Thanfully Manchester United’s terrible 2021/22 season is finally over. What a year it has been. The campaign started off perfectly, with a spectacular 5-1 win over Leeds, and expectations grew.
United could never match up to those heights, and the season has ended with the club’s lowest Premier League points total.
It is a season we all want to move on from and forget, to focus on new hope. But not before we take one last look back on the year which was, and pick out some of the most ridiculous moments we have had to endure.
And there are quite a lot. We settled on 13, but this could quite easily have been 20. Get ready to laugh, because crying is the only other alternative…
The entire second half v Young Boys
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first Champions League game back for Manchester United started well when he scored in the opening minutes. A red card for Aaron Wan-Bissaka then sent United into meltdown.
United brought on an extra defender and tried to defend a lead for 45 minutes, which was asking for trouble, with Ronaldo too isolated up front.
It turned out to be a masterclass in in-game mismanagement from Solskjaer, who took Ronaldo off for Jesse Lingard, who ended up assisting Young Boys’ winner.
This game came just days after Ronaldo’ return against Newcastle, and completely crushed the momentum from that big moment. It wasn’t the first time questions over Solskjaer’s substitutions had cropped up, and beginning the Champions League group stages with a defeat put the Norwegian under extra pressure.
David de Gea turning into a penalty save machine
United’s 2020/21 season ended with David de Gea conceding 11 straight penalties in the shootout against Villarreal before missing his own.
De Gea then reversed the trend of conceding every penalty he had conceded since 2016, to start keeping them out.
A memorable save from Mark Noble’s penalty for West Ham ended up being the difference maker which secured Europa League qualification, ahead of the Conference League.
He then saved two penalties, one retaken, against Watford, although still couldn’t spare United an embarrassing defeat (more later).
De Gea’s newly rediscovered penalty saving technique was good to see, but if he could have done that in Gdansk in May 2021, it would have been appreciated a lot more.
Every single corner kick from August to February
Only Manchester United could hire a specific set piece coach and get worse. Eric Ramsay was brought in and tasked with helping United in these specific situations.
While the defensive record from set pieces did improve, Ramsay became a punchline due to United’s failure to score a single corner kick between August and February.
Harry Maguire eventually broke the duck, nodding in a corner against Leeds. Cristiano Ronaldo went onto score a couple more, in hat-tricks against Tottenham and Norwich.
Beating Tottenham and losing Antonio Conte
Ending up with Erik ten Hag is probably the dream scenario for Manchester United. But it still felt like United won a battle and lost a war when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side beat Nuno Santo’s Tottenham 3-0 back in October.
This relieved pressure, temporarily, on Solskjaer, and was the final straw for Santo. Tottenham fired him immediately and went out and hired Antonio Conte.
This ended the building Conte to United links, and saw Tottenham kick on. Conte went on to clinch a Champions League place with Spurs, while United scraped sixth. Looking back, losing that game was a big win for Tottenham.
Giving Claudio Ranieri his only Watford win
Watford have been terrible this season, so it says a lot that Manchester United only took one point against them.
One of the Hornets three bosses during the campaign was Claudio Ranieri, who only won one match. Of course it was against Manchester United.
Watford won it emphatically, with a 4-1 scoreline the final straw for an embattled Solskjaer, who was fired 24 hours later.
This sparked some indecision from United, settling on Ralf Rangnick as an interim boss, who could only draw 0-0 at home to Roy Hodgson’s Watford later in the season.
The bungled Champions League draw
A truly ridiculous moment in recent UEFA history had Manchester United at the centre of it. United were drawn against PSG in the Champions League.
UEFA then admitted they had made a mistake as not all the balls were in the draw, and a second draw had to be hastily rearranged.
United were then drawn against Atletico Madrid, and eliminated, and PSG were knocked out in the last 16 by Real Madrid.
Both teams probably would have been happier with a United v PSG tie, with fans denied one last Ronaldo v Messi clash.
United celebrating 50 Van de Beek appearances
United have made a handful of social media own goals this season, none more so than boastfully celebrating Donny van de Beek’s 50th appearance for the club in January.
A closer inspection showed just four of these 50 appearances had been Premier League starts, and he was averaging 36 minutes per game.
He was shipped out on loan to Everton a fortnight later, and hopes to restart his Manchester United career next season.
FA Cup elimination at home to Middlesbrough
By time the FA Cup began, it became obvious it was United’s only real chance of silverware. This was off the table by early February.
United were eliminated at home to Championship side Middlesbrough, amid more penalty shootout heartbreak, after Cristiano Ronaldo had put one wide in the first half.
The team’s finishing was awful all game, with United attempting 30 shots at goal and only scoring once. Boro had a helping hand from a farcical refereeing decision for their goal, but this was a defeat where Ralf Rangnick’s team had to look at themselves.
Repeated embarrassment against Liverpool and City
United were beaten into submission by Liverpool and Manchester City in the four games this season, by a combined score of 15-1.
What makes it worse, is if you watch the performances back (we recommend you don’t), United got off lightly in every match.
Liverpool were 5-0 up with half an hour to go at Old Trafford and eased up, while City’s win at Old Trafford was a capitulation where the team had just one shot on target.
Under Ralf Rangnick, the return fixtures were no better. United were passed off the ball by City at The Etihad, with substitute Jesse Lingard managing only two touches in 30 minutes.
Suicidal defending against Liverpool at Anfield saw United conceded four more goals in another embarrassingly one-sided game.
The perfect epitaph to Paul Pogba’s Manchester United career came as he walked off with an injury 10 minutes into the away game against Liverpool, with the team 1-0 down.
This turned out to be the Frenchman’s final game of an immensely disappointing six year spell at the club, in which he did not win a single Champions League knockout game he played in.
Pogba at least lasted a couple minutes longer than at Old Trafford against Liverpool, when he was red carded shortly after coming on at half-time.
Edinson Cavani’s disappearing act
Edinson Cavani was the mystery man of Manchester United’s season, rarely available. If he wasn’t having extra-time off in Uruguay, he was passing himself not fit enough to play.
His continued absences in the second half of the season left United short-handed, and the fight to keep him at Old Trafford hardly seemed worth it.
He ends the campaign with just two goals to his name, a substantial dip on 17 in his first season. In two seasons at the club he did not play a single match of five games against Manchester City, and never managed to score in front of a packed Old Trafford.
Playing second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t what he hoped for, but he proved this season he was not reliable, and Ronaldo’s addition seemed more like a necessity after his repeated unavailability.
Notably, he was always available whenever Uruguay needed him.
Lingard’s brother’s farewell meltdown
United did not do right by Jesse Lingard this season, keeping him and then deciding not to play him. This repeated itself last summer and in January.
The 2021/22 campaign was a waste of Lingard’s time, but it’s possible the player did not help himself, failing to get on with interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
His situation was not helped by Lingard’s brother blasting United on social media after the club’s final home game, angry that Lingard had not been given a farewell appearance at Old Trafford.
Rangnick responded by not picking Lingard for even a minute of United’s last two games, failing to even make the bench against Palace.
Sinking to a new low against Brighton
In a season of low points and ridiculous moments, United fans hoped the worst was out the way by May. Unfortunately not.
One of the worst results of the post-Fergie era saw Manchester United beaten 4-0 away at Brighton, and it could have been more.
The players looked both disinterested and completely lacking in ability, and it was truly shocking to see how low they had sunk.
When United began the campaign with such an enthralling opening game victory over Leeds, winning 5-1, nobody could have imagined a 4-0 loss away at Brighton would be just months away.