It was sad that it took a desperate situation for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to turn to Angel Gomes last night. But better late than never.
With United 3-0 down at home to City, there was little to lose by bringing on the talented teenager for his first appearance since November.
Gomes answered the call by having a positive impact on the game. His smart thinking interception released United on a counter attack, with Mason Greenwood supplying Marcus Rashford to score a consolation goal.
It gave United a slither of hope at 3-1 heading into the second leg at The Etihad.
Gomes’ impact should not be overlooked. And it needs to be a turning point.
The attacking midfielder position has been a problem all season long for United and our options have been exhausted.
Jesse Lingard has played in 27 matches and had no impact. He is not good enough.
Juan Mata is past it and it was refreshing to see Solskjaer bring Gomes on instead of him last night.
Andreas Pereira has given some life to the position, but he is role player rather than a regular starter. Gomes has the chance to be better.
United need to let Gomes build on this now. He simply has to start this weekend against Norwich City.
Gomes is a matchwinner, a player capable of producing moments of magic.
He’s young, he will be inconsistent, but he will deliver. He needs a run of games, and United need to let him develop by playing first team football.
Focus on here and now
Gomes’ expiring contract is obviously a concern. But if United do not play him, then the fears that he will leave become a self fulfilling prophecy.
United have to focus on the here and now, and the reality is that Gomes is the attacking midfielder in the team with the highest ceiling.
Giving him regular first team chances can persuade him to sign a new deal.
Strong performances will bring adulation from supporters, from teammates, and his manager.
It has the potential to create a groundswell of support which will convince the board to offer him the terms he wants.
And perhaps it isn’t about money. It might just be about playing regularly.
Gomes’ contribution last night showed promise. He needs to be allowed to build on that. He has proved already now that he can influence games against the very best.
If he is not given more chances now, it will only solidify a decision to move on. United have to take a leap of faith and provide him with more playing time.
Last night’s 3-1 loss was a miserable night for United. But it could also be a big turning point for the club’s future.
It could become the night which convinced the club to give more chances to Gomes, and persuade him to stay.
And in turn, the effect of this could be felt in a positive way at Old Trafford for many years to come. Here’s hoping.
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