Manchester United got a reality check last night, as they were deservedly knocked out of the Champions League round of 16 by Atletico Madrid.
Renan Lodi scored the only goal in a tense game at Old Trafford.
Ralf Rangnick’s side enjoyed the bulk of possession but failed to break down Atletico’s deep block and in turn, played right into their hands.
United were taught a footballing lesson by Diego Simeone’s team and were reminded just how far down they have fallen.
Let us analyse what exactly went wrong for Rangnick’s side yesterday.
Rangnick’s decision to bench Nemanja Matic for Scott McTominay was a baffling one. Not only does Matic provide better defensive cover, but also is vital in United’s build-up play.
In a game in which United were expected to have the majority of the ball, it doesn’t make sense to use players like McTominay and Fred who are aggressive ball-winners. United lacked guile and creativity in the midfield to pass through Atletico’s low block.
Despite his repeated mistakes, Harry Maguire continues to get picked. Once again, the Englishman was at fault for Lodi’s goal after he was caught out of position, leaving Dalot to mark two players.
The £80 million man almost seems undroppable, and Rangnick has to take criticism for his constant selection.
Lack of technical players
United are a team bereft of technical quality, especially in midfield.
It is one of the main reasons why they suffer against Spanish teams and are often played off the park.
Last night’s game was another example of why United struggled to create chances and were almost suffocated in the centre of the park by Atletico.
For me, this is one of the most important issues at the club. Man united’s supposed rebuild under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been detrimental to this club. Players like Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford have been put on a pedestal by most of the fanbase. Both had atrocious games last night and showed just how deluded the majority of our fans are.
Meaningless stats mean nothing when you cannot contribute in the most important game of the season.
It reminded me of the Europa League final against Villarreal when the two stank the place out yet again.
The United players were mentally fragile and focussed their energy towards blaming the referee rather than carrying on with the game. This team has players who tend to go missing in big games, and have a bottler’s mindset.
Atletico used their experience to frustrate a packed Old Trafford, and forced Rangnick’s side to play long ball during the last twenty minutes or so.
Simeone’s game plan revolves around deploying a low-block and scoring in transition. United were overwhelmed by the occasion and could not cope tactically.
The defending La Liga champions outplayed United both physically and mentally and thoroughly deserved to win the tie.
Man United have now gone five years without a trophy, and look likely to miss out on Champions League qualification for next season. The only positive from this season is Ralf Rangnick.
The German is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern football and will be instrumental in rebuilding United. In his short stint at United, he has shown that he is not afraid to make bold decisions.
He must be given full control regarding transfers and should have a major say in the appointment of the permanent manager.