There was a sense of frustration among Manchester United’s large fanbase on Sunday when their side went crashing out of the FA Cup in the quarter-finals following defeat away to Leicester City.
The Red Devils’ manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær made an array of changes to his starting XI following the dogged display at the San Siro against AC Milan in the Europa League last Thursday night, but throwing in some fresh legs, with the likes of Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Nemanja Matić all getting rare starts, didn’t pay dividends.
Leicester, who were pretty much at full strength bar the long-term injuries to Harvey Barnes and James Maddison, were the far better team. Kelechi Iheanacho carried on his fine form of late to open the scoring in the 24th minute, and despite Mason Greenwood getting Man United back into the game before half-time, the Foxes wouldn’t lie down. Youri Tielemans fired them back into the lead in the 52nd minute before Iheanacho ended any hopes of another United revival in the 78th minute.
The defeat meant that yet another trophy has gone begging for Manchester United. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, the club have lifted just three trophies, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Europa League. Those are three titles that Man United fans wouldn’t have settled for under the guidance of the Scottish manager, yet now it seems that any trophy will do.
That’s why you have to question Solskjær’s priorities after that Leicester tie. Managers of top clubs are evaluated on what they win, and currently for the Norwegian that equates to nothing in what will be two-and-a-half seasons in charge by the end of this campaign.
With Manchester City already having one hand on the Premier League title, the Europa League is now Manchester United’s last hope of winning some silverware this season. If you’re looking for a bet and understand the laws surrounding sports betting sites, then it’s worth noting that United are amongst the favourites to win the Europa League. But should they fail to win it then they will probably look back at the FA Cup as a real missed opportunity.
Leicester will now go on to play Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and Brendan Rodgers’ men will truly fancy their chances of facing either Manchester City or Chelsea in the final. Of course, that could have been Man United up against the Saints, and their progression to the final would have almost been a certainty.
“I’m surprised the team was weakened against Leicester, I’m surprised he rotated as much, I know he has been doing that, but this was a real chance,” Gary Neville said in his podcast for Sky Sports.
“If you think the semi-final draw that occurred at half-time of that game which meant the winner of the Leicester vs Manchester United tie would play Southampton. And you just thought… It is not a gimmie against Southampton by any stretch of the imagination, but what an opportunity and I genuinely believe that that group of players need to win a trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.”
You can’t blame Solskjær entirely for making the changes. It has been a tighter-than-ever schedule and with the Milan game taking so much out of the players, rotation was definitely needed to some extent against Leicester. But when you make changes against a side as good as the Foxes, forced or not, your chances of winning are lowered and that’s what happened on Sunday.
Solskjær, who seems to still have a glimmer of hope that all is not lost in the league, must now ensure that his side get their hands on the Europa League trophy come May, because the ever-demanding fans of Man United won’t settle for less.