Friday 19 January 2018

Five things we learned from Manchester United's stuttering win over Preston

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (C) celebrates scoring their third goal with Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera (R
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (C) celebrates scoring their third goal with Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera (R
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with Marouane Fellaini (L)
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores his side's third goal from the penalty spot during the FA Cup Fifth Round match at Deepdale
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores his side's third goal from the penalty spot during the FA Cup Fifth Round match at Deepdale
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalt
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalty
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring their third goal with a penalty
Preston's Thorsten Stuckmann (bottom) concedes a penalty against Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (R) as Radamel Falcao looks on after being substituted
Manchester United's Radamel Falcao (R) is substituted for Ashley Young (C) as assistant manager Ryan Giggs looks on
Manchester United's Radamel Falcao (C) in action with Preston's John Wels
Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini (left) and Preston North End's John Welsh in action during the FA Cup Fifth Round match at Deepdale
Manchester United's Abder Herrera celebrates after scoring during the English FA Cup Fifth Round soccer match between Preston and Manchester United at Deepdale
Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini celebrates after scoring during the English FA Cup Fifth Round soccer match between Preston and Manchester United at Deepdale
Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini, left, celebrates with teammate Ashley Young after scoring during the English FA Cup Fifth Round soccer match between Preston and Manchester United at Deepdale

Mark Ogden

It's time to abandon the Radamel Falcao experiment, United are too ponderous in possession, and Ander Herrera belatedly comes good

1. Ander Herrera's creativity makes a difference to this side

Ander Herrera has become the poster boy of the terrace critics who believe that Louis van Gaal has taken the style and panache out of Manchester United, but against Preston, the Spaniard made his first start since the third round tie against Yeovil and he made a difference.

The £28.8million summer signing from Athletic Bilbao takes risks with his passes and, as a consequence, loses possession too often for Van Gaal.

But in a game lacking flair and creativity, Herrera at least attempted to carve open the Preston defence with forward passes and attempts at interplay with the forwards.

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Manchester United's Abder Herrera celebrates after scoring during the English FA Cup Fifth Round soccer match between Preston and Manchester United at Deepdale

2.  United are too slow to worry opponents

Under van Gaal, Manchester United are simply too slow and ponderous to get behind the opposition.

Watching United going forward is like attempting to get online through a dial-up connection – painstaking, frustrating and, more often than not, nothing to show for it.

Considering United possess the electric pace of Angel di Maria, Van Gaal should be able to rectify this persistent flaw.

But there was no sign of progress as Preston comfortably dealt with United’s attacking forays.

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Manchester United's Angel di Maria shields the ball from Preston North End forward Kevin Davies during in their FA Cup fifth-round clash at Deepdale. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

3.  Time to abandon the Falcao experiment

Radamel Falcao arrived at Old Trafford as a box office signing last August, but the Colombian has been a flop in a United shirt and he has now had enough chances to come good.

A cruciate ligament injury suffered while playing for Monaco 13 months ago has clearly taken the edge off Falcao’s game and he now cannot even affect a game against League One opponents.

The 29-year-old has netted just four goals in 19 appearances for United and it was no coincidence that their attacking threat increased when Falcao was replaced by Ashley Young.

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Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (R) as Radamel Falcao looks on after being substituted

4.  Fellaini needs to be used wisely

Marouane Fellaini has resurrected a Manchester United career which appeared dead and buried after his first season at the club, but the Belgian is now as much part of the problem as the solution for Van Gaal.

Fellaini makes it too easy for United to take the direct option instead of a more cultured build-up and it was the same old story at Deepdale.

As against West Ham United recently, Fellaini made a crucial late contribution at Preston, scoring the decisive goal.

But Van Gaal must avoid allowing the long ball to Fellaini to become the preferred option.

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Marouane Fellaini strikes past Preston North End goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann to score Manchester United's second goal in their FA Cup fifth-round clash at Deepdale. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

5.  United against Arsenal is the blockbuster tie this FA Cup deserves

This season’s FA Cup has been a vintage year, with each round throwing up shocks and unlikely heroes, but it needed a heavyweight clash like United versus Arsenal in the quarter-finals to add to its lustre.

United have come through tricky trips to lower league opponents in Yeovil, Cambridge and Preston and now they must face the holders at Old Trafford.

It will be a seismic clash and, with Steven Gerrard’s birthday falling on cup final day, United will be determined to ensure the Liverpool captain does not get his perfect send-off if the Merseysiders make it to Wembley.

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Louis Van Gaal is looking to strengthen his midfield

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