Manchester United hosted West Ham United at Old Trafford in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Fresh off a Carabao Cup final win at Wembley against Newcastle, Erik ten Hag made six personnel changes.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof started as the centre-back pairing in place of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane. Tyrell Malacia was given the nod ahead of Luke Shaw who was confirmed to be out with an injury.
Scott McTominay started as the deepest-lying midfielder with Casemiro having to contend with a place on the bench. Marcel Sabitzer and Bruno Fernandes completed the midfield trio.
Wout Weghorst led the line with Alejandro Garnacho and Antony on either side of him.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 3-1 win against West Ham.
Garnacho was United’s most threatening attacker
Garnacho was undoubtedly the Red Devils’ most lethal attacker, especially in the opening 45 minutes.
Primarily playing on his preferred left side, Garnacho came up with a few inspired moments of attacking prowess and finally found the net in the dying minutes.
Garnacho constantly troubled Ben Johnson.
The 18-year-old took on Johnson whenever the opportunity presented itself. He found some joy inside the box on his left foot and his unsuccessful efforts demanded that Alphonse Areola come up with two or three heroic saves.
Garnacho provided much-needed width and his teammates found that they could rely on him for a diagonal switch.
Garnacho did so well that after United went a goal down in the second half, Ten Hag opted to take out his trusted lieutenant in Antony and keep on the academy graduate.
Ten Hag’s decision to keep Garnacho paid dividends as it was the youngster who scored the winning goal to complete another fantastic comeback before Fred grabbed the third.
Casemiro as much a creative spark as he is a defensive monster
With United lethargic and bereft of any quality opportunities in the first period of the game, Ten Hag brought on Casemiro in place of McTominay.
The Brazilian wasted no time in making himself at home on the pitch.
Casemiro constantly looked to make the forward pass and find his attackers. Linking the defence to the attack, Casemiro’s deliveries were timely and precise.
The 31-year-old pinged a number of long balls to his colleagues and found the target most times. Despite United going a goal down with him on the pitch, it could be said that United as a whole played better with Casemiro in action.
Casemiro thought he brought parity and put the Red Devils level when he headed in a cross from Fernandes.
However, the player was offside and so the goal was chalked off – rightly so.
Just minutes later, Casemiro’s attacking impetus paid off for the team. An own goal by Nayef Aguerd gave the 20-time English champions an avenue back into the game.
Before the game, Casemiro spoke about his role in the team and remarked that his primary objective is still to provide defensive solidity.
He said, “Everyone knows my role and I’m sure that’s why Manchester United signed me: to give balance to the team, support my team-mates in defence, help the midfield, the full-backs and centrals, closing spaces.”
“Of course goals and assists are important and make everyone happy, but the role of the defensive midfielder today is the one I just described.”
Casemiro: "Of course goals and assists are important and make everyone happy, but the role of the defensive midfielder today is the one I just described." #MUFC
— UtdPlug (@UtdPlug) March 1, 2023
It’s clear that he excels in both aspects of the game.
United through to the quarter-finals
United completed a sensational comeback to power through to the next round.
A sensational late goal from Garnacho was enough to keep United in the competition, with more chance of winning silverware on the horizon.
Fred’s third goal guaranteed that there was no risk of West Ham turning things around and spoiling the good mood at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag will be extremely pleased by the desire and mentality shown by his players.