Four things we learned as Manchester United beat Brighton to progress to the FA Cup final

Manchester United faced Brighton at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final, with Erik ten Hag looking to win again after his side’s disappointing defeat in Andalusia to Sevilla.

The United boss cited a relatively strong starting XI given the injury situation he has been dealing with.

Ten Hag fielded David de Gea in goal, with a defensive quartet of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot in front of him.

Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes have been assigned to monitor the progress of the events in the center of the park.

After an injury scare in Spain, Anthony Martial was deemed fit enough to start, while Marcus Rashford and Antony worked around the forward line.

Here are four things we learned as Manchester United progressed to the FA Cup final.

Four things we learned as Manchester United beat Brighton to progress to the FA Cup final

Bruno Fernandes makes a big difference to the team
Fernandes was missing from the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium with the player serving a first-leg suspension at Old Trafford.

Fernandes’ absence has seen the Red Devils collapse and has shown how vital he is to the team.

In restoring the starting XI at Wembley, United performed much better. While United’s performance was nowhere near the full article, it was better than what was seen on Thursday.

The focus was on the United playmaker. In the first 45 minutes, Fernandes had the best chance to break the deadlock. Going into the break, he probably would have felt he should have found the back of the net.

He held the ball well, was measured in passing and always looked ahead when the opportunity presented itself.

Fernandes has also been excellent defensively. He bounced back to help, which went a long way considering how dominant the Gulls were in possession.

The 28-year-old striker has been heavily criticized in some cases for some flaws in his game, but what is undisputed is his importance to the team and certainly to Ten Hag.

Beyond the game, Fernandes’ leadership is something that brings the midfielder onto the pitch.

Four things we learned as Manchester United beat Brighton to progress to the FA Cup final

Ten Hag was forced to abandon his preferred system to accommodate De Gea
A recurring theme in the game was how the Reds stopped playing from behind and tried to start the game with De Gea.

De Gea’s weaknesses are an open secret and well documented. He has trouble playing with his feet and building from behind. Sweeping is a huge problem for the Spaniard, as is claiming crosses and dominating United’s box.

These areas were ruthlessly punished by Sevilla in the Europa League. The three goals conceded in Spain were arguably De Gea’s credit and it seems Ten Hag’s solution against Roberto De Zerbi’s men was to avoid playing from behind altogether.

De Gea played the whole game. The result was that United were unable to put up extended periods of possession or pressure.

The ball was constantly given to Brighton, who would then recycle it and launch another attack.

Brighton were only too pleased with this state of affairs. Going forward, however, it must be said that this is not a sustainable way to play, especially given the type of football Ten Hag is looking to implement at Old Trafford.

Amid reports that De Gea is set to sign a new contract, perhaps United should reconsider such a deal. As we said here today, a new shot-stopper is just as important as a striker this summer.

Ten Hag shouldn’t be forced to give up his philosophy just to accommodate only one player whose substitution can immediately raise the morale of the team.

Four things we learned as Manchester United beat Brighton to progress to the FA Cup final

Luke Shaw should be a guaranteed starter at centre-back for Harry Maguire
Among some of United’s outstanding stars at Wembley, Shaw was one. The Englishman came on as a centre-back alongside Lindelof in Maguire’s absence.

Shaw just lost his foot in the match, despite him being in a largely unfamiliar position. Shaw has played there a few times this season, but it’s clear he’s always left-back, of course.

The 27-year-old was a good replacement for injured Lisandro Martinez. He passed well and played defensively as needed to step in.

Shaw patrolled the dangerous Danny Welbeck well and followed him to keep the former United man calm.

The United No. 23 sensed the danger well and within moments, when De Gea’s poor passing found him, he did well to get out of trouble and do something worthwhile.

What was most striking about Shaw was his composure compared to lackluster Maguire, who mostly causes panic on the pitch.

Shaw’s calm disposition allowed those close to him to do even better. Going forward, Ten Hag will be best served by fielding Shaw in the central defensive role in place of Maguire.

Four things we learned as Manchester United beat Brighton to progress to the FA Cup final

United in the final
After an unyielding 90-minute affair, the match went into extra time. However, neither side managed to find the back of the net, thus a penalty shoot-out ensued.

De Gea could not even register a single save but luckily for United Solly March fired one over the bar.

Lindelof scored the next goal to effectively send the Red Devils into the final where they face Manchester City.

Igbo Kennedy

Igbo Kennedy

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