There was a real combination of factors which can be attributed to Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea. But whether you point at team selection, scheduling, or fatigue, it all points back to one main reason for United’s defeat.
The reason Manchester United lost to Chelsea was because of poor performances in the first half of the season. It was a self-inflicted loss.
While United are scrapping for a top four place, it should have been wrapped up a long time ago.
This United team delivered too many below par displays and results in the first half of the campaign, which left us with a mountain to climb in 2020 to be in with a chance of a top four place.
Look at some of the woeful results this United side turned in: 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace, 1-0 away defeat to Newcastle, 2-0 away at Watford, 2-1 away at Bournemouth, 2-0 away at West Ham. These are all teams in the bottom seven, that is 0 points from a possible 15.
And then you have draws at home to Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa, and a home loss to Burnley, where United dropped points in an avoidable manner. That is three points from a possible 12.
That is just three points from a possible 27 in these games listed alone. And there are more. The away draw at Southampton, away at Everton, away at Sheffield United and Wolves. The list goes on.
United may have discovered a new ruthlessness lately, the home draw with the Saints aside, but it left us relying on other results to go our way. We may yet get lucky, and now our fate is in our hands. But to go at the Premier League 100 per cent over the past few weeks saw the FA Cup fall by the wayside.
Changes were an effect of the Premier League battle
If United have already secured a Champions League place, then we would have been able to approach this past week in a completely different manner.
A fully rotated side would have played at Selhurst Park on Thursday night, and United’s first choice XI would have been fresh for Wembley, to start against Chelsea.
Some players may even have been rested for both the Southampton and Crystal Palace games, with a view on the Chelsea match.
There would have been no dilemma about holding players back for Wednesday’s game with West Ham if it was a meaningless dead rubber, instead of a match United desperately need to win.
Now Chelsea played well, and perhaps they might have beaten us any way, but United would have stood a far better chance with our first choice side out, and having approached the game full throttle, without feeling like we were holding back from the moment the line-up was announced.
Turn it back to transfer failings
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should accept his own share of blame for United’s poor start, just like he should get the credit for Manchester United’s recent turnaround.
Even with the players at his disposal, he should have done far better in the matches where United dropped points.
Obviously if he had foreseen how much Bruno Fernandes would impact the squad, he would have pushed for United to sign him last summer instead.
To many outside the club, the need for extra creative players in midfield was blatantly obvious.
Whether you blame Solskjaer for insisting he was happy with his players, or the lack of urgency from chief executive Ed Woodward and the Glazers, it is clear United went into the season short-handed.
The Paul Pogba injury did not help either, and while this could not have been foreseen, United just do not have the strength in depth, and as it stands, we still do not, to mount a title challenge and succeed on multiple fronts.
The same cannot be allowed to happen this summer, or we may find that when it is crunch time, it costs United the chance of silverware once again.
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