Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed the reason for substituting Ander Herrera and Juan Mata during their 1-0 win over Sheffield United in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday (9 January). The duo were replaced at the hour mark by Jesse Lingard and Memphis Depay respectively.
It took a last gasp penalty from Wayne Rooney in the 93rd minute for the Red Devils to secure their passage to the fourth round of the prestigious competition against the League One side and the manager admits that despite the performance being bad, their only motive was to progress to the next round.
The Dutch manager has revealed that the changes were made in order to stretch the opponents' defence following their inability to break them down through the middle. Van Gaal feels that Mata was not utilising the entire width of the pitch and hence brought on Depay and Lingard, who are more suited to playing on the wings than the Spaniard. The former Bayern Munich coach was delighted with his decision as it was the ex-PSV Eindhoven star who earned the penalty in the dying minutes of the game to ensure their progress.
Depay the matchwinner
Depay, who has had a difficult debut season in the Premier League thus far, was labelled the 'matchwinner' by the United manager due to his impact on the game following his introduction in the 60th minute. The Netherlands international came closest to breaking the deadlock in open play before earning the match-winning penalty, which was converted by Rooney, who was the third choice penalty taker on the day.
"We have to play with wingers who make the pitch as big as possible and with Memphis and Lingard I know it's like that. So we improved by restoring the shape," Van Gaal said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.
"I asked Mata but he was never there. Then Darmian has to be the right winger and he tried to do that but that is not his speciality and that's why I changed. I am very happy that because of one of Memphis's actions he causes the penalty."
"At the end we got the penalty and it was a deserved penalty because of a stray leg. Memphis had the guts to do that [make the run to win it]. He was more or less the matchwinner. We won the game which is the most important thing and I said to the boys before the match the only thing that counts is we are in the fourth round and we did it," the Dutchman told MUTV following the win.