The Portugal star was given the night off and it turned out to be a 1-0 defeat for the Red Devils at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is well aware that he cannot use Cristiano Ronaldo in every game this season, but after Manchester United were knocked out by West Ham United in the League Cup, the manager may regret giving the Portugal international a day off.
“He came in and made the difference,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports before the third round match at Old Trafford. “It’s going to be a long season and he wants to play as much as possible, but it’s not possible.”
However, if you like to bet, Ronaldo can certainly score from United’s 27 shots against West Ham.
And in the end the Red Devils paid a heavy price for him not playing, with an early goal scored by Manuel Lanzini, which was enough to get the visitors to win the game.
As is often the case in the League Cup, this is a game that any player can take advantage of to get playing time.
Ronaldo was left out of the squad as Solskjaer determined the first eleven. Donny van de Beek started, Dean Henderson also returned to play after recovering from Covid-19, while Anthony Martial started off for the first time since Ronaldo’s return.
Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho formed a trio with Martial in attack, with the penetration of the first two at times causing problems for West Ham’s defence, but as a team they failed to work well together.
Shots and chances kept coming but the attackers weren’t sharp enough in the final third, meaning it was luck that could make them starting line-up when the Red Devils against Aston Villa in the Premier League, Saturday (25/9) WIB.
It was Martial’s first time starting out since the opening game of the season and it was another performance that reaffirmed that he is not a natural no.9.
He spent most of the first half on the left flank, so United were short target-man every time they manage to get the ball into the box. After the break, Martial did not provide the movement needed to create space or chances for his team-mates.
The France international had only one shot on target and his shot accuracy was only 33 percent. So, if he wanted to earn himself a prime spot, then he had failed. Indeed, while there has been talk of who Martial’s rivals have been each season, again there is little to suggest that this will be the end for him.
“I don’t think it’s right to judge a player’s individual ability,” said Solskjaer when asked how Martial was performing. “Anthony is the same as the rest of the team, he plays good football but lacks some other advantages. He knows what we want from him. If he keeps working he will get his chances.”
Solskjaer won’t publicly get rid of the player, but it’s hard to imagine how he will become a regular at the club starting XI, especially when Ronaldo has all the attributes that Martial doesn’t seem to have.
How many more chances will he get to prove himself when there is a superior option in the squad? Some sources may have disputed reports that the forward could be sold over the summer, but every player has a price and it wouldn’t be surprising if it would drop next year, considering he has only been the umpteenth choice following Ronaldo’s arrival.
You could argue it’s difficult for a player who is short on minutes to find his rhythm, but the centre-forward is at the top of his game and is hoping to find a way to get ‘eyes on’ by Solskjaer.
Of course, Martial wasn’t the only striker to disappoint, Lingard, Van de Beek and Sancho all failing to shine.
The latter obviously needed some time to sleep, but it was a frustrating night for the England winger. Sancho, at least, was more brilliant than Martial, but when he tried to score his first goal in a United shirt, he still had to keep fighting, with several shots blocked, which was a golden opportunity for him to score.
However, it must be said that it remains surprising that a player brought in to strengthen United’s right wing has spent so little time in his preferred position. Even when Mason Greenwood came off the bench, which gave Solskjaer the opportunity to change his attacking line-up, Sancho remained on the left.
Greenwood was the only striker who managed to provide relief for the manager, adding a bit of ferocity to United’s attack.
The versatile forward came close to scoring with his first touch and it showed that, in the half hour he was on the pitch, he could create three chances – no other Red Devils player has scored more.
You could see why he was promoted to the senior team, with him being trusted to come off the bench and win the game.
The end result is clearly bad. United have only been knocked out in the third round of the League Cup twice in the last 16 seasons, while West Ham have not won at Old Trafford since Carlos Tevez scored the famous winner in 2007.
Solskjaer is also in dire need of his first title as manager, but it’s clear that one competition they have failed to win.
United have reached the semi-finals in the last two seasons, but now they have been knocked out early for the first time. The pressure to be able to perform more optimally in any of the three tournaments that United are participating in will definitely increase.
With no easy games in the Champions League, and no excuses after being knocked out of the League Cup, it could be a long winter for many of the sidelined players in Solskjaer’s squad, as they could now be sidelined by the manager until the FA Cup third round in month. next January.