The League two outfit managed to hold the most successful English club to a goalless draw on Friday night in the FA cup fourth round. Despite 76 places separating the two teams, the Reds were unable to score a single goal on the night. Let us look at the talking points from the match:
United tempo needs to improve
It really doesn’t matter whether United are playing with a back three or a back four, Red Devils are struggling to pass the ball properly. They are finding it difficult to initiate attacks from the back. One of the main reasons is the slow tempo at which they are playing.
Cambridge United did just what any lower league side would do when playing against a top club – they parked the bus. In order to break their resilience it was imperative for United to move the ball quickly, but they found it hard to link up properly with their teammates in the attacking third. Things slightly improved in the second half when Herrera came on, but it was too little to make an impact.
Reds need to steady their ship at the back
The Reds of Manchester dominated the entire match in terms of possession by having more than 75 percent on the night. Hence, United defenders hardly had to concentrate on defending, so they were also doing their best in the other half to break the deadlock. Despite the little defending they had to do, Reds struggled at the back whenever Cambridge came forward.
In the first half in particular, United struggled every time Cambridge put a ball in United’s penalty box. United also did not block the crosses and allowed them to put it in on every possible occasion. It resulted in Cambridge having the best chance of the first half when Josh Coulson headed just over the bar from the six yard box. If Reds are serious about winning the competition, they have to sort their defence soon.
Leaving Rooney and Mata deprived Reds creativity
Despite having all the possession in the world, United struggled to create many meaningful chances in the match. Apart from fine saves by their keeper Chris Dunn from Falcao and Di Maria and the Van Persie miss in the second half, Reds hardly threatened their goal. One of the main reasons for the poor showing was the lack of creativity.
Van Gaal decided to leave both Rooney and Mata in Manchester when they travelled to Cambridge as he was confident that his side already has enough firepower in them to threaten the opposition but how wrong he was proved. Throughout the match the Reds moved the ball in front of Cambridge defenders but they hardly got runners behind them. Mata and Rooney would have been perfect in picking them out.
Despite the poor first half against QPR last week, Mata’s inch perfect cross in that period to free Falcao showed exactly what he can do. Likewise Rooney has been the team’s best creative outlet for years. Also he can be a deadly finisher. So watching them both not even involved in the bench was a little hard to understand.
Image courtesy: ESPN