Key Man Utd transfer decision Erik ten Hag must address this summer is underlined in Carabao Cup final
The win against Newcastle United showed there is still one area of concern for Manchester United.
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It wasn’t a vintage display from Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday, but it didn’t need to be against a Newcastle United side who struggled to create clear-cut chances.
On the rare occasion a goalscoring opportunity presented itself, the Magpies were profligate, with Fabian Schar, Dan Burn and Joelinton failing to test David de Gea in the Carabao Cup final. Yet there were long spells in the game where Newcastle were on top, with Eddie Howe’s side starting the game on the front foot, while there was a period midway through the second half where United struggled to make real inroads into the opposition half.
The dangerman during many of Newcastle’s most threatening moments was Allan Saint-Maximin. The winger beat Raphael Varane in the early stages of the first period, one of the few instances on Sunday when the former Real Madrid man didn’t look in total control, and Saint-Maximin created Newcastle’s best opening of the evening at Wembley as he skipped past Diogo Dalot and fired a shot at goal that was saved excellently by De Gea in the 32nd minute.
Indeed, Newcastle’s no.10 caused Dalot such repeated problems that the Portuguese full-back was replaced at half-time following a first half which had seen him beaten twice by Saint-Maximin and booked for pulling the attacker back and preventing a breakaway chance. Dalot was replaced by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who had much more joy in keeping Saint-Maximin under wraps, and the Frenchman was stifled after the break.
But, as is often the case with the ex-Crystal Palace man, United looked less potent down the right-hand side after his introduction, with Antony quieter in the second period than when Dalot was bombing up the line from defence. It’s become an increasingly prominent dilemma for Erik ten Hag at right-back; whether to opt for the more defensively astute Wan-Bissaka or the more expansive Dalot. Both options come with drawbacks, and it was no surprise that the latter was selected to start in the two legs against Barcelona while Dalot played in the recent win over Leicester City.
Ten Hag has underlying concerns with both right-backs, although Wan-Bissaka’s growing status in recent months has come as a surprise given he played just four minutes this season prior to the World Cup break.
But it’s a position that United are still keen to strengthen in the summer, while adding reinforcements at centre-back, midfield and in attack are among Ten Hag’s other transfer priorities. Denzel Dumfries is a player the United manager has long admired, while Josip Juranovic was monitored in January before his switch to Union Berlin. Achraf Hakimi is another United are paying attention to and there’s hope that, should he become available at the end of the season, Old Trafford could offer a new home for the 24-year-old who has already represented Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.
For now, Ten Hag will continue to rotate between Dalot and Wan-Bissaka, but it’s unlikely both will still be United players beyond this summer.