Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked at his Manchester United bench last week and decided to stick rather than twist for much of the Europa League final.

With Anthony Martial injured, there was no recognised goal-scorer to call on if the starters fell short.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened, with Marcus Rashford struggling and Amad Diallo and Dan James the only out-and-out attacking players on a sizable bench.

Two goalkeepers, two holding midfielders and four defenders on a bench of 12 speaks volumes. United simply did not have enough in reserve to change the game.

Some feel Amad could have made a difference. But what United needed was a more dominant attacker to replace Rashford. And that player was Anthony Elanga.

AS Roma v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Semi Final: Leg Two
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

The 19-year-old proved against Wolves that he can make a difference in the final third.

His movement and skill caused issues throughout on the final day of the Premier League. While his goal was a wonderful example of centre-forward play – a header Edinson Cavani would be proud of.

Elanga was overlooked for the final. But United really should have opted for a wild card rather than four defenders (even if one of them was the previously injured Harry Maguire).

 

If the United skipper wasn’t fit enough to play, his place should have been given to someone who could make a genuine difference.

A risk worth taking

Elanga would have been a better option to break down a stubborn Villareal back line. He certainly would have given them more to think about.

The Swede has scored regularly for United’s under-18s and under-23s and he marked only his second senior appearance with a fine strike.

Solskjaer needed something different on Wednesday. That is why a bench is so important.

Had Sir Alex Ferguson not thrown Federico Macheda on when few knew his name, United would have one less Premier League title to their name.

At United, if you are good enough, you are old enough. A fresh and confident Elanga could have offered more than a tired and injured Marcus Rashford.

He is versatile enough to have made an impact out wide or centrally. And United did not create enough chances. Elanga’s runs may have created more space for others, and made a real difference in a game where United look back on full of regret.

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