In the old days, you’d be quick to urge caution when Manchester United ran up a cricket score against some lower league minnows. Don’t read too much into it, many people would warn.
Because it used to be the standard. No fuss, no frills, but plenty of goals. In that regard – and perhaps also because of the boggy pitch – the 6-0 FA Cup fourth round victory over Tranmere Rovers felt like a throwback and something uncommon for the United of today .
It’s a simple fact that, due to a variety of well documented factors, United supporters do not get that luxury very often these days.
The number crunchers revealed it was United’s biggest away win in any competition since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself bagged four goals in a win over Nottingham Forest. Another stat noted that United hadn’t enjoyed a game with six separate goal scorers since the th century.
They are signs to suggest, then, that the win at Prenton Park wasn’t entirely meaningless. Some of the individual performances on display were good enough to give Solskjaer a headache or two for later in the campaign, if not for the immediate challenge of Man City in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.
Phil Jones, unfortunately, may find his goal isn’t enough to propel him back into the ‘first team regular’ category. Nor will Jesse Lingard be able to rest on his laurels after netting a first domestic strike in more than 19 months.
Another player on the scoresheet at Tranmere, however, was Diogo Dalot , who along with fellow full back Luke Shaw certainly can forge his way back into the first team. The signs were good from both men on the Wirral.
It’s easy to forget that Dalot is still only and has only started 50 league games for United since his £ million move from Porto last summer. Both his campaigns at Old Trafford have been blighted by injury, similar to how Shaw’s development has regularly been hindered by injury and fitness concerns.
Those factors have meant Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams have become the de facto first choices on either side of the center-backs for United this season. The former was a shoo-in for the role as soon as he signed for £ million from Crystal Palace, while Williams – despite being just and in his debut campaign in senior football – has deserved to start at left back, even with Shaw fully fit. Not many have questioned those calls from Solskjaer.
(Image: Getty Images Yet the measured displays registered by both Dalot and Shaw against Tranmere, and the clear talent both players possess, give Solskjaer a tougher decision to make.
It will probably take more heroics by Dalot for him to edge out Wan-Bissaka, who has been among United’s best players this term, but the Portuguese right back has more clear strengths as an attacking outlet. There have been games this season when United were crying out for an overlapping right back. Dalot can be the man; maybe the two could play together.
On the other side, Solskjaer will surely find it easier to drop Williams for Shaw.
But will the Norwegian make the calls when many fans understandably want the homegrown product to keep his spot? Will he ever be brave enough to drop Wan-Bissaka, or substitute him for Dalot, when the situation dictates?
The Tranmere game will surely have placed those dilemmas in the mind of the United boss and, at the moment, they are good problems to have.
Read More 1999