Falling at the Penultimate Hurdle

Following United’s EFL cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City, Ole faces questions about a psychological barrier at the club, preventing a winning mentality in major competitions.

Manchester United are yet to win a trophy under the management of the former-red Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

In the Norwegian’s prosperous career at United, he won 6 league titles, one Champions League thanks to his incredible last-gasp winner and 6 other domestic cups.

However, he has not had the same amount of success in his managerial career at United. The Red Devils are currently in a strong position in the Premier League, second behind Liverpool with a game-in-hand. Yet there is an underlying concern that he is unable to drive United to winning silverware.

United have lost four semi-final competitions in the last twelve months. Sir Alex Ferguson managed to lose only 4 domestic semi-finals in his fabulous 26 year career.

Fourth time unlucky

Following United’s Carabao Cup defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday night, Ole has now lost his fourth consecutive semi-final. United lost 2-0 to a recently resurrected Manchester City side.

In the 2019/20 season, United reached the penultimate round of competitions; FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europa League. However, Ole failed to lead the Red Devils into the final in each of these tournaments.

Manchester United have failed to win a trophy in a major competition since 2017 when Jose Mourinho won both the EFL cup and the Europa League.

The Europa League was a key aim for the Reds during last season as it would give them a guaranteed route into this season’s Champions League.

However, a tough fixture against Sevilla shut off that route to the esteemed European competition.

United have now lost back-to-back Manchester Derbies in the EFL Cup, losing 3-2 on aggregate against their cross-city rivals. Although United won the return fixture thanks to a Nemanja Matic volley, Ole was again halted at the final hurdle.

Despite both of these poor results, it was the FA cup semi-final against Chelsea which left United fans disappointed. David de Gea mistakes and lack of team effort sold United short in what was a promising fixture against the blues, a team which United had already beaten three times.

Marcus Rashford MBE scored a fantastic free-kick against Chelsea in the last-16 to send United through to the quarter-finals. Source: Daily Mail


There is a question at United about whether it is a lack of mentality at the club or just a squad which isn’t yet ready to contend for titles.

The January transfer window will prove to be pivotal in United’s season. The FA cup, Europa League and the Premier League all give United hope at some silverware.

The imminent arrival of Ivory Coast International Amad Diallo with certainly bolster United’s wing-attack.

However, United still lack experience in their somewhat weak defence. Club Captain Harry Maguire, having played the most minutes out of any player in Europe last season, has been inconsistent. A standout central defender this season has been Diallo’s fellow international Eric Bailly.

United still lack extra quality at the right-back position, although Aaron Wan-Bissaka can be an excellent defender, he lacks attacking prowess.

The return of Portugese loanee Diogo Dalot will hope to improve United’s lack of depth at right-back. It would certainly be in the club’s best interest to sign a new right-back this transfer window.

Edinson Cavani has made a positive impression in his career so far in Manchester. His presence was missed in the semi-final against City, however his three match ban ruled him out of the crucial contest.

Cavani brings with him a wealth of experience and skill. United have lacked a so-called ‘poacher’ since Zlatan’s departure in 2018.

Edinson Cavani ‘el matador’ celebrating his equalizer against Southampton Source: Eurosport

It is necessary for United to improve their squad further in order to contend with the top teams in Europe and win prestigious trophies.


A keen debate has surfaced concerning United’s lack of winning mentality. The last four semi-finals have proven that United aren’t able to match the winning desire of their opponents.

The impact of attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been astonishing. It is not just his incredible performances on the pitch which he is notable for. He also provides an extreme winning mentality in the dressing room.

He took the captain’s armband in our away fixture against PSG in the Champions League. Another last-gasp winner from Marcus Rashford MBE resulted in 3 points. Bruno’s winning desire helped drive United to victory.

The Portugese Magnifico celebrating his goal at Newcastle United this season Source: manutdtimes.com

However, the impact of one player is not enough to win titles, evident in the fact that we are yet to win a trophy with him in the squad.

United is steeped with history, the club has won 20 league titles, the most out of any English club. It is paramount that new signings should bring a winning mentality that matches past players as well as fans.

The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last 7 matches, the Liverpool fixture looms large and with 3 points, United would move into first place.

Long-serving Spaniard David de Gea stated after the Aston Villa match that: “we have now a winning mentality and this very important for the team” (daily echo)

United are in the last 32 of the Europa League. A tough draw against Real Sociedad will offer a challenge. They feature against Watford later this evening in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. United’s key focus will remain on the league, with just over half of the season yet to play.


Although United have a mental barrier to overcome when they next reach a semi-final, they can take positives from their semi-final defeats.

Reaching 3 semi-finals in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first full season as manager is certainly impressive. Their recent loss to Manchester City will inspire them to fight harder next time they have the opportunity.

United know how they can improve, with an improved squad and winning mentality, they will be able to overcome the psychological block and progress further into the competition.

It is certain that the Red Devils have the potential to obtain a trophy-winning squad and have a chance to fulfil this expectancy in January.

Author: Ben Grenier

Aspiring sports journalist, Manchester United supporter. 18 years old taking my gap year, hoping to provide quality writing to gain experience. Twitter is @BrpGsports

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