Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United: 5 Tactics from Solskjaer that won the game | FA Cup 2018-19

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
Deepungsu Pandit

After staying unbeaten in the seven games since Solskjaer's arrival, Manchester United traveled to the Emirates to face a buoyant Arsenal side in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Both clubs have a lot of history in the tournament as they have won 25 FA Cups between them. Gunners are the record 13 times winners while United narrowly missed out sharing the record last season, losing to Chelsea in the finals.

Arsenal came into the game after a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Chelsea last weekend. After a narrow 1-0 win over Tottenham, this was supposed to be another test of Solskjaer's character and his tactical brain.

The Norwegian made five changes to the team that faced Brighton last weekend. Romero started in goal, with Young, Lindelof, Bailly, and Shaw as the back 4. The midfield trio of Herrera, Matic, and Pogba remained unchanged, while up ahead, Lukaku and Sanchez joined Lingard.

The Red Devils broke the deadlock in the 31st minute through Alexis Sanchez. Two minutes later, they were 2-0 up, thanks to Jesse Lingard. When it looked like United were in control of the game, the Gunners reduced the deficit through Aubameyang, just before half time.

Arsenal pegged United back in the second half and looked desperate to secure an equalizer. However, United successfully kept them at bay and even increased the lead in the 82nd minute through Anthony Martial. The match ended with the score 3-1 in United's favor.

As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer secured his 8th victory in his first eight games as a United manager, we take a look at his 5 tactical decisions against Arsenal that won United the game.

#5 Team Selection

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round

With the midweek fixture against Burnley in the back of his mind, Solskjaer made five changes to the team. Romero started in goal as De Gea was rested and Eric Bailly started ahead of Phil Jones. The Ivory Costa International's strength and speed were just what was needed in the defense and Bailly had a pretty decent game.

Luke Shaw returned from illness to replace Dalot and was fantastic on the night, even though he was culpable for the Arsenal goal. But perhaps the most important decision taken by the Norwegian was to keep his two stars, Martial and Rashford, on the bench.

Instead, he opted for Lukaku's power and Alexis Sanchez's precision and it turned out to be a good move. Sanchez scored the opening goal while Lukaku picked up two assists and Martial came off the bench to score United's third.

#4 Compact Defending, particularly in the second half

Arsenal v Manchester United - F.A. Cup
Arsenal v Manchester United - F.A. Cup

Even though United failed to keep a clean sheet, they stayed compact at the back. Arsenal got minimal joy in the final third as they were allowed very little room and time to affect the game inside the box.

While the Gunners continuously knocked on United's doors quite a few times in the game, they could not score more than once. Lindelof impressed again at the back and was ably aided by Bailly, who was strong under pressure and even showed some good skills on the ball.

The back four was ably assisted by the midfielders, and together, United closed down the opposition very fast, robbing them of the luxury of choosing their passes well.

No matter how hard they tried, Arsenal could not find a way through a resolute Manchester United defense, who fought for every ball and refused to give up.

#3 Lukaku as a wide forward

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round

Even though the Belgian faded away in the second half, Arsenal had no reply to his position as a wide forward in the first half. A little better composure and passing from the Belgian could have killed the game early in the second half, but in truth, he had already sealed the deal before the break.

Lukaku started on the wide right position, contrary to the expectations. Solskjaer preferred to have Lingard running through the middle, creating nuisance as usual. Due to the Belgian's position, Koscielny had to shift a little to stop the gap created due to the overlapping Kolasinac.

This opened up spaces for Lingard to run into and caused a few problems for the Gunners. But it was Lukaku's position which actually helped United take a two-goal lead.

The Belgian first set up Sanchez in the 31st minute, cutting inside from the right and laying a gorgeous through ball when the whole world expected him to shoot. Two minutes later, he ran down the right and picked up Lingard, who had a simple tap in to put United two goals up.

#2 Counter Attack

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round

The biggest asset of this Manchester United team is the speed and technical ability of its forward players. On a night when Solskjaer changed his front three to include Lukaku and Sanchez, it appeared that the Norwegian might make a few tweaks to his tactics to adjust his new men.

However, even though he did make a few changes here and there, the core philosophy of counter-attack remained the same. United allowed Arsenal to come at them right from the start of the game, waited for the spaces to open up and then launched one blistering counter after another.

The front players were guilty of a few misses and there were also a few indecision in between, however, three counter-attacks were enough to kill the game and secure a memorable win for United.

#1 Fearlessness

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round

2-1 up at 70 minutes in an away fixture, Mourinho would have probably brought on Marouane Fellaini. He would have asked United to park the bus and also would have thrown in a couple of defenders off the bench.

Instead of trying to hold on to the lead, Solskjaer had the audacity to bring on Rashford and Martial from the bench, in a bid to kill the game. United had been overrun for most of the second half and Arsenal were threatening to conjure up the equalizer every time they went forward.

The Norwegian was extremely brave with his substitutions and it helped United progress into the fifth round of the FA Cup. The sight of Rashford and Martial on the sidelines, waiting to come on, was enough to put sweat on the foreheads of a tired Arsenal defense.

Ultimately, it was from another United counter-attack that Martial scored United's third goal, which calmed the nerves and helped Solskjer pick up his 8th consecutive win.

Edited by Sujith M


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