Manchester United made a total of 10 changes to the line-up against Leicester City.
The game was a great opportunity for fringe players who had barely made a mark on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preferred XI.
Axel Tuanzebe for instance, was starting his first league game since January, while Amad and Anthony Elanga made their first ever Premier League starts.
Multiple changes were required due to a ridiculous fixture list which required United to play four matches in the space of eight days. Solskjaer was trying to keep key players as fresh as possible for United’s game with Liverpool on Thursday.
Unfortunately, several of the United players did not seize their chances.
Here is a look at three players who disappointed on a night they really needed to impress…
Williams was all at sea for United’s first goal, leaving his man unmarked at the back post as he tried to cover a gap in the centre. He wasn’t helped by an absent Axel Tuanzebe, who improved as the game went on.
Unfortunately Williams was often chasing shadows and did not do much to bolster his cause for more regular football.
Only in injury time did he get forward as an attacking outlet.
Defensively his night was summed up by the sorry statistic that he failed to win a tackle or make an interception all game.
Donny van de Beek
This was such an important night for Donny van de Beek, and he just couldn’t get going, despite working hard.
He was not helped by being played in a deep role, alongside Nemanja Matic.
Matic had a good first half and then faded badly after half-time, losing his man for Leicester’s winner.
But we know what Matic is at this point. Van de Beek, we hope for more.
The Dutchman failed to deliver, with no shots, no chances created, and no inspiration. He would prefer to play a more attacking role, and he will have to hope he gets an opportunity next week against Fulham or Wolves.
Juan Mata is capable of so much more, and it was a shame to see him be such a peripheral figure in this game, unable to wield an influence.
Van de Beek was played in a deeper role to accommodate him, and Mata did little to justify his selection.
It was a surprise he played all 90 minutes, with Amad taken off on 78 instead.
Mata had no shots at goal, and created no chances. You can put some of that down to facing a good opponent, in Wilfred Ndidi, but United needed more from the veteran, especially in the second half.
Mitigation for their struggles…
Now, it is easy admittedly to point out Williams, Van de Beek and Mata for their disappointing contributions.
What has to be taken into consideration, is that this was Williams’ first Premier League start of the season, Van de Beek’s first since December, and Mata’s first since November.
So disjointed displays were always likely. When Edinson Cavani returned to United’s side after injury against Brighton in March, he was poor too.
By getting the chance to play more regularly, he has got a lot sharper, and has been in fantastic form.
For these players, they had to seize their chances, with time running out this season. Unfortunately they didn’t, and while it is fine to point that out, it’s important to remember there are mitigating factors from the irregular way they have been utilised over the course of the season. Next time, could be better…
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