Football

Rio Ferdinand: Fringe players failed to impress United boss Solskjaer

Van de Beek, Lingard didn't shine in cup win but it could be due to lack of football

Rio Ferdinand believes Manchester United's fringe players did not make a case for themselves to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after a makeshift side laboured to a 1-0 FA Cup win over Watford yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Solskjaer made nine changes for the third-round tie with midfielders Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata handed rare starts.

The Red Devils began brightly against the Championship side, but faded away despite going ahead in the fifth minute after Scott McTominay headed in from a corner.

Ex-United defender Ferdinand felt that the players should have used the Watford game as a platform to stake their claim for a regular spot, but admitted a lack of playing time contributed to the drab displays.

"Ole will be happy to be in the next round most importantly," the BT Sport pundit said.

"This game was about opportunities for the fringe players. He's not a fringe player, but McTominay was probably the only player who performed to the standard you expect or exceeded that.

"Maybe a missed opportunity for those trying to force their way into the manager's plans on a more regular basis."

Van de Beek, a £37.5 million (S$67.4m) arrival from Ajax Amsterdam in the summer, has started just twice in the English Premier League, while Lingard has played only twice this season - both appearances coming in the League Cup.

Mata made the starting XI seven times in all competitions.

"Some players probably didn't get to the heights they would have liked to, but you have to take into consideration that many of them haven't played many minutes or at all this season," Ferdinand added.

"Getting minutes, getting some work into your body is good, but you want to showcase what you're about."

Solskjaer too was hoping that the multitude of changes would have given his fringe players the opportunity to impress him, while also achieving match fitness, ahead of EPL clashes with Burnley on Tuesday and a top-of-the-table battle with rivals Liverpool on Sunday.

"The most important thing in the cup is that you go through. So that will make everyone happy, but the first 15-20 minutes were the highlights of our game," Solskjaer told the BBC.

"We played some very good stuff, created chances and then we let them back into the game.

"We will need all of them over the season and that was part of the reason we made changes."

Midfielder Paul Pogba and defenders Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw had all missed out against Watford through injury and Solskjaer will now be sweating on the fitness of centre-back Eric Bailly after he was forced off just before half-time.

"He got a good whack. I don't think it's concussion, it's his neck, which is sore. Hopefully a muscle injury... fingers crossed he won't be out for too long," the Norwegian said.

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