Two very different perspectives on Manchester United's FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough
Manchester United are into a new week, with new challenges, after a galling loss at home to Middlesbrough on Friday night. There were plenty of reasons to be angry after the game, including the missed chances and the missed handball call from the referee.
As we move forward, there are reason to remain very concerned, and reasons to be positive too. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first as we delve into two very different perspectives on United’s loss, both of which can be correct.
The long-term view: Manchester United are on the road to nowhere
Barring a surprise and probably unlikely Champions League win, United are going to end this season without a trophy. That will make it five years in a row.
The Jose Mourinho exit was not perfect, but the former boss won two trophies and also reached a third final. United have just reached one final since, and lost it.
It will be nine years in May that United last won the league title. City look set to win the league yet again, rubbing in United’s lack of success. They are 19 points above us in the table, a gap likely to increase as the season plows on.
For all the hope of a rebuild under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United are back in the same place, arguably worse off. The team are fighting for the top four, and have wasted three seasons without a trophy.
Solskjaer’s project was supposed to be able to challenge for the title heading into 2022/23. Instead we enter next season back at square one under a new manager.
How many more years will it take? It could be another five, 10, before United win a trophy again. Would that really surprise anybody at this point? The winning mentality at this club has been eroded.
The rot starts from the top, with the Glazer family. The American owners are tearing United up from the inside, with their lack of knowledge and know-how, asking a complete amateur in Ed Woodward to steer the ship over the past eight years. Richard Arnold, his successor, was his right-hand man and his appointment is hardly the cultural change behind the scenes United fans desire.
The next manager appointment will be key. If you have faith in United getting it right at this point, then good on you.
The short-term view: United played well and there are positive signs
While difficult to look past the defeat and cup exit, there were some positive signs in Manchester United’s performance against Middlesbrough.
For the first hour at least, United created chances and played good football. Jadon Sancho looked like a refreshed player, getting on the scoresheet and continuously testing the defence.
United attempted 30 shots at goal and nine were on target. On another day United win that game by two or three clear goals. Rangnick will discard this result and move on, sticking to the plan. There is no reason to overreact and make sweeping changes.
Following on from United’s hard-fought back to back victories over West Ham and Brentford before the break, this was a generally positive performance, just lacking a cutting edge.
Edinson Cavani will return to help Ronaldo out, while Paul Pogba’s return to action was a welcome first step in getting the Frenchman back to his team.
United can wash away this defeat by following this up with victories against Burnley and Southampton over the next week. It’s important the team react strongly. If the team play like we did against Middlesbrough and create chances in a similar way, we should win both matches.
The team will be deflated after the loss, as the players like the fans will have been hanging onto the FA Cup as a possible hope of salvation with a trophy this season.
Despite this, this side is not quite done yet. The team are capable of getting past Atletico Madrid over two legs; the La Liga side are on a poor run themselves and the players will want to make up for this negative experience.
Ralf Rangnick is making positive strides forward as interim manager despite the occasional misstep, and by the end of the season United hope to be in a good position for the next boss to take over, whoever it is.
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