Bruno Fernandes did not have the greatest of games as Manchester United lost another semi-final. But nobody played well, and Fernandes deserves more slack than most.
The Portugal international was an exception in United’s team. He was the only Manchester United player to register a shot on target.
United’s defeat was partially down to defensive errors. The problem was also in the final third.
United’s failure to test stand in City goalkeeper Zack Steffen was a missed opportunity.
The game started brightly for United, with Fernandes forcing Steffen into a full stretch save in the ninth minute. That was as good as it got.
Rashford and Martial struggle
Marcus Rashford was caught offside more times (2) than he had shots at goal (1). His first half effort was excellently blocked by Ruben Dias, who defended very well throughout.
When he did beat the offside trap after an excellent Fred pass over the top, Rashford’s control let him down.
Martial fared little better. His movement was at times questionable and his two shots both landed off target.
His attempt to win a penalty late on was embarrassing. Martial played the ball through two defenders and then threw himself to the ground. City’s players called for a booking which didn’t come, and the Frenchman was lucky.
Mason Greenwood did not get much time to influence the game when he came on and also failed to test the goalkeeper.
Little help from midfield
Fernandes had his two shots on target but nobody else in midfield contributed anything.
Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba both offered little, with attempting one shot at goal combined.
No player on United’s team managed to create more than one chance, Fernandes included. Compare this to the Villa game in which Fernandes and Luke Shaw made nine key passes combined.
Inexcusable in the circumstances
United set out with the right intent, attacking and forcing an own goal in the second minute which was unfortunately (and correctly) ruled out for an offside on Marcus Rashford.
After setting the tone well, United could not follow it up. City defended well but this was a big disappointment.
United were second best on the night and an attacking deficiency was highlighted. This probably would not have been the same if Edinson Cavani started.
With City missing players, and playing an inexperienced goalkeeper, United failed to utilise home advantage. If you want to win semi-finals, you have to play better than this, and manage more than two shots on target at home.
It was a missed opportunity, and we can only hope United continue to earn chances to put this repeated semi-final failure right.
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