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Rashford's magnificent free kick earns uninspired Man United a win at Benfica

The FC guys provide their critiques for Jose Mourinho's Man United side following a narrow UCL victory over Benfica.

Having won both of their games coming in to this match, while Benfica had lost both of theirs, the real pressure was on the home side and not Manchester United ahead of kickoff on Wednesday. That was telling in the first half of the 1-0 win, with United not showing an awful lot of quality in attack and Benfica not able to create the clear cut chances they craved.

Mile Svilar, Benfica's third different goalkeeper of the campaign, was making his Champions League debut. Marcus Rashford spotted his strange positioning and tried to score from a couple of corners, before finally taking advantage with a long-range free kick to put United ahead.

Even the most ardent United fan couldn't have been too entertained by that performance but it matters little. They came for the three points and that's what they got.

BenficaBenfica
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Positives

It was by no means a classic but the result is just what United needed. They were in complete control after the first 10 minutes and dominated possession. To play away in the Champions League and have such an easy time is rare and welcomed.

Rashford scored his sixth goal in 13 games this season, as his bright start to the campaign continues.

With three wins out of three in the Champions League, United have one foot in the knock out rounds now.

Negatives

It wasn't a great game of football to watch, short of clear-cut chances, but it probably isn't worth getting too worked up about. It's maybe slightly concerning that United relied on a massive goalkeeping error to get the win, though.

Having picked up a knock on international duty and starting last weekend's game against Liverpool on the bench as a result, it was a worry to see Rashford limping off the field with 15 minutes left to play.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Jose Mourinho started arguably the strongest lineup he has available to him knowing that a win puts United in a great position in the competition. Pragmatic until the end, the manager got what he wanted.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David De Gea, 6 -- The goalkeeper had nothing of note to do.

DF Antonio Valencia, 6 -- Made an important interception at the start of the second half to stop a tap-in, before making a great block to preserve United's lead. Got forward a bit, especially in the second half, but his crossing was questionable.

DF Victor Lindelof, 7 -- On his return to his former club, the defender put in a decent shift. Blocked shots and protected his goal well.

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal on a night when Manchester United didn't impress but won nonetheless.

DF Chris Smalling, 7 -- Solid in the air from set pieces and crosses. Was rarely tested though.

DF Daley Blind, 6 -- Wasn't tried much defensively but delivered a few nice crosses. Lazily caught offside too often though.

MF Ander Herrera, 5 -- Better in the second half than he was in the first, although that probably wasn't too difficult. Untied dominated play as the game went on and Herrera helped with that. Played a lovely ball through to Valencia that should have resulted in something better.

MF Nemanja Matic, 8 -- United's best player on the night. He did well defensively and supported the attack. Burst in to the box in the first half but his shot was saved.

FW Juan Mata, 6 -- A quiet game for the Spaniard. Was involved in some nice moves for United but didn't leave his mark on the game.

FW Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 4 -- Had a great opportunity on the break with Romelu Lukaku making a run but his shot was well wide. When not making mistakes, he was fairly anonymous.

FW Marcus Rashford, 7 -- Had United's first real chance but his header went over after a mistimed jump. He made some good runs down the left flank before spotting the goalkeeper's bizarre positioning from set pieces. Took advantage to put United 1-0 up. Limped off the field with quarter of an hour left to play.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 5 -- Having scored in almost every game during his United career to date, the Belgian striker had a very quiet night. His injury-time free kick struck the wall.

Substitutes

FW Anthony Martial, N/A -- Replaced an injured Rashford for the final 15 minutes. Skipped past the defence and was denied by the goalkeeper.

FW Jesse Lingard, N/A -- Came on for Mata for the final 10 minutes. Booked.

MF Scott McTominay, N/A -- Replaced Mkhitaryan in injury time. Drew the foul that saw captain Luisao sent off.

Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.

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