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Five things we’ve learnt from Shrewsbury vs United

3899Manchester United put criticism and speculations over Louis Van Gaal’s future momentarily aside as they booked their ticket to the quarter finals of the FA Cup after beating Shrewsbury Town 3-0.

After a slow start, United eventually began to take control of proceedings in the first half and went ahead through a goal from Chris Smalling, before Juan Mata made it 2-0 with a wonderful free-kick just before halftime.

Jesse Lingard added a third in the second half and United could have, and in fact probably should have, added a couple of more.

Here’s five things we’ve learnt from last night.

1) Van Gaal survives for another game

In all likelihood, Louis Van Gaal’s future was never going to be decided by a trip to Shrewsbury as the Dutchman, who remains under immense pressure, would have only been sacked had United been knocked out of the FA Cup.

In many ways, it was a lose-lose situation for the Dutchman, whose position would have surely become untenable had his side lost but who, at the same time, can’t find too much solace in United beating a League One side.

His side’s next two meetings, against Midtjylland and Arsenal, will go a long way to decide Van Gaal’s future, although one gets the feeling that, amid all the speculations surrounding him, the former Holland manager remains a lame duck and will not be at Old Trafford next season.


2) FA Cup is United’s best chance of silverware

United are a game away from returning to Wembley, albeit just for a semifinal, for the first time since they beat Wigan in the Community Shield in August 2013 under David Moyes and for the first meaningful meeting since they lost the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2011.

Getting to Wembley will not save Louis Van Gaal’s job, in fact not even winning the FA Cup would guarantee the Dutchman another season in charge, but it would represent a small slice of comfort in a season that’s been characterised by catastrophic lows.

West Ham have been one of the surprise packages of the season and in Dimitri Payet they possess a man capable of hurting any Premier League team but, for the first time since they were knocked out by Sunderland in the League Cup semifinal in 2014, United have a somewhat realistic chance of silverware.

They must make it count.

3) Shrewsbury’s shortcomings help United

Following two dismal defeats against Sunderland and Midtjylland, United arrived at the New Meadow eager to avoid a major upset. However, for all the talk of Shrewsbury hoping to capitalise on United’s ongoing crisis, the League One side never got going and United quickly took control, imposing themselves of the game without breaking sweat.


It was by no means a performance that will alter the fans’ perception of Van Gaal’s methods, particularly as it was achieved a distinctly average side, but it was efficient and, given the current circumstances, it was refreshing to experience a relatively trouble-free 90 minutes.

United have so far disposed of three lower league outfits in the FA Cup and, with the exception of Sheffield United, they’ve very rarely looked fazed but West Ham will be an altogether sterner challenge.

4) Criticism of Lingard is unjustified 

In all likelihood, Jesse Lingard will never become a world class player and, under a different a manager, he might not even find himself in the start XI next season.

However, the criticism he has received this season by a number of United fans remains baffling, and not just when one considers Lingard has scored three goals in the last five games and is one of the few players in the side looking to make things happen in the final third of the pitch.

The 23-year-old has been at United since he was seven years of age and, at a time when many are worried about United forgetting their ethos, an Academy product who goes on to establish himself in the first team should, at the very least, be appreciated rather than constantly criticised.


5) United’s horrendous injury record continues

Ahead of United’s trip to Shrewsbury, Van Gaal bemoaned his options were limited by the number of injuries his side, without 13 players before kick-off, has suffered this season. One can only imagine what must have gone through the Dutchman’s mind when Will Keane was forced off with a groin injury less than five minutes after replacing Anthony Martial.

Van Gaal has been unlucky with injuries but he’s also paying the price for going into the season with a threadbare squad and for a bizarre loan policy – surely he could have recalled James Wilson rather than Keane?




  1. Nati

    February 23, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Yeah, leave Lingard be. I like him. He needs to improve on his overall game and finishing but that could come given game time.

    And as always Martial is amazing. Perriera looks too confident and in control, I would like to see more of him.

  2. Julian

    February 23, 2016 at 9:50 am

    If you believe reports then LvG will “survive” come what may – well at least until then end of the season. There is no plan to bring in Mourinho before next season and even then the idea of Giggs taking over cannot be totally ruled out.

    So what else did we learn from last night. Nothing really. Unsurprisingly Shrewsbury were poor as befits a club struggling in the relegation zone of League 1. Sterner tests await on Thursday and when Arsenal come calling on Sunday.

    The horrendous injury situation is indeed bad luck. It might have been alleviated to a degree if LvG hadn’t offloaded so many but it would still be an injury crisis nonetheless. In any event I cant think of too many he should have kept. Hernandez yes, Welbeck possibly. RvP was past his best and is still injured most of the time at Fenerbache. Johnny Evans? Maybe.

    LvG came with a philosophy unsuited to the EPL which he tried to impart on a squad not sufficiently skilled enough to play it. The gods then conspired against him starting with the Shaw injury which changed the season.

  3. bestie

    February 23, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    So Lingard scores against a pub team and he doesn’t deserve the criticism? Nonsense. His poor finishing has cost us several games and let’s face it: he’s not 18, he’s 23; if he was any good he would’ve shown it by now. He’s simply not good enough for a top tier club (which, admittedly United aren’t at this point). 2-3 years from now I see him taking the same road as other overhyped “homegrown talent”: WBA, Sunderland, or some other smaller club. And to be fair, it’s not just him: None of United’s “homegrown” or other younger players (except Martial and perhaps Shaw if he returns to full fitness) are good enough for a club that want to be considered “elite”. They’ll occasionally flash some promise, drift in and out of the starting 11, but they’ll eventually join the likes of Macheda, M Keane, Reece James, et al. I know it’s romantic to look back at the Class of 92, but we simply don’t have that kind of talent any more

    • TheDane

      February 23, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      @bestie: It is hard for us to know if LVG is to blame for the injuries, but the club must do everything to be on top of this and I actually believe they do. So given the huge amount of injuries, I actually think lvg is doing a solid job. The team is mainly comprised of youth players, and this could be great for the future.

      • bestie

        February 25, 2016 at 8:37 pm

        Let me ask you this: even with all the injuries, do you think teams like Norwich, Sunderland. Midtjylland etc have better players than ManUtd? And even before the injuries, were we exactly setting the world on fire? And whose fault was it that we were only left with 2 strikers? I mean, how can anyone expect to get through a grueling season with just 2 strikers (one who’s past his prime and prone to injury, and the other a 19 year old kid)? Oh I know; we had the secret weapon; Fellaini, in case we needed a goal

  4. colver

    February 24, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    The common denominator in most of our defeats has been a midfield of Fellaini and Carrick. Fellaini has always been a liability in central midfield and Carrick has shown a worrying decline this season. With Danny Blind moving into defence and Schweisteneger’s injury problems and Carrick’s advancing age and controlling the game from midfield so central to LVG’s philosophy another central midfielder should have been signed.

    Also it should have been clear that we needed another centre back when we let Evans go. A more physical and taller centre back than Blind would have helped us against the physical teams and made us less vulnerable at set pieces and Blind would have been free to provide cover at full back and free Young to play as a winger when it was clear that Depay was struggling.

    The real flaw of LVG’s philosophy is that it requires fairly ideal conditions to work. It does not cope well with adversity. As soon as we go behind it is game over because it is not suited to chasing a game. Teams know they just have to get men behind the ball and we can’t hurt them.

  5. JARaven

    February 25, 2016 at 5:21 am

    I just hope we can hold on to Adnan, Ander and Andres. I think the right manage and stir these ability for creative football. Issue is we have like 3 holding midfielders filling in other areas

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