Goals from Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria was enough to send Manchester United through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. The League One side started the game brightly, but were unable to create too many opportunities at goal. United controlled the ball well, but were still far from convincing going forward and it took a wonder-strike from Ander Herrera to give them the lead in the second half.
After going 1-0 up, the visitors decided to shut up shop and played the remaining minutes trying to keep possession and hit Yeovil on the break. Their tactics paid off in the final few minutes as Di Maria, who came on in the second half, latched onto a through ball from Wayne Rooney near the halfway line and ran clear through on goal and calmly chipped the ball past the onrushing keeper to provide the Red Devils safe passage into the next round.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
United need to strengthen their defense
Whether it was the fact that they were playing three at the back, or the physical nature of Yeovil’s attacking play, one thing is for sure, even against a side that has scored just five League goals at home this season, the Red Devils’ defense looked shaky. Chris Smalling, Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett seemed to lack the conviction to go and win duels and it was only when Van Gaal switched to a back four that the side looked more comfortable.
Rafael and Luke Shaw both seemed to have a hard time adapting to being wing backs and neither seems to have the trust of the manager. Both McNair and Blackett, center backs by trade, operated as right and left backs in the second and actually acquitted themselves much better than either Rafael or Shaw. But the big problem for United is in the centre of defense. Neither Smalling nor Evans, who came on in the second half looked commanding patrolling the defense and the side desperately need an experienced head in the heart of the defense, irrespective of the formation they employ.
United make heavy work of Yeovil
Games against lower league sides are never easy, especially away from home. But the visitors would still have expected things to go a lot smoother considering the fact that they were playing a side that was at the bottom of League One and United were unbeaten in their last 10 games. And although they started with what was, a largely full strength, they seldom created any trouble for the Yeovil defense.
In fact, although the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, they seldom did anything with it and it was the home side who should have taken the lead when Kieffer Moore was presented with a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring. But the Englishman’s failure to do so meant that the Red Devils were still level and it took a wonder goal from Herrera, a goal line clearance and a late goal from Di Maria for them to settle a game, which, in days gone by, they would have cruised through. Which reinforces the point that for all of their unbeaten run, they still aren’t anywhere near where a side of their calibre should be and need reinforcements, especially in defense and central midfield.
It’s time to let Fletcher go
There was a time, not too long ago, when there was a case being made for Darren Fletcher being one of the best central midfielders in the League. His ability to both defend and attack, pass and move, score goals and create them as well, made him the first name on the starting XI. Right before he had his injury that almost wrecked his career, he was arguably United’s best midfielder.
Now that he is finally back, many were hoping that he would continue from where he left off, but that has simply not been the case. His positioning leaves a lot to be desired for and his eye for a pass has also diminished and one of his biggest strengths, his ability to put pressure on opposing players is also gone. If some thought his appointment as vice captain at the start of the season was a sentimental one, his performances have thus far proved them right. In the absence of Michael Carrick, who got a deserved rest, the Scot looked a shadow of his former self and created problems for the defense with his passing. The time is ripe for Van Gaal to throw sentiment out of the window and give other youngsters like Ben Pearson and Nick Powell a chance and move Fletcher on.