The hosts had numerous chances to win before falling to Middlesbrough on penalties
Manchester United will point to a ridiculous handball decision for their exit from the FA Cup, but really, they are all to blame.
The Ralf Rangnick side is right to feel bad. Even with the summer handball rule change, it seemed farcical that Matt Crooks’ goal could be kept after Duncan Watmore dealt with it in preparation.
It was ruled accidental according to the referees, but anyone sitting in the stands at Old Trafford on Friday night could see the Middlesbrough substitute move his left hand towards the ball to control it before passing it to Crooks for a finish.
But Rangnick’s team can only wonder why they’re not in the hat for the fifth round draw. They should have had the game dead and buried long before it went into overtime and penalties, with teenager Anthony Elanga missing the decisive penalty.
He was comforted by Cristiano Ronaldo as he walked through the tunnel, with Boro players celebrating alongside their 9,000 roving fans. If the Portuguese international hadn’t missed his own penalty in the first half, the story might have been different. His effort went off the post, and for much of the game his presence was more of a hindrance than a help.
Dean Henderson, making his first start under Rangnick, could have brought a bottle and a sleeping bag, such was United’s dominance in the first half. They may have only played against Championship opponents, but the home team’s passing and intensity have improved from recent displays and in the first half alone they managed 14 shots, with six of them on target.
Paul Pogba’s first appearance since early November was positive and Jadon Sancho delivered his best performance in a United shirt. But it wasn’t enough. Chance after chance was begging.
On another day, they would have ended the tie at half-time with Sancho hitting the crossbar in two minutes, Ronaldo missing a penalty and Marcus Rashford having a goal disallowed by the offside flag – all before the visitors had even managed to score a goal. goal. power plug.
Every missed chance was met with arms of exasperation mostly from Ronaldo, who produced a poor performance. Its return has sparked much debate and its showing on the eve of its 37th anniversary will have done nothing to persuade skeptics that it was the right decision.
He wasn’t the only one who didn’t. United are a team that needs leadership to cross the line and that was lacking on a rainy night at Old Trafford.
Despite all the dominance and control in the first period, they were weak in the second half. They were bereft of creativity and ideas despite their 25 shots on goal. Defense has improved with Rangnick, but in the future they don’t seem to be gelling in the same way.
The biggest problem for United is that now, barring a European miracle, they look ready to end another title-free season. They are in a battle between the Premier League’s top four, out of the Carabao Cup and now out of the FA Cup. Their only chance at a trophy is in the Champions League, where they draw with Atletico Madrid in the round of 16.
A season that began with talk of mounting serious challenges on multiple fronts has reached a point where only a remote chance at a trophy remains.
They can only blame themselves.