Manchester United saw their hopes of Carabao Cup glory ended by Manchester City on Wednesday night. John Stones and Fernandinho scored for Pep Guardiola’s side, with the pair both finding the net in the second half. And Ed Woodward must now look into appointing a specialist when it comes to defending set pieces in the aftermath of the result at Old Trafford.
United went into the match against City looking to prove a point.
Having lost three semi-finals last term, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted his side to show they’d learned from those mistakes and were back to their best.
United carved some good chances against Guardiola’s team, with Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford both squandering opportunities to score.
But it is City, instead of the Red Devils, who will face off against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in April’s Wembley final.
For United, the defeat was their own undoing.
Stones capitalised on some poor defending from a set piece, prodding the ball over the line from close range after Harry Maguire allowed it to trickle past.
And it was a similar story for City’s second goal, with Fernandinho striking after the Red Devils failed to clear their lines.
It wasn’t the first time this season that Solskjaer’s side have been guilty of some dire defending from dead ball situations.
Most of the time this term, their attackers have been able to dig them out of a hole.
But on a night where Fernandes, Rashford and Anthony Martial were barely given a sniff, it proved to be their undoing.
When United faced Southampton at St Mary’s back in December, the Saints raced into a 2-0 lead – with both goals coming from set pieces.
The first was a result of a corner, while the second was a brilliant , curling free-kick from James Ward-Prowse.
Against West Ham, it was a similar story.
The Hammers took the lead against United through Tomas Soucek, who exploited the gap between Maguire and Victor Lindelof at the back.
Against both Southampton and West Ham, United were able to turn the game around and ultimately secure victory.
But this old problem came back to haunt them against City and, now, Woodward should seriously consider hiring a set-piece specialist.
The Red Devils can’t afford to keep shipping goals like this, especially given their hopes of winning the Premier League title.
So adding to the coaching staff could be the way to go.
United confirmed Darren Fletcher had returned to Old Trafford in a coaching role earlier in the week – and another appointment could help them out.
For now, defeat will be difficult to take. But with some tinkering behind the scenes, the Red Devils can stop this problem from arising again.