Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has expressed regret over the missed chances by his squad in the game, as Middlesbrough defeated United 8-7 on penalties at Old Trafford.
Manchester United played a good game in the first half, controlling most of the flow of the game. Jadon Sancho also marked his return to the starting line up following an injury layoff with a goal, but the team were unable to add to Sancho’s efforts with missed opportunities after missed opportunities.
Middlesbrough kept pushing for their equaliser and eventually got it in the second half, with former United academy players Duncan Watmore and Matt Crooks combining to score a controversial goal which eventually sent the game into extra time, and then to penalties for Middlesbrough’s famous victory.
Rangnick expressed disappointment in comments made to Manchester United’s official website after the game, stating that his team had the opportunity to finish off the game in the first half but missed it.
“We’re really disappointed. The players, the staff, everybody,” the German tactician said to United’s official website. “We should have killed the game off in the first half. We could easily have been 3-0 or 4-0 up.
“We started well and played extremely well in the whole first half. Our movement and tempo of the game were exactly what we intended to do.”
Middlesbrough equaliser shouldn’t have stood, claims Rangnick
With United failing to capitalise on their chances to kill the game off, including a 20th minute penalty miss by Cristiano Ronaldo, Middlesbrough eventually got their equaliser.
Matt Crooks scored after being teed up by Duncan Watmore, who controlled a pass from Isaiah Jones. However, in bringing that pass down before setting up Crooks’ equaliser, the ball bounced off Watmore’s feet and hit his left arm.
United players surrounded referee Anthony Taylor to protest the handball, but VAR determined that there was no deliberate handling of the ball and allowed the goal to stand.
Rangnick admitted that though the goal should not have stood, his side’s glaringly poor defending was what provided the opportunity for Boro in the first place.
“It was only 1-0 and a goal like this can always happen, although it shouldn’t have happened, from our perspective, because we didn’t defend well, we were too open in that counter-attacking situation,” Rangnick said to United’s official website.
On the controversy of the goal, the German said: “In the end, the goal should never have been given. It’s incredible that it stood. It was a clear handball. I would not have needed VAR, it should have been seen by the referee himself but the VAR should not have given the goal.
”As far as I know, the referee and the VAR decided that it was not intentional, it was coincidental. How can it be coincidental if the hand is up there and the ball is touching his hand and he controlled the ball with his hand? I don’t see how this can be coincidental.“
The new rules stand in favour of the goal, however. Handballs are now given if the referee or VAR determines that a “player deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, moving the hand/arm towards the ball.”
The goal would have also been ruled out if Watmore scored the goal directly after his handball as any handling before a direct goal – accidental or not – is considered a handball.
Watmore: Amazing to make a difference on return to Old Trafford
Former United academy players Watmore and Crooks were ecstatic to have scored and assisted at the home ground of the club they called home during their career developmental stages.
Speaking to ITV after the game, Watmore said: “[It’s] amazing to make a difference and set up Crooksy. Me and Crooksy were in a United age group team together here – so it is even more special.”
However, United will really rue their missed chances just like Rangnick claimed. The manager also spoke on teenager Anthony Elanga’s penalty miss which eventually handed Boro the win in the shootout.
“You could see that they [the players] supported him and everybody supported him. This has happened to more experienced players than him. It’s a big shame for him but also for the whole club, for