MU reached FA Cup final: Praise Erik Ten Hag talent
In just over two days, Erik Ten Hag has transformed MU into a completely different team with the Red Devils suffering a disastrous defeat at Sevilla. The Dutch coach helped his team secure a spot in the FA Cup final after defeating Brighton with the opponent’s own patience.
The poor performance in Spain was not the first time this season that MU had experienced a dreadful day of play. Prior to that, they suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Brentford, a 3-6 loss to Manchester City, and notably a 0-7 defeat at Liverpool’s Anfield.
However, after each of these defeats, MU returned strongly. And the same thing happened on Sunday when they advanced to the second domestic cup final of the 2022/23 season.
Playing against Brighton, although theoretically the stronger team, Ten Hag still chose a proactive defensive play style, not falling into the opponent’s trap and was rewarded accordingly. One could hardly recognize a MU after their loss in Sevilla, instead, they played with a fierce and determined attitude, bringing to Wembley a balanced and fluent performance.
Even when they had to win on penalties after failing to score a goal in 120 minutes of play, Ten Hag’s MU was clearly improving and preparing well to face their neighbor Man City in the final match in early June.
So how did Ten Hag show his talent to help MU get closer to the goal of conquering the second title this season? Before the “phenomenon” of Brighton, the Dutch strategist created three very clear highlights for the Manchester Red Devils to perform a completely different style from more than two days ago at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.
Substituting players wisely
When it comes to changing MU’s lineup, Fred is always the first name mentioned. When chosen by Ten Hag, Fred always adds a new source of energy, a strong physical foundation alongside Casemiro to “exhaust” the opponent’s defense.
Therefore, many were very surprised when they did not see the Brazilian midfielder in the starting lineup against Brighton, but instead saw a Christian Eriksen who was not really in good shape. However, Ten Hag quickly realized his tactical and lineup mistakes.
Fred was brought on at the 62nd minute to replace the Danish player. Immediately, he helped MU’s midfield become more solid, better able to withstand pressure and created more opportunities to relieve the pressure on their defense.
Use Luke Shaw to replace Harry Maguire
After his poor performance against Sevilla, Maguire was suspended for the game against Brighton, forcing Ten Hag to use Shaw as a central defender alongside Victor Lindelof. This made many MU fans worried when Ten Hag announced the starting lineup.
However, this is not the first time Shaw has played in the center-back position. Earlier this season, he played as a left-sided center-back and made a strong impression. Against Brighton yesterday, he proved Ten Hag’s choice was completely correct. Shaw prevented the Seagulls’ forwards from entering David de Gea’s penalty area.
In many situations, he even went forward to support his teammates’ attacks. With Shaw playing alongside Lindelof, MU had more than one central defender in defense. Ten Hag can arrange for the Englishman to play as a left-sided center-back when the Lisandro Martinez-Raphael Varane duo has not returned due to injury.
Fighting with MU’s strengths
At this point, English teams have realized Brighton’s patient and clever playstyle. And Ten Hag helped MU have the best moments when they countered this playstyle with solid defense, especially with safety in midfield with Casemiro and Eriksen (later with Fred).
Solid and effective defense also showed MU’s best face, playing to their strengths: creating differences with quick counterattacks from their dynamic forwards’ speed. This style became clearer in the second half when MU tried to win.
Ten Hag’s team has come close to scoring important goals many times. And it is the desire to win and the patience and perseverance that helped them defeat their opponents in a penalty shootout full of chance.
This may be how MU survives in crucial matches against stronger opponents in the knockout stage.
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