Football News

“We have done it before” – Erik ten Hag explains tactical switch that helped Man Utd secure Carabao Cup final spot

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:24, 1 February 2023

Manchester United sealed their spot in the 2023 Carabao Cup final after their 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night.

The Red Devils went into the game with a 3-0 aggregate lead after their comfortable first-leg victory and the match very much played as though it was over from the first whistle.

But Erik ten Hag clearly wasn’t happy with the way the game was going, making a triple substitution just after the hour mark which made a big difference. There was a return for Jadon Sancho, with the Englishman appearing for the first time since October 22, having suffered from illness and then taking some time away to recover his physical fitness and mental strength.

Sancho replaced Antony and sat in the No.10 role, playing behind fellow substitute Anthony Martial, who had come on for Wout Weghorst, with Bruno Fernandes moving to the right and Marcus Rashford replacing Alejandro Garnacho on the left.

“We did a lot of compromises during the season so far, so hopefully we’ve come to a point where they are available,” Ten Hag said of his attacking options.

“If we want to win trophies, they have to be available. You need them all because there are so many games to cover and also you saw tonight, you can do something from the bench and you can bring in a different dynamic from the bench.

“I think we have done it before [switching Fernandes to the right] with Bruno out and also you can get a different dynamic in the team and that is what we intended to do. With Jadon, I know he can play as a 10 as well. He can play as a winger, he can play as a 10, but I think also we often mix it around and that is what I like. But the position has to be occupied.

“It’s about that and the players have to keep the discipline to do that because otherwise it’s going to be a mess.”

It was Martial who opened the scoring on the night for Man Utd, breaking quick after Man Utd turned the ball over in midfield and reacting fastest after Rashford had been tackled inside the box. Just Martial’s sixth goal across all competitions this season, the Frenchman had been struggling for form and fitness, and missed Man Utd’s past four matches.

The second goal didn’t come from a substitute, but there was still one involved as Rashford set up Fred. The move was started by a beautiful pass from Fernandes — remember, now on the right after a tactical switch following Sancho’s sub — with the outside of his foot to Rashford at the far post.

“I learnt from Quaresma,” Fernandes told Sky Sports of his trivela pass.

“I had a great professor in Portugal, you have to learn with the players, you have to learn their tricks, you have to use them.”

While some strikers may have been tempted to blast the ball first time on the volley to go for goal from Rashford’s position, the Englishman saw Fred unmarked at the back post and played a cute pass for the Brazilian to just push in.

Man Utd will face Newcastle United in the final at Wembley on February 26th, with the Red Devils looking to end a six-year wait for a trophy.