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Three talking points as Huddersfield Town ended Manchester United’s unbeaten run

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Manchester United’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season came to an abrupt end on Saturday as two first-half goals earnt Huddersfield Town a shock victory at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Jose Mourinho’s side had enjoyed a seamless start to the new campaign, setting the pace with Manchester City at the top of the table and keeping seven clean sheets in their eight league matches. However, their defence was breached inside half an hour when Aaron Mooy coolly swept home after Tom Ince’s initial shot was saved.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors just five minutes later when Laurent Depoitre capitalised on Victor Lindelof’s defensive error to round David de Gea and double the Terriers’ lead.

United dominated possession as they looked for a way back into the match but they failed to carve out many meaningful chances, even with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both brought on from the bench.

It was the 19-year-old that offered a glimmer of hope late on, nodding in from Romelu Lukaku’s pinpoint cross, but it wasn’t enough to deny Huddersfield their first win over United for 65 years.

Huddersfield learn from mistakes against Tottenham

It was only three weeks ago when Huddersfield Town were blown away at home by a ruthless display from Tottenham, and it is fair to say on that occasion they came out with the wrong attitude.

They tried to take the game to their opponents too early, leaving gaps at the back that were easily exploited, and they left themselves far too much to do early on to salvage anything from the match.

Nonetheless, manager David Wagner had clearly learnt from his mistakes of that afternoon and, against an equally imposing Manchester United test, his side performed with a much better balance and they got their just rewards for a more measured approach, ensuring they made their opportunities count.

They were never likely to dominate possession against United but their evident tenacity in both attack and in defence, allied with some woeful defending from the visitors, got their noses in front.

The Terriers then showed an awful amount of character to make sure that they didn’t let this lead slip out of their grasp – particularly after Rashford had pulled one back – and it was a valiant rear-guard effort from the hosts, who defended narrowly all game to keep the impact of United’s attacking outlets to a minimum.

It says it all that Huddersfield’s centre-back pairing of Christopher Schindler and Mathias Jorgensen made 28 clearances between them on Saturday – more than six of the 12 Premier League sides in action – and it summarises just how much they battled for what was an ultimately deserved three points.

Manchester United’s injury woes continue as defence falters

In a week that saw Jose Mourinho hit the headlines with his comments about United’s ongoing injury problems, he will be left ruing his luck once again following yet another casualty on Saturday afternoon.

The visitors could have become the first top-flight team to ever keep eight clean sheets in their opening nine Premier League matches of the season but, when Phil Jones was forced off after just 23 minutes after a tackle with Mooy, things began to fall apart defensively.

It was Victor Lindelof – the £31 million arrival from Benfica – who was trusted with duties at the back but he struggled from the start, looking nervy every time the ball came his way, and it was little surprise that he cost his side a second goal when he misjudged the flight of an innocuous Jonas Lossl goal-kick.

If anything, it showed just how important that Jones has become to Mourinho’s back-line, with the hosts immediately capitalising on the huge void left by the England international’s absence from defence.

Whilst Mourinho didn’t want to single anyone out in his post-match interview – and rightly so, as Juan Mata’s error also led to a home goal – Lindelof’s contribution rather encapsulated United’s afternoon.

The 23-year-old had been kept out of Premier League action by Mourinho for a reason so far this season, only being awarded a first taste of top-flight football in the dying moments against Liverpool last week, and based on his display at Huddersfield it is clear to see he is correct and that Lindelof isn’t ready yet.

Potentially season-defining fortnight awaits Jose Mourinho’s side

With a tough double-header coming up against Tottenham and Chelsea before the international break is upon us once again, Manchester United could have really done with a victory against Huddersfield.

Manchester City are rampant at the top and, considering they face kinder fixtures against West Brom and Arsenal next in the league, there is a real possibility they can carve out a big lead over November.

However, what will have Mourinho most concerned is not the result on Saturday, but the tepid manner in which they fell to defeat at a newly-promoted outfit, who hadn’t won in their previous six league outings, and the fact they only managed three shots on target all match starts to bring back last year’s woes.

Credit where credit is due, Huddersfield were magnificently resilient.

However, for a team that have aspirations of the title there was a lack of character; think back to the Sir Alex Ferguson era and these are the sort of games where United would have fought back and ground out a late result – Aston Villa in 2012 springs to mind – but they seemed devoid of ideas against the Terriers.

After two disappointing outings in the Premier League, United need to get back on track quickly, and there’s arguably no better way to do that than set the record straight against two title challengers.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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Bournemouth

Huddersfield Town 4-1 Bournemouth: Alex Pritchard steals plaudits after running the show

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Huddersfield Town took a huge leap in the race for survival with a 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Huddersfield Town produced a four-star performance to brush aside Bournemouth and move out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Junior Stanislas quickly cancelled out Alex Pritchard’s seventh-minute opener, but from that moment it was one-way traffic as the Terriers showed their bite on a freezing afternoon in Yorkshire.

A Steve Cook own goal made it 2-1 at half-time before Steve Mounie and a stoppage-time penalty from Rajiv van la Parra completed the drubbing.

Huddersfield climbed to 17th as a result of this much-needed victory, while Bournemouth’s excellent recent form came to an abrupt halt with their first defeat of 2018.

Here are three talking points…

Huddersfield breathe new life into survival bid

Boss David Wagner had highlighted his side’s upcoming run of fixtures as crucial to their ambitions of avoiding relegation back to the Championship.

