he often found his way blocked by a massed defence, he made his way onto the score sheet with an excellent free kick. Was difficult for his opponents to mark, and subtly orchestrated most of his team's best attacks.

FW Jesse Lingard, 7 -- A first half of great toil but little outcome led to a second half in which he sealed the tie with an artfully cushioned half-volley. Provided good width and movement, typified by his perfectly timed run onto Herrera's chipped through-ball for his goal.

FW Anthony Martial, 6 -- Showed patches of great skill and acceleration, though was slightly subpar for a player of his ability, getting in the way of a goal-bound Memphis Depay free kick and sending a header wide that he should have scored. At his sharpest, he probably would have graced the score sheet twice, but he was still too elusive for Shrewsbury's hardworking defence.

FW Memphis Depay, 6 -- Was not short of effort, moving with intensity and purpose for the whole match, but lacked accuracy from distance and never truly looked like the elite threat his talent suggested when he was acquired this past summer. A frustrating game for the Netherlands forward.


DF Joe Riley, 7 -- Had little involvement for the first part of his first-team debut, given Shrewsbury's reluctance to advance down his flank, but he soon got forward with notable confidence, even attempting an ambitious-though-speculative strike from distance. An outing he can be proud of.

MF Andreas Pereira, 7 -- Showed great energy and movement when he came on, stretching a narrow Shrewsbury team with a couple of eye-catching runs.

FW Will Keane, NR -- Made his much-deserved first-team return after his superb scoring form for the club's under-21 side, and struck the post with a fine strike shortly after his introduction; however, in the process of doing so, he suffered a muscle injury. A sad departure for a highly rated prospect.


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