herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Randolph is more than happy with bench role

Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph is pictured after last Sunday’s draw against United
Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph is pictured after last Sunday’s draw against United

For once, Darren Randolph had reason to be happy to sit on the bench in an EFL Cup quarter-final tie.

Sure, it was Old Trafford and Manchester United but he did that on Sunday and in the Premier League.

Not bad, either, to avoid the beating West Ham took and the goals Adrian conceded, even if he could hardly be faulted for any of them.

The fact that Adrian and not Randolph was Slaven Bilic's choice to stand between the posts for West Ham at Old Trafford last night represents a significant win for Ireland's No 1 netminder.

It confirms what we knew from the weekend when Randolph got the nod from Bilic to play against José Mourinho's team for three Premier League points.

Confidence

He retained Bilic's confidence despite conceding three in the London derby against Tottenham a week earlier and for the first time since Shay Given's spell as Aston Villa's first choice which ended in 2012, Ireland has a Premier League goalkeeper.

As recently as the week before Ireland beat Austria in Vienna, Randolph was asked why he hadn't gone out on loan and he told us that he was not giving up on winning the West Ham slot.

There was steel in his voice when he said it and those who heard him knew that he wouldn't leave anything behind in the attempt.

He wasn't to know then that Bilic had made up his mind during that international break to drop Adrian and when the team sheet appeared for last night's quarter-final, it was great to see his name missing.

Even better not to be on the pitch when United started the game as if their tails were on fire and had the lead within a minute of the kick-off.

Sneaky

In fact, Adrian was very lucky to stay on the field when he presented a sneaky set of studs to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's trailing leg after the great man chipped him and rattled the net.

It took slow motion replays to reveal Adrian's dangerous act. If football had a TMO, he was off.

He earned his corn after that. United were rampant and showing more of the blistering from which has been hinting at progress for Mourinho. Central to most of it was Henrik Mkhitaryan.

It has been a slow start to Mkhitaryan's career as a Red Devil but he is definitely gathering pace.

With Rooney favouring the left-flank, Mkhitaryan had the freedom and space to work his magic and he had a hand in United's first two goals.

His first assist was a devilish back-heel to set up Zlatan and he followed that with a perfect cut-back to set-up Anthony Martial for the first of his double.

Another for Ibrahimovic and that was that.

They are showing signs, José's team, of something much more coherent and dangerous than United fans have seen since Alex Ferguson waved goodbye and Mkhitaryan looks like the missing link.

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