On the back of five consecutive defeats, Huddersfield had free-fallen into the drop-zone.

Although the win over Manchester United will take some beating in the eyes of the fans, given their predicament this was arguably their most important three points of the campaign.

It was a crushing triumph and one that the Terriers fully deserved.

Yes, they caught the visitors on a bad day, but much of that was due to the nature of Huddersfield’s display.

They gave Bournemouth no time on the ball to play their natural passing game and took their chances when they came along.

Especially from set-pieces, Wagner’s men looked dangerous and exploited the Cherries’ weakness in the air.

The bottom half of the table remains incredibly congested, but this result gives Huddersfield genuine hope that survival is possible.

Bournemouth’s unbeaten run comes to a crashing end

Entering this match at the top of the form table, this was Bournemouth’s worst result of the season.

From the first whistle they were out-battled by a Huddersfield side that were fighting for their lives.

Perhaps an air of complacency had surfaced following the Cherries’ unbeaten sequence, which had stood at seven games and included victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.

Talk of qualifying for the Europa League can now be parked to one side.

Despite being in 10th position, Bournemouth are not assured of survival just yet.

Boss Eddie Howe will back his troops to get the three wins they need to reach the 40-point mark, but this was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in the Premier League.

He will be thoroughly bemused by this showing.

It was a day to forget for the Cherries and their dedicated supporters, who had left in the very early hours to embark on the long journey north for this lunch-time kick-off.

Pritchard brings ingenuity to the Terriers’ ranks

Although Huddersfield’s win was a by-product of a real team effort, one player that deserves special praise is new recruit Pritchard.

Signed from Norwich City in the January window, he ran the show in midfield, making the Terriers tick with crisp passing.

Pritchard opened the scoring in the early exchanges with a well-taken finish for his first ever Premier League goal, at the seventh attempt.

He had previously played in the top-flight with Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

There is always a risk attached to any new signing from a lower division, but Pritchard had demonstrated enough class for Norwich to indicate he would be able to make the step-up.

The 24-year-old will face tougher challenges in his midfield role, but he has brought a touch of guile and class to Huddersfield.

Pritchard’s teasing run that induced the foul for a penalty in added-time underlined his capability to make things happen.

Wagner will hope it is a positive sign for the run-in.

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Chelsea

Three talking points as Chelsea brushed aside Huddersfield Town

Rob Meech

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Chelsea bounced back from their surprise defeat to West Ham United with a comfortable victory over Huddersfield Town. The Blues totally dominated at the John Smith’s Stadium and the result never looked in doubt once Tiemoue Bakayoko had given them a 23rd-minute lead.

Willian doubled their advantage before Pedro added a third goal, five minutes into the second half. The Terriers grabbed a consolation through Laurent Depoitre with the last kick of the game, but the gulf in class was evident on a rain-soaked evening in Yorkshire.

Chelsea’s win brought them level on points with second-placed Manchester United, at least temporarily, while Huddersfield’s defeat was their fifth in their past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points.

Antonio Conte’s players deliver the perfect riposte 

This was a fixture that had all the characteristics of an upset. The weather was dreadful, with rain falling heavily throughout. Given the way the Terriers had recently pushed Manchester City all the way, not to mention seeing off Manchester United on home turf earlier in the campaign, many tuned into BT Sport thinking the Blues would find things difficult.

It didn’t materialise. Chelsea were in command from the first whistle and the only surprise was that it took them until the 23rd minute to break the deadlock. After their defeat to West Ham, this was just the response boss Antonio Conte would have wanted from his players.

They dictated the tempo of the game and never allowed Huddersfield – or their supporters – an opportunity to stamp their authority on the contest. The fluid movement of Chelsea’s front three caused the Terriers plenty of problems and led to individual mistakes, with one such error leading to Bakayoko’s opener.

Alarm bells are ringing for Huddersfield

Anything other than defeat would have been a bonus for David Wagner’s side, who had set up to frustrate the visitors. By beating Brighton & Hove Albion three days earlier, they have given themselves breathing space in the battle to avoid relegation. But the Terriers cannot afford to be complacent.

Although their current position may look relatively safe, a run of five defeats in six games, as well as a vastly inferior goal difference, suggests there could be worrying times ahead. Against the two Manchester clubs, Huddersfield made life difficult for their opponents. But they were far too passive against Chelsea.

Perhaps it is understandable that Wagner wants his players to conserve their energy for fixtures against clubs with whom they are battling for survival. But the home fans surely would have expected a more positive approach.

Is Michy Batshuayi surplus to requirements?

With Alvaro Morata suffering from a back complaint and rested for this match, Michy Batshuayi must have thought he would be handed a rare opportunity to impress from the start. Tellingly though, Chelsea boss Conte opted for a front three of Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro, with no out-and-out striker.

This would have been a huge kick in the teeth to the Belgian marksman, who has failed to establish himself since joining the west London outfit from Marseille in the summer of 2016. Last season, he was forced to play second fiddle to Diego Costa, while now he is behind Morata in the pecking order.

Batshuayi has enjoyed success from the bench; famously he netted the goal that confirmed Chelsea as title winners in the previous campaign. This latest snub must be further evidence that Conte does not see Batshuayi as part of his long-term plans and there is speculation the Italian might be willing to allow him to go out on loan in January.

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