Scott McTominay and Fred are increasingly seen as a duo by Ole gunnar Solskjaer due to their success in big games.
But the manager might have got it wrong with his reluctance to split them up against City.
In our predicted line-up we had suggested McTominay start the game on the bench with Nemanja Matic starting.
McTominay’s uninspiring performance gave credence to the call that Matic should have started in his place.
McTominay experiencing a dip
For the second successive game after a poor display against Aston Villa, McTominay provided little to United.
He managed only 37 touches before being taken off in the 75th minute, had one shot which landed off target, made just one tackle and one interception.
Going back to his inspired two-goal performance against Leeds, he has not quite been the same since. McTominay suffered a groin injury in this game and missed the following two games.
This halted his momentum and he has not been in good form since. Players suffer dips, this is natural amid a hectic season. Solskjaer probably hoped McTominay would be able to bring his A-game for this one. But he didn’t.
Solskjaer taking him off for Mason Greenwood highlighted that he thought McTominay was the most expendable and having the least impact.
Nemanja Matic meanwhile has improved
Serbian midfielder Matic meanwhile has begun to show some spark after a poor start to the season.
Matic was very effective in the second half of the semi-final against City last season, scored a winner at The Etihad, and played all 90 minutes alongside Fred in midfield in the 2-0 win in March.
He has proved to be a good match-up for City, able to combat Fernandinho’s physicality in midfield. Solskjaer probably got this one wrong in leaving him out.
Of course it’s futile now, but as we unpick the wreckage of another semi-final defeat, it’s also useful to look for reasons for the loss, as opposed to simply saying City were better, or pinning the defeat on an individual mistake or two.
A four man midfield lacks shape when it is Fred, McTominay and Paul Pogba behind Bruno Fernandes, with none of the three particular specialists as defensive players.
Matic is a defensive midfield, a declining one at 32, but one still capable of impacting big games. He has had a very underwhelming season until the past fortnight, but he can still be of use.
When United are playing a diamond midfield, it is important to have a player who understands the role and makes it easier for those around him. That’s what Matic does.
In a three man midfield Matic is often overworked. In a four, he is one of United’s best options, and United may have made an error omitting him on Wednesday night.
- What channel is Brentford v Manchester United on? Kick off time, live stream and team news
- Manchester United will need to move the ball quickly to bypass Brentford's top-tackler
- Rangnick says £50m man is set to miss Manchester United's next two Premier League games
- One of Manchester United's top manager targets gets easier as club contact replacement
- 4-2-3-1: Predicted Manchester United XI v Brentford: Elanga and Ronaldo to start
- £100m star pursuit leaves Manchester United at risk of another critical mistake
- Rangnick says £73m Manchester United star is 'one of the best in training sessions'
- Photo: 18-year-old talent signs first Manchester United professional contract
- Report: Ralf Rangnick recommends Manchester United sign star who is 'streets ahead of Maguire'
- Manchester United star at risk of missing clash with former side following injury setback