Manchester United fought bravely in their 2-1 F.A. Cup final loss to Manchester City. It was a gallant effort by the Red Devils that saw them dominate the game in parts, yet being unable to breach City’s defense on more than one occasion. Prior to the match, United had finished third in the Premier League, finishing only below City and Arsenal. Not to mention that they also won the Carabao Cup, Erik ten Hag’s first title as their manager.
Hence, ten Hag’s debut season at Old Trafford can be termed as a success. Manchester United have exhibited world-class form at home this season, losing only one out of their 19 league matches at the Theater of Dreams. They beat Manchester City 2-1 in a Premier League clash back in January and gave the champions a good fight in the F.A. Cup final.
Man United coped well with the absence of a few key players
Manchester United have had to deal with injuries to a few key players throughout the season. Lisandro Martinez was unavailable for the last month of the season. Raphael Varane also missed quite a few matches, leaving United to play with the makeshift centre-back pairing of Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof.
Marcus Rashford, United’s stand-out player with 30 goals, also missed a number of matches owing to an injury and Casemiro was suspended having seen a couple of red cards. It is testimony to United’s solid bench-strength that they remained afloat despite their injured/suspended players.
The likes of Fred, Lindelof, Shaw and Anthony Martial did their jobs as back-up players. Martial scored nine goals in 29 matches, which might not look like a great return at an elite club like United, but the fact that he often had to come in as a substitute strengthens his case. All of them helped United recover from the temporary slump they experienced from mid-April to early May.
Some of the youngsters performed well
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alejandro Garnacho stood out against Manchester City in the F.A. Cup final. In fact, they were probably United’s two best players on the pitch. Garnacho has been a great inclusion to the Red Devils this season.
The Argentine youngster has often impressed with his performances on the left flank, typically after coming on as a substitute. His speed and ability to score key goals have been an asset for United. He could have scored last Saturday, too, but one of his shots missed the target by a whisker.
Wan-Bissaka has often had to contend with Diogo Dalot, another youngster, for a place in the starting eleven as the right-back, but has performed reasonably well. He was given a torrid time by Bernardo Silva in Manchester City’s 6-3 thrashing of United last October, but has recovered well since then.
The likes of Wan-Bissaka and Garnacho are the ones United will want to build their team around in the future. Tyrell Malacia, the understudy to Shaw, is also one for the future. Should Erik ten Hag get to stick with the team for long enough and manage the disciplinary issues as commendably as he has in the past, there is no reason why United can’t become serious title-contenders a few years down the road.