Wed. Aug 12th, 2020

Man Utd

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Manchester United could make another shock selection with Jesse Lingard

4 min read

Roy Keane rebuked Rio Ferdinand for not passing the ball forwards in one of his first Manchester United training sessions and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer teased him about his world record fee for a defender after an errant first touch.

Keane’s cutting critiques have rubbed off on Solskjaer, who rebuked Scott McTominay for not asking for the ball from Victor Lindelof at Selhurst Park. McTominay has had to settle with squad player status since he left Old Trafford on crutches on Boxing Day and will be back on the bench at Wembley on Sunday.

“Players are raring to go and wanna play again,” Solskjaer enthused on his post-match Zoom session. “Anyone can hold their hands up at any moment and say, ‘I wanna sit out this one’. We’ve got players on the bench desperate to join in.

“Scotty has been fantastic, so he took a shift for Nemanja [Matic].”

In United’s final game before football’s hiatus Matic was rested at LASK Linz, where McTominay started, to save him for the postponed trip to Tottenham. Matic’s importance was reinforced before his introduction at Selhurst, where he warmed up before the interval, and he is held in such high esteem the Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson and his assistant Ray Lewington shook Matic’s hand as he waited to come on.

Matic is one of eight certain United starters in their FA Cup semi-final along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Matial. David de Gea is only not a certainty as Sergio Romero is the cup specialist.

The astonishing recall of Timothy Fosu-Mensah in Croydon suggests Solskjaer is confident one of Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams will be fit against Chelsea. Williams drove into Carrington on Friday morning sporting a bulging shiner.

Solskjaer predicted Fosu-Mensah ‘is gonna feel it tomorrow morning’ after a first competitive appearance in over 15 months and in a squad struggling to manage fatigue a leggy left-back against Willian would be inadvisable.

Recalling Diogo Dalot is unlikelier. Dalot will have been embarrassed Fosu-Mensah was preferred over him against Palace and elevating him to a cup semi-final XI would be a dubious method of man-management.

Solskjaer may retrospectively regret starting an unfit Mason Greenwood on Thursday night. The boy who could do no wrong could do no right against Palace and it was unfair to expose him with Oriol Romeu’s branded studs just three days old.

At the start of the week the prospect of not picking Greenwood against Chelsea would have been about as appealing as picking Jesse Lingard. But suddenly Lingard is a contender to return to the attacking trident that was so potent at the start of Solskjaer’s caretaker reign.

Lingard’s only sustained spell of form since the 2018 World Cup was while Solskjaer was in interim charge in a front three with Rashford and Martial. He scored twice at Cardiff, doubled as a centre forward against Tottenham and Moonwalked all over Arsenal in the FA Cup.

His appearance against Crystal Palace was Lingard’s first in the Premier League since February 1 and he last started in the league on New Year’s Day. The 27-year-old’s only goals this season have come against Astana and Tranmere but his most influential performance was at Manchester City in December, where his intuitive movement flummoxed Pep Guardiola and United ended the first-half wondering whether they should have scored more.

Lingard finally got a run-out in the league
Lingard finally got a run-out in the league

Lingard has a hat-trick of Wembley goals for United in two finals and the Community Shield and Jose Mourinho started him three times at the national stadium in 2018. The dazed Daniel James is not a deserving starter, Juan Mata did himself no favours in the quarter-finals at Norwich and there are caveats in accommodating Odion Ighalo with Rashford and Martial.

Lingard is at least capable of slotting into a three-pronged attack without upsetting the telepathy between Martial and Rashford, and United have creative sparks in Fernandes and Pogba to offset his shortcomings. Lingard does not possess the guile or goalscoring of Greenwood but is prone to spontaneous bursts of brilliance – particularly at Wembley, where he secured the FA Cup’s return to the Old Trafford museum.

That was a trophy that eluded Ferdinand.

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