|The scenes after Korey Smith sent Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup|
What an absolute disaster.
A horrendous performance from relatively the whole team and as Bristol City beat Manchester United after a 92nd minute strike from Korey Smith sent the Championship side into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and potentially pitted against Chelsea, Manchester City or Arsenal.
Manchester United made ten changes to the side that narrowly beat West Bromwich Albion on Sunday with the only survivor being Marcus Rashford. Zlatan Ibrahimovic started his first game for Manchester United since his injury against Anderlecht and was named captain for the game. Paul Pogba also returned after his three-game suspension from a challenge on Hector Bellerin.
|Marcus Rashford struck the woodwork and was unlucky not
to find the back of the net from it
The Robins were the better team of the first half as they dominated the play and smothered Manchester United’s star players so that they could not really get going and overall looked like the lesser side in the early knockings of the game. The passing overall was very sloppy and despite the team looking to be playing with a back three, a formation which all the defenders play better in, Daley Blind was chosen to be the anchor of the midfield, a position frequently played by Matic this year and Carrick last year and was rather underwhelming in his passing and overall play. The main strikers of last season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford both struck the woodwork in the first half with Ibra’s deflected effort clipping the crossbar and Marcus Rashford’s long distance effort hitting the inside of the post and bouncing agonisingly away from the goal line. Sergio Romero, who came in for the rested David de Gea, was forced into having a more active night and making a set of good saves to keep the game-favourites in the fixture.
The second half started relatively similar with Bristol bringing the game to the Red Devils and couldn’t have started better when Joe Bryan continued his run all the way from to get past McTominay, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo to hammer the ball past the helpless Sergio Romero to give the home side an unexpected but well-deserved lead.
Manchester United responded very well after Paul Pogba was blocked by Korey Smith. After Marcus Rashford had taken the last two freekicks, Zlatan Ibrahimovic decided to take matters into his own hands and after a slight deflection from the wall, the Swedish hero scored his first goal for the season and the first goal for United since April. Almost immediately afterwards, Daley Blind, who had not had the best night was replaced by Romelu Lukaku.
As soon as the Belgian striker entered the pitch it was almost as if Paul Pogba, who had been sloppy in his possession and passing, came to life and played much like the player that started the season so well. Sergio Romero was very lucky not to have handed the so-called ‘underdogs’ the lead after his punch landed straight on the head of Flint and as it sailed through the air, the whole stadium watched in anguish or relief respectively as the ball bounced wide of the post. Lukaku looked lively as soon as he came on and after Ibrahimovic was subbed off for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, that increased further with the Armenian looking to prove a point (despite his first contribution to give the ball away). Lukaku forced Luke Steele into several fantastic saves to deny the Belgian a third goal in three games. It was not until the 92nd minute when it seemed to all that extra-time would be a certainty until substitute Taylor set up Smith who cooly finished past Romero who, if he had held his ground, would probably have saved the effort but instead saw it slip through his legs and roll into the net and knock the holders out of the Carabao Cup.
Overall an abominable performance from the Premier League team who never really got out of first gear and simply expected to win ‘in the end’. The team’s passing was sloppy in the midfield and gave possession away too cheaply. Martial and Pogba were more interested in claiming free-kicks for 50-50 challenges (if that) than getting on with the game for the majority of the game. Pogba looked incredibly rusty after his three-game ban and only looked revitalised after Lukaku came on, who was the best player on the pitch for Manchester United. In contrast, the worst player by miles was Matteo Darmian who might have his potential move to Napoli on his mind because football most certainly was not. He was horrendous defensively and could not cope with the pace from Bryan and Magnusson and would have reminded viewers of the same Darmian who crumpled against Alexis Sanchez two years ago in a 3-0 defeat at the Emirates. Marcos Rojo was also agonisingly poor as he, as well as Darmian, allowed Bryan to run past him with ease for the goal and simply hit the ball forward towards Ibrahimovic’s or Lukaku’s general direction in hope that they can start an attack from it and ought to have been much smarter with his distribution like his partner Lindelof who was by far the better of the two.
The only positives to take from the game were the returns of Ibrahimovic and Pogba to the starting lineup, Shaw’s and Lindelof’s continued improvement and the fact that there is now a clearer January for Manchester United who can focus on the League and the FA Cup and more urgently, Leicester City on Sunday.