Did Man Utd lose the semi on the teamsheet? Signs of defensive encouragement for Mikel Arteta, but Pep Guardiola has difficult questions to answer…
David de Gea’s errors will make the headlines but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team selection for Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea was raising eyebrows before kick-off and limited his in-form team throughout the match.
United came into this semi-final 19 games unbeaten and on a run of exciting wins shaped by the attacking trio of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood capitalising on open, expansive football. So it was a shock to see the latter pair begin on the bench to allow a switch to a cautious back three in defence.
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With Chelsea playing a similar defensive formation, it made for a cagey first-half, with chances at a premium. United looked for the odd pass over the top to set Dan James or Rashford free but Chelsea nullified the threat and shut down any sign of the attacking play Solskjaer’s side have shown since the restart.
Martial did come on at the end of the first half after Eric Bailly’s injury, with Solskjaer taking the opportunity to re-jig his set-up, but with Olivier Giroud scoring soon after and De Gea’s howler coming immediately after the restart, United had a mountain to climb.
“We picked a team to give us a best possible opportunity to go through in the cup and be ready for Wednesday. It didn’t work today,” said Solskjaer afterwards, suggesting he had half an eye on the midweek match with West Ham.
Three points in that Premier League fixture will boost United’s top-four hopes – especially with their final-day opponents Leicester losing again earlier on Sunday – but it’s hard to shake the feeling a full-strength United could have instead been on course for silverware as well as Champions League qualification.
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