Manchester United faced Manchester City at Wembley in the FA Cup final today.
Erik ten Hag, keen on winning another trophy after United already bagged the Carabao Cup earlier this season, named a strong starting XI.
Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Fred were tasked with patrolling the midfield.
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Here are three things we learned as Manchester United suffer a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City’s hands.
Eriksen’s weaknesses are a problem for United
Man City took the break just 13 seconds into the game through Ilkay Gundogan who unleashed a powerful wonder strike that left De Gea stuck to his feet and unable to intervene.
However, that Gundogan was in so much space was partly as a result of him not being marked – a task Eriksen was given, with Fred required to keep the dangerous Kevin de Bruyne at bay.
Throughout the game and especially in the opening 45 minutes before United gradually grew into the game, Eriksen failed to keep up with his man and track runs into United territory.
It does not help the team that the Dane is also constantly outdone in his duels and the challenges he delves into.
City found it easy to pierce through United’s midfield at times due to its lack of solidity. Eriksen is also severely limited in how intense and aggressively he can press.
It’s no surprise that ahead of the transfer window, Ten Hag is prioritizing the recruitment of a high-energy midfielder such as Mason Mount who can elevate the team’s performance levels.
Eriksen is undoubtedly a gifted technician and a skilled footballer but his shortcomings need to be addressed for United to go to the next level.
De Gea must leave United this summer
At certain points of the campaign, De Gea’s mistake-strewn displays have cost United crucial points.
He was responsible for United’s Europa League elimination with all three goals conceded his fault.
Against Man City at Wembley, the United shot-stopper was at it again. In the early stages of the first half, he constantly stood glued to his line while the opposition fired shots at him.
For Gundogan’s goal, De Gea barely flinched. Rodri attempted another headed effort minutes later and De Gea just stood there.
For Gundogan’s second goal which restored the lead for Pep Guardiola’s men, De Gea let the relatively tame shot squirm past him – any goalkeeper worth his salt saves that and keeps it from going him.
Beyond the 32-year-old regularly went long – something that played in the Premier League champions’ hands as possession was ceded back to them every time.
De Gea’s inability to distribute meant that the ball was always turned over to City who just went on ahead to mount attacks.
It has become a regular theme this term but game-by-game, De Gea is showing there is simply no room for him to be at the club beyond the expiry of his deal this season.
For a team that harbours ambitions of fighting for top honours, an upgrade between the sticks must be made.
Amidst suggestions that De Gea is close to signing a new deal, the club would be best served by not pushing forward with extending the Spaniard’s stay at Old Trafford. Keeping him would be counter-productive to say the least.
De Gea must simply be gotten rid of to allow the team to kick on up a few more levels. As long as he’s an undisputed starter, United under Ten Hag will never realize their true potential.
With De Gea as the number one, the Red Devils will always be prone to conceding silly goals and being limited in just how expansively they can play.
Alejandro Garnacho a positive difference
Alejandro Garnacho came on for Eriksen and despite playing less than 30 minutes, the Argentine was one of, if not United’s best attacker(s) against City.
He took on defenders and looked to get crosses into the box.
Garnacho was positive going forward and would have felt unlucky not to have found the back of the net with an effort that just went wide.
Garnacho has progressed well this season and next term, should be a contender to regularly start games.
The 18-year-old’s contributions, as it came to be, were in vain as the Reds were beaten.
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