Manchester United lost to Middlesbrough 7-8 on penalties in Old Trafford playing their 4th Round deciding match of the FA Cup tournament. An utterly championship-worthy character and enthusiastic outplay by Boro FC for equalising in the second half and holding the defence for a longer part of the game.
Here’s everything you need to know about this match, what happens now? and ‘how Manchester needs to be taken care of?’
Manchester United have NEVER won a penalty shootout in the 151-year history of the FA Cup 😳 pic.twitter.com/tAdLJEUESh— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) February 4, 2022
The Redshirts unfolded the early half of the game very systematically. Starting lineup had no faults whatsoever, the only few things that went wrong were some bottled chances.
In the first few minutes, Jadon Sancho struck an amazing chip that unfortunately hit the crossbar and got deflected back in Bruno’s feet but he bottled the wide-open goal chance, tossing the ball in stands.
Minutes later Luke Shaw provided Ronaldo for a bicycle kick that was translated acrobatically and was on target too but Lumley saved it quite comfortably.
On about 19th minute, Paul Pogba conducted a run in the box, Luke Shaw delivered a supposedly neat pass and The Frenchman was taken down by Anfernee Dijksteel slipping behind him and strangling his right foot and making Pogba eat the grass at the very moment.
No regrets for the midfielder, since the job was done and the team was waiting for a 1-0 change on the scoresheet until their star player Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty failing to land it on target with the ball going wide on the left far post.
This was a very flabbergasting feeling, for we are not used to watching Ronaldo missing penalties, and we know it struck him straight in the nerve when all the 9000 Middlesbrough fans started going wild on a missed penalty chance.
Apart from this moment, United didn’t have any regretting performance display in the first 45 minutes of the game, The rest of the minutes were positive enough, when only 6 minutes later, Bruno Fernandes picked up a loosely possessed Middlesbrough’s ball and provided Jadon Sancho with a pinpoint pass, he seemed to struggle with it first but made enough space anyways, takes the shot and the ball gets deflected against Isaiah Jones and into the net it landed.
Second Half, Extra Time And Penalties
The latter half of the game had too many elements of poor execution for Manchester United. Boro was now trying to play on the same standard as United and was now pushing the ball more upfront than they did in the first half.
In the 54th Minute, Sancho provided Rashford with an inch-perfect pass, Marcus’ positioning was promising, but his conclusion was impulsive and poor, he kicked it wide open in the stands and another shot was written ‘off the target’.
After 19 minutes of second-half passed, D. Watmore controlled a pass in the box and chipped it towards the right far post, where Mat Crooks finished it to make it 1-1. At first, it was a controversial moment, since Watmore’s left hand touched the ball while taking an aerial control, but then VAR ruled out the discrepancy and it stood allowed.
Match ended on 1-1 and Middlesbrough fans were having their best time and they didn’t know it was just about to get better. Both thee extra time limits came to end without any changed results, most of the ball possession was with Man U, but Boros did hold their segment of the ground responsibly, giving the red shirts practically no space to outscore them.
It was about the time when the only deciding factors left to conclude the duel were mere penalties.
The Penalty session was a classic, everyone kept going and no goalkeeper could save any of the incoming flights.
Everything was tiring for both sides until Anthony Elanga took the 8th penalty for his team, spreading it wide into the stands and Boros had now moved to the 5th Round of the FA Cup.
What Is Wrong With This Manchester Side ?
It was not Elanga’s missed penalty that lost them the match but themselves.
United had plenty of chances to score, with Bruno and Cristiano missing in the first half and Rashford in the second.
Despite having a solid 71% of ball possession, attempting 30 shots, only 9 were on target and 16 of them were off in the random debris with 5 of them getting blocked before finding out where they could’ve landed, they managed to score one single goal.
The Midfield Issue
The problem lies far behind the attacking lineup.
The defensive arrangement seemed to be organised with enough players to rotate and play, Finishing part of forward players and chaotic distribution of midfield is the real problem United are facing now.
United started to suffer from impactless possession after Paul Pogba left the field. It looked calm and steady on the surface but the midfield got completely disarranged after the subs, Fred and Elanga came in replacing Rashford and Frenchman Pogba.
Middlesbrough had a picture in mind and that was to defend and they did that very passionately with the system. United, on the other hand, had a distributed, chaotic and scattered midfield play where they had the ball but didn’t know where they were going ahead with it.
On this very topic Roy Keane delivered a brutal verdict a few weeks ago, saying “as long as them two are playing in midfield for Manchester United, they will not be winning big trophies,” about Scott Mctominay and Fred.
Manchester United didn’t need Ronaldo, but they ended up signing him anyways.
Just a Sancho addition to the attacking density was enough and a CDM was supposed to be signed but the Manchester board had needed some serious counselling after the summer transfer window 2021.
United needed a CDM duo to overcome their trophyless drought but they just don’t understand.
France national Football Team plays with Kante and Pogba as a Double-Pivot Defensive midfield duo, which allows smooth magnetic movement of midfield setpieces. The distribution and ball recovery part of France National team is henceforth nearly impenetrable.
What united had to do was to sign a CDM like Kovacic, Camavinga or Kante, allowing Pogba to play with, but they ended up buying Ronaldo that was not needed.
Anyways, Middlesbrough is off to the FA cup’s 5th round leaving behind Manchester united in serious trauma, crushing their only realistic hopes of winning an English title this year.
Their UCL run is still alive, but for that, the team needs some mental recovery.
United are now in a position of extending their trophyless regime to about 5 years now, breaking down fans from all over the world.
Let’s just wait and see if Rangnick and the lads could turn this around, securing a top 4 in the league and having a satisfying UCL time to regain some lost fans and their morale.