On a day when Donny van de Beek hoped to show why he deserves more minutes for Manchester United, up stepped Bruno Fernandes to show why that simply isn’t happening.
The eye-catching selection of Van de Beek ahead of Fernandes for this FA Cup clash of giants at Old Trafford was all about “rotation”, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United’s manager clearly felt his team could combat a faltering Liverpool team without their star man, albeit leaving him on the bench in case of emergency.
“Donny needs to be playing games as well and it’s a big game for Donny to come into,” Solskjaer told the BBC.
Van de Beek has not started a Premier League game since he was hauled off with United trailing at half-time at West Ham in early December, and he might not be starting any soon either given how this game transpired.
A 66th-minute switch of the Portuguese for the underwhelming Van de Beek proved pivotal, and the delightful free-kick from Fernandes that settled an absorbing game 3-2 in United’s favour was one that had been conceived on Saturday.
“I think he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free-kicks, so I was quite confident that he was going to hit the target,” Solskjaer said.
Solskjaer, the erstwhile supersub, knew the calibre of replacement that was up his sleeve, and the rotation worked in a roundabout way. Are we looking at more proof that United’s once-maligned Norwegian boss is actually a tactical master?
Liverpool’s season, meanwhile, takes another negative turn.
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