Manchester United have started their FA Cup campaign with a win as Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes sealed a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic.
Erik ten Hag fielded a strong side, including Raphaël Varane and Marcus Rashford, against the League One side, and it was a lovely curling effort from Diogo Dalot that kicked things off with the club’s first goal of the year.
Rasmus Højlund and Scott McTominay both had plenty of chances to increase United’s lead in the first half, but it was a second-half penalty from Bruno Fernandes that allowed United to double their tally on the night.
The win sees them progress into the fourth round of the competition, where they will face either Newport County or Eastleigh away from home.
#1 – Dalot’s inverted role
Against Wigan, Dalot played a semi-inverted role from his original position at left-back as Jonny Evans drifted to the left-defensive position, with the Portuguese player in the middle.
With Aaron Wan-Bissaka the more naturally defensive of the two players, Ten Hag had his side more often than not playing with a back three of Wan-Bissaka, Raphaël Varane, and Evans, with Dalot acting as a progesser in midfield.
It worked brilliantly, with Dalot placing Manchester United’s first goal of 2024 into the bottom-right corner with excellent precision.
#2 – Is Rashford forcing it?
Marcus Rashford is a man void of goals so far this season, having scored just three in 24 appearances – a stark contrast to his brilliant 30-goal haul last campaign.
Starting on the left wing against the Lactics, from minute one, Rashford seemed intent on grabbing himself a goal, and although this did not prove fruitful, he did have a number of shots on goal.
He provided his sixth assist of the season after setting up Dalot for his goal, but it did feel a little at times that Rashford was trying to force his goal, rather than letting it happen more naturally.
#3 – Mainoo is simply fantastic
With every game that passes, Kobbie Mainoo seems to get better and better both on and off the ball in the middle of the park for United.
Granted, he was playing against a League One opponent in comparison to the Premier League opposition we have seen him against so far, but his quality as an 18-year-old is clear. He was dominant, progressive, and completely dictated the tie.
His first full season in professional football has been nothing but quality so far, although once Casemiro returns to the XI, Mainoo may not be playing every fixture as Ten Hag is often wary of protecting and shielding his youth where he can.
#4 – Garnacho growing into the right wing
United have had a seismic problem with their right-hand side for more seasons than some care to count, with almost every single winger either preferring the left-hand side or failing to live up to expectations.
Garnacho has played on the right-hand side on a few occasions now, most notably against Aston Villa, where he scored twice, and against Wigan, he was very positive once again, with his same dog-like determination allowing United to dominate the attack where possible.
At just 19 years of age, Garnacho is continuing to add more qualities to his game.
#5 – A much-needed win
United have been all over the place this season, that is no hidden fact. After a loss against Nottingham Forest, the club were in real danger of putting more pressure on themselves had they lost against Wigan.
The 2-0 win helps both Ten Hag and his players ease a little bit of tension, leaving the mixed 2023 behind and the chance to rewrite their season.
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