Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has explained why Fred took a potentially decisive free-kick during the club’s Carabao Cup semi-final exit to Manchester City,
Despite securing a 1-0 victory at the home of their city rivals, Manchester United were eliminated in the last four 3-2 on aggregate after suffering defeat in the first leg of their semi-final encounter earlier this month.
Nemanja Matic’s goal had sparked hope that the club could complete an improbable comeback at the Etihad, and the club were presented with a glorious chance to take the tie to penalties when Nicolas Otamendi rashly fouled Harry Maguire on the edge of the Man City penalty area with just three minutes remaining.
Second-half substitute Mata – a player renowned for his ability from dead-ball situations – would normally head the queue to take the free-kick, but instead left duties to midfielder Fred who blasted his effort against the wall.
The decision to allow Fred to take the kick drew criticism from many on social media, with former United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeting: “Please can someone explain to me why @juanmata8 isn’t on that free kick! #specialist”.
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) January 29, 2020
However, speaking after the game, Solskjaer revealed that it was Mata’s decision to allow Fred to take the shot on goal, the Brazilian having been in ‘unbelievable’ form from set-pieces in training the previous day.
“Juan is the best one when he feels like it,” Solskjaer said at his post-match press conference.
“But they practised yesterday [Tuesday], Juan told me Fred was unbelievable in training yesterday, he scored six or seven on the bounce and they both felt it was his moment.
“That was a decision they made there and then. Probably the right decision, [it] just didn’t work out well.”