Erik ten Hag insisted his Manchester United are the only team in the world capable of fighting back against Manchester City. In terms of tactics, the Dutch coach made a reasonable point, but in terms of individual quality, Pep Guardiola has an upper hand, and it showed in the 2-1 result in City’s favour in the FA Cup final.
United’s approach at Wembley was to let City dominate possession and catch them in transition. City, bereft of attacking full-backs, created overloads in midfield by pushing John Stones in the second third of the pitch. However, United’s off-ball structure was composed and solid, and seldom allowed City’s players to move past them.
Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring from a vicious volley in less than a minute, but United didn’t drop their tactics and lose their shape. The likes of Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro and Fred consistently dispossessed City players and tried to find Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in behind.
United eventually found an equaliser through Fernandes. At the full-time whistle, the Red Devils took more shots (13) and recorded a superior xG (1.89), but City had the scoreline in their favour.
City’s individual brilliance made the difference, and highlighted the need of a more dynamic midfielder, clinical finisher, and reliable goalkeeper at United.
The hierarchy at Old Trafford have taken significant steps in recent days to address one of the issues in the squad. According to The Guardian, United have opened talks with Chelsea over a deal for Mason Mount. The energetic midfielder would be an upgrade on Eriksen, who was ineffective out of possession and was hooked off in the 62nd minute on Saturday.
Having already agreed personal terms with Mount, United are confident of making the 24-year-old their first signing of the summer. With Mount’s contract expiring next year, United hope to secure his services this summer by paying between £50m and £60m.