Manchester United faced Chelsea at Wembley in the FA cup semi-final, United had been on a run of 19 games unbeaten but both sides changed their formations for this one as they looked to book a spot in the final against Arsenal. Eric Bailly went off after a horrible clash of heads just before halftime, before Giroud put a scuffed shot past De Gea, who should’ve done better. A minute into the second half Mount hit a shot from outside the box that squirmed through De Gea’s hands. Chelsea got a third goal when Maguire deflected a cross into his own net. Fernandes scored from the penalty spot to get a consolation for United, who were outclassed by Lampard’s Chelsea.
1. De Gea disasterEmbed from Getty Images
With Romero such a solid performer in the cup competitions for United, the Argentinian was slightly unlucky to be replaced by De Gea for this one, as Solskjaer opted for the goalkeeper that he recently described as the best in the world. This proved to be the wrong decision. There has been lots of question marks over De Gea, as his performances have continued to decline over the past seasons and the Spaniard has looked a shadow of the superb goalkeeper that many called the best in the world. Solskjaer, though, has always backed his No.1 and gave him the start in the semi-final as United looked to book a place in the final against Arsenal on August the 1st.
What followed was a catalogue of dreadful goalkeeping mistakes. Chelsea took the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half through Giroud, who miscued his shot, yet the ball still managed to squirm past De Gea and into the net. A shot the goalkeeper really should’ve saved. The day got even worse, one minute into the second half when De Gea failed to save a low, non-powerful, long-range strike from Mason Mount. Two massive errors. Although the third goal, was not completely his mistake, a goalkeeper in form could’ve kept it out. Another poor performance and Solskjaer now needs to decide whether to stick or twist with his Goalkeeper.
2. Get well soon Bailly!Embed from Getty Images
Eric Bailly had to be stretchered off with gas and air and taken straight to hospital after a head injury. The Ivorian defender went off in a neck brace and it looked to be very serious. Bailly has since been released from hospital with the injury just ‘a scare’ The centre back has suffered two serious knew injuries and one ankle injury since joining United from Villarreal in 2016. FIFA have been urged to immediately introduce temporary concussion substitutions after trials were delayed by covid 19. Bailly has made just 10 appearances this season for Manchester United with Maguire and Lindelof preferred to the Ivorian.
3. Formation failsEmbed from Getty Images
Both sides reverted to a back three, perhaps after seeing how effective it was for Arsenal against Manchester City, and both had very different outcomes. Chelsea had played the system over 6 times this season so were very comfortable with it but Manchester United had played with a back four all season so looked lost at times against Chelsea in a back three. Chelsea executed it excellently with their defenders, Azpilicueta, Ruidiger and Zouma, their standout performers. Manchester United looked like a completely different team to the one that hadn’t lost in 19 matches and repeatedly made silly individual mistakes, giving the ball straight back to Chelsea. United weren’t helped by the injury of Eric Bailly, but even their more experienced players like Maguire and Matic were off par and poor in the system. Solskjaer, in hindsight, should’ve stuck with his usual formation, as the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’
4. Impressive run overEmbed from Getty Images
United’s unbeaten run is finally over, after 19 games without losing. United scored 49 goals and kept 13 clean sheets in the truly remarkable run that started with the win at Tranmere, the game after they lost at Old Trafford against Burnley and many called for Solskjaer to be sacked, whether Manchester United win the Europa League and get in the top four or not, Solskjaer has done an excellent job and started to make United look like a Ferguson side, however Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary United sides won trophies, which is something Solskjaer is yet to do, so the right recruitment in the Summer is essential if Ole wants to turn this talented group of players into a talented group of winners.
5. What next?
Despite the defeat, there was an excellent result on Sunday for the Red Devils as Tottenham beat Leicester 3-0 meaning United will go above Leicester when they play their game in hand against West Ham. Then, on Sunday, they face Leicester in the last game of the season in the champions league place decider. In August they will resume their Europa League campaign, and that is now the only trophy they can win this season. It remains to be seen what Solskjaer will do with his goalkeeping situation for the remainder of the season.