It was a disastrous day Manchester United from front to back as they were soundly beaten 3-1 by Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final.There will be no domestic silverware for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team this season, though you could understand the reasons for the United boss’ team rotation. The problem was that the fringe players brought into the side at Wembley didn’t perform to scratch and now United must respond when they take on West Ham on Wednesday, in a crucial game for their top four hopes.Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and perhaps even Luke Shaw will surely return for the final two Premier League matches.The three players here may not get an opportunity for United until the Europa League starts, but they must respond whenever their next opportunity comes:
James appears to have lost the confidence that was so evident in his game at the start of the campaign. The Welsh winger now appears one dimensional and fairly ineffective and his record and goals and assists, which have dried up dramatically, reflects how he’s stagnated.
He perhaps needs a spell out of the side, or just a reduced role as a substitute, where he can come on and utilise his brilliant pace late in matches.
United paid a paltry £15million to get James a year ago and there’s no doubt it’s been a canny acquisition. The 22-year-old just needs to reset and improve on his game; he can still be an attacking weapon for Solskjaer.
It’s been tough for Fred since football restarted. He was rightly picked to start the first game following the easing of the lockdown but was hooked after an hour, making way for Paul Pogba.
To judge Fred on that performance and two more 60-minute displays in the FA Cup games against Norwich and Chelsea seems harsh. But he’s not hit the heights of earlier in the campaign and should not start either of the two top four decides on form.
He’s already shown the ability to fight back from adversity from United and is a very useful midfield alternative to either Pogba or Nemanja Matic. His chance may come this week from the bench to see out games, and United fans should be confident of a reaction from the Brazilian.
The Chelsea semi-final was a rare blot on Williams’ otherwise impeccable United copybook so far. He’s always stepped in and performed when called upon and, at one stage, was perhaps even ahead of Luke Shaw in the left-back pecking order.
Yet now, Shaw’s return from an ankle injury cannot come soon after, after Williams looked rushed and hasty against the Chelsea press on Sunday. Maybe it was a little too soon for Solskjaer to bring the Harpurhey-born homegrown product back from a knock to the head, or maybe Williams is a little short of match practice.
He remains very much part of United’s first team plans, though, and will surely get a chance to put things right in the Europa League next month.