Saturday , September 30 2023
Erik ten Hag

Manchester United may spring a tactical surprise against Man City in FA Cup final

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Man United are underdogs in an FA Cup final for the first time since 1985 and will have to make a tactical tweak to overcome Man City.


One of Erik ten Hag’s most underrated assets is his ability to control the hospital pass. He managed Cristiano Ronaldo’s decline near-faultlessly and effectively stripped Harry Maguire of the captaincy without officially doing so.

Before a competitive ball was kicked this season, the Manchester United manager got a tune out of Anthony Martial in pre-season. Martial, given a breather against Fulham on Sunday, has a favourable chance of starting the FA Cup final for a club that listed him in the ‘for sale’ column months ago.

It is a good gauge of a coach’s qualities when they are able to make use of the furniture they have inherited. Consider Mikel Arteta with Granit Xhaka, Pep Guardiola with Nicolas Otamendi and Divock Origi’s reinvention under Jurgen Klopp.

Figures at United acknowledged in the summer Martial would be a challenge for Ten Hag. The challenge has been more to do with his agility than his ability in a season Martial has sustained five separate injuries and missed 32 games.

Ten Hag has said United are a better side with Martial starting. He has stressed that so repeatedly he must believe it even if many supporters don’t. Rather than scorn an unsellable talent who has outstayed his welcome, Ten Hag has maximised Martial (when available) whilst also planning for life without him.

The same applies to Fred, filmed in conversation with the Fulham coach Marco Silva outside Old Trafford on Sunday. Intermediaries have proposed a Fred transfer to Fulham, conscious United have planned to sell a midfielder to part-finance the arrival of a new one.

Fred, 30 and approaching the fifth anniversary of his move to United, is out of contract next year and he has started the fewest games in a season since his first with the club in 2018-19. The Brazilian is an asset both sellable and playable.

He could have been credited with two assists against Fulham. The second was one for the aesthetes; a line-breaker so admirable it trumped Bruno Fernandes’s dinked finish.

One sensed Fred would come in for Christian Eriksen and that he would not be paired with Scott McTominay. Ten Hag has not started those two in the same XI since the opening weekend defeat to Brighton, a sensible strategy that has consigned an axis synonymous with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the past.

Fred and Casemiro may start together at Wembley

Fred and Casemiro may start together at Wembley

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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