Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the final chance to go into the top four, with the second to last league fixture being against Huddersfield, a side that have been in the relegation zone for most of the campaign and were confirmed to go down to the Championship since the end of March.
The visitors unsurprisingly started the game off well, making good movement on and off the ball whilst attacking with serious intent, which allowed them to take the lead, as Scott McTominay’s attempt fortunately, went through goalkeeper Jonas Lossl in the eight minute of the match. Meanwhile, the hosts were aiming to prevent conceding anymore goals but somehow ended up finishing the first half as the better team.
After the half-time break, Huddersfield started off well again and were cutting through United’s midfield and defence with pure ease. The side’s equaliser actually came from a corner set-piece for the opposition; with Lossl’s long and instant goal kick being poorly misjudged by left-back Luke Shaw, before winger Isaac Mbenza pounced onto the ball and calmly slotted it past David De Gea.
The last 30 minutes of the game was filled with excitement and tension for both sides, as the hosts were looking to bow out of the Premier League in their final fixture at home on a high note, whilst the away side were chasing for the needed three points to get out of sixth-place and a step close to Champions League football. In the end, the result led to many disappointments for both teams, as they had the chances to get the victory.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…
Lack of ability to be dominant and ruthless
United were all over Huddersfield for more or less the whole game, in terms of the 65% possession, 23 shots attempted and seven shots on target, and still somehow ended the match with only one goal scored. Just after McTominay’s early goal, two good chances fell to the feet of both Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford, who were unable to make them count or take on the shot convincingly.
Although the defensive record and the side’s backline is seen as the main weak link, the lack of combination in the final third as well as big chances created has been one of the main problems this season. United have constantly failed to dominate possession of the ball or forced the opponent to make mistakes high up the pitch, which have prevented the team to attack and be more effective when required.
Europa League football is what they all deserve in the end
The last couple of months has been all about whether they will finish in the top four or not, but in the end, Europa League may truly be a blessing in disguise, where it will allow the board, the players and Ed Woodward to understand the mediocre and lethargic football has led to this outcome. If this isn’t a wake up to the people in charge, then the Old Trafford faithful are unsure of what actually is.
Manchester United were previously in the competition during the 2016-17 campaign, where they went on to win the trophy under Jose Mourinho as they went on to beat Ajax in the finals. Since then, majority of the people who run and support the club would have thought and predicted this would be the turning point to revive the sleeping giants, but fast forward two years, that hasn’t been the case as they look a number of years away from competing seriously in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Most of the squad are not fit enough to play for Manchester United
You would have to go back to just before the middle of April to remember the last time United won a match in the league, and even then, it was an unconvincing victory against West Ham, who were the better side and were unlucky to lose to a very late penalty. Since then, the team have embarrassingly lost to Everton and Manchester City whilst drawing to both Chelsea and Huddersfield, when the results mattered the most.
Over that period of football, the desperation, hunger and motivation has not been there for a team that feels they should be playing in the Champions League next season. Despite the big talk from the players and motivational interviews by the manager, the squad is simply not good enough and a rebuilding job is desperately needed, or the club will fall even more behind than they currently are.