With table-toppers Burnley on course for an instant return to the Premier League following relegation at the end of the 2021/22 campaign, and over a month of inactivity, this fixture might’ve been a lurking banana peel, but the Red Devils suffered no such slips.
Earning a battling victory over Aston Villa in the third round, United edged closer still to a taste of silverware that has evaded the Theatre of Dreams for over five years, with the last major honour the Europa League trophy in 2017.
Fielding a strong line-up, Christian Eriksen and Marcus Rashford got on the scoresheet, with other starring figures placing some minutes under the belt, but it was in fact an ace facing an uncertain future that caught the eye.
Indeed, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been in danger of losing his shirt in United colours, having made just one appearance this term before his latest showing and being considered expendable by Ten Hag this summer.
His all-encompassing display was hailed as “effective” by journalist Simon Stone (BBC Sport live feed 20:44), with his defensive acumen partnered with a fine offensive performance that the 25-year-old has often failed to channel.
Signing for the club from Crystal Palace in a deal potentially rising to £50m in 2019, the star has fallen onto the periphery of the fold, indeed playing just four minutes of competitive action before his promising display.
Once dubbed as “unstoppable” by journalist Dave O’Grady, the whiz certainly lived up to that billing on Wednesday evening, recording a match rating of 7.6 against the Clarets – bettered only by Bruno Fernandes – serving an exquisite volleyed assist to Eriksen for the first-half opener and marauding up and down the right flank with aplomb.
Wan-Bissaka remarkably won nine of his ten duels on the night (90%), including all four of his aerial contests, making three tackles and an interception while proving to be an incessant thorn in the sides of his opponents.
The effectiveness of his presence is perhaps illuminated by the woes of Burnley left-back Ian Maatsen, who recorded the night’s lowest rating of 6.2 having been run amok by the dynamic work of the United ace.
Also completing 83% of his passes and succeeding with two of his three attempted dribbles, Wan-Bissaka certainly staked his claim for a future under his new manager, who has finally captured a glimpse into the role the right-back could play under his tutelage.
With rumours circulating that Ten Hag might be inclined to search for new signings for the outfit’s defensive right-flank, he need look no further; Wan-Bissaka is the man, and he presented his calibre in front of the roaring Old Trafford faithful. It was indeed a performance that may well have saved his career in Manchester.