Manchester United have been knocked out of the Europa League 3-1 on aggregate following a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford this evening.
Man United had the better of the game’s opening exchanges but Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard both spurned good opportunities to score. A strong hand from David de Gea then denied Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho. The away side were showing signs of life but it was United who went in front when Anthony Martial tucked away a penalty moments after being brought down by Nathaniel Clyne in the box. Liverpool came close to an immediate response, but Daniel Sturridge’s free-kick struck the bar. The momentum was firmly with United but sublime skill from Coutinho saw him beat De Gea and level things on the night just before half time.
Following the interval, United lost their urgency as the game fizzled out. Coutinho had a few half-chances but there were no more goals as United exited the Europa League in meek fashion.
Mata started the game on the right hand side of the pitch, with Jesse Lingard lining up through the middle in the No.10 position.
It was a bizarre move to make by Louis van Gaal given that James Milner, a midfielder by trade, was filling in at left-back for Liverpool. Predictably, Mata struggled to make an impact against Milner while Memphis Depay was left on the bench.
The Belgian is hardly the flavour of the month at Old Trafford but he applied himself well in the first half.
Fellaini used his physical stature well, linked up play and actually passed to players in a red shirt. His pullback for Marcos Rojo just before the break should have been finished by the Argentine. The referee seemed to be on Fellaini’s side too as he got away with another flurry of stray elbows.
So often this season, United have looked to Martial for inspiration and so often this season, he has delivered. It’s a shame that his teammates can’t up their games in a similar way.
Martial scored the goal which gave United hope in the tie by slotting in a first half penalty moments after he had been fouled by Clyne. Unfortunately, the strike ended up counting for nothing.
Van Gaal’s substitutions
Bastian Schweinsteiger then came on for the final change of the evening. Van Gaal didn’t have too many attacking options but it was a surprise not to see Memphis introduced. It was almost as if United were just waiting for the inevitable.
Another day, another defeat for United and one that leaves their already thin hopes of silverware in tatters.
Van Gaal has overseen another low for his side, with no urgency or fight whatsoever, save for a brief period in the first half. How much worse is it going to get?