Manchester United became “a complete mess” in the second half of their Europa League win over Real Sociedad, according to Paul Scholes.
Man Utd will have to navigate a play-off to reach the round of 16 of the Europa League after coming second in their group. They beat Real Sociedad 1-0 in their final match, but would have had to score once more without reply to overtake the Spaniards in the standings.
Alas, it was not to be, which complicates their progress in the knockout stages. It was not for a lack of trying, but Man Utd failed to add another shot on target to their only goal, which was scored by Alejandro Garnacho.
Erik ten Hag changed their shape in the second half in search of the second goal. However, he has admitted since that the changes “didn’t work well” because his players became “too erratic” and not good enough on the ball to get it into the box.
The lack of cohesion prevented Man Utd from getting the goal they needed. In turn, some have questioned Ten Hag’s approach in the second half.
One pundit who was confused by what unfolded after the break was Paul Scholes, who noticed how Marcus Rashford was just one player hampered by the tweaks.
“The second half looked a bit messy, there was no plan,” Scholes told BT Sport. “The plan was to launch it forward to look for second balls – it was a little bit League One, League Two-ish for me. Maybe a little bit disrespectful.
“I wasn’t really sure what he was trying to do. It started with the [Victor] Lindelof substitution. They were in complete control until he went off.
“Casemiro went to the back, then Marcus [Rashford] came on for [Donny] van de Beek in the No. 10 role. It’s not his position; he needs to be on the shoulder of people.
Rashford in wrong role after Ten Hag changes
“Rashford needs to be out wide, he needs to be in space. It just became a long ball game – and I’m all for that, it can work – but the second half just became a complete mess having been in control in the first half.
“There were positive substitutions, I just didn’t think Marcus was in the right position. Bruno [Fernandes] could have swapped with Marcus from the right; Bruno is ineffective on the right. He knows he’s going to be. Get Marcus out wide.
“Maybe Marcus is carrying something? He didn’t want him to stretch his legs down the right-hand side.
“Marcus is most dangerous out wide. In the centre, he has to take a touch, beat a man then link play. He’s capable but it’s not his best position. Getting Bruno in the middle would have given them better shape.”
Ultimately, Man Utd had to settle for it being an evening of mixed emotions. They have made progress, but the next step will be trickier than it could have been.
Still a work in progress under Ten Hag, they at least have maintained a nine-game unbeaten run.
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