Monday 26 August 2019

United draw abuse for laughable performance as Champions League hopes flounder

Huddersfield Town 1 Manchester United 1

Huddersfield Town’s Juninho Bacuna and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba battle for possession as Luke Shaw looks on. Photo: PA
Huddersfield Town’s Juninho Bacuna and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba battle for possession as Luke Shaw looks on. Photo: PA

James Ducker

"You're f***ing s***" the Huddersfield Town supporters sang about Manchester United, which, coming from fans of a team relegated at the end of March, really was an insult.

It is unlikely there will be too many United supporters who disagree.

Manchester United 's Phil Jones is shown a yellow card by referee Lee Mason. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United 's Phil Jones is shown a yellow card by referee Lee Mason. Photo: Getty Images

Really, the state of this United team. The state of the club, in fact.

It has been a season full of limp and listless performances and this was the latest entrant, Huddersfield showing the spirit and heart United obviously lack to earn a deserved draw that consigned their opponents to Thursday nights in the Europa League next season. For the fourth time in six seasons, United will finish outside the top four. The rebuild job facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gets bigger by the week. But that is not the half of it.

If United finish sixth and Manchester City lose the FA Cup final to Watford on Saturday week, Solskjaer's side will be playing in a Europa League second qualifying round in 80 days. For a club obsessed with their commercial appeal, the prospect of their summer tour of Asia being undermined will be most bothersome.

For Solskjaer, the most pressing concern will be the threat early Europa League involvement poses to next season. Solskjaer called them a "tired" team after this display. With fitness an enduring issue, how do they expect to cope with potentially playing six Europa League qualifying ties in as many weeks?

Manchester United 's Alexis Sanchez is challenged by Huddersfield Town's Christopher Schindler. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United 's Alexis Sanchez is challenged by Huddersfield Town's Christopher Schindler. Photo: Getty Images

A wretched afternoon for United was most definitely an uplifting one for Huddersfield, though. This was the last home match for departing owner Dean Hoyle and the players delivered a display of which he could be proud while the fans serenaded a man they idolise. He helped build this club back up through prudent planning, patience and care, buzzwords United's top brass might wish to heed.

Huddersfield's limitations are clear for all to see but they ran themselves into the ground here in search of a result while United looked every inch a team who cannot wait to jet off on their summer holidays.

Huddersfield trailed to Scott McTominay's goal after a clanger from their goalkeeper Jonas Lossl but hit back on the hour mark through Isaac Mbenza courtesy of United's own calamity moment from Luke Shaw.

There was no blunder from David De Gea this time around. In fact, the United goalkeeper made two vital saves with his legs to deny Karlan Grant, in the first half and then with a minute to go as Huddersfield chased a winner, but Solskjaer did not have to look far to find fault. Alexis Sanchez had been handed his first start since March 2 by virtue of Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard being injured but that was curtailed by an injury of his own after just 54 minutes. There is every chance Sanchez will not be seen again in a United shirt, even if, as Solskjaer suggested, the misfit Chile striker is unlikely to be alone. It was hard to grasp what United were trying to achieve or if they were even that bothered.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Pogba hit the crossbar twice but it spoke volumes that the best midfielder on show was Huddersfield's Juninho Bacuna. Phil Jones left you again wondering how United offered him a new four-and-a-half-year contract with a performance that veered from careless to chaotic.

And Marcus Rashford - who yanked a shot horribly wide late on and had another effort punched away - was peripheral. Shaw has been one of United's most consistent performers but his error for Huddersfield's equaliser summed up United's afternoon.

From Juan Mata's corner, McTominay's header was caught by Lossl, who, spotting Mbenza making a run for it, launched the ball upfield. Shaw had the chance to snuff out any danger but ended up swiping at thin air, clearing the way for Mbenza to career towards goal and slot the ball through De Gea's legs. Mbenza kicked the corner flag in two celebrating and it took five minutes to find a replacement, but this was no laughing matter for Solskjaer.

He was pictured smiling at one point - "smiling at them they're that bad" in the words of Gary Neville - and even with eight minutes of injury time, United never looked like grabbing a winner. Indeed, it was probably a good job Lossl gifted them a goal when he made a complete hash of McTominay's shot, the ball bouncing off his leg and in.

Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy holds off Manchester United's Nemanja Matic. Photo: Getty Images
Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy holds off Manchester United's Nemanja Matic. Photo: Getty Images

© Daily Telegraph, London

‘Europa League is the right place for us ’

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that Manchester United's draw with Huddersfield Town may be the end for some members of his squad, with a top-four Premier League finish now out of reach.

Alexis Sanchez was handed a rare start at Huddersfield but was ineffective once again before being substituted with an ankle injury after 54 minutes. The Chilean has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford this summer, less than 18 months on from his arrival.

When asked directly whether that could be Sanchez's final United appearance, Solskjaer said that several players were at risk.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Getty Images

"I can't talk about individuals now but there is the chance you have seen the last of [some] players. But I wouldn't say that about any individual. Today was not one individual that was the disappointing thing. It was the whole team." He added: "We had so many opportunities to grab third or fourth. We didn't. It's probably the right place for us to be next year, the Europa League."

Telegraph.co.uk

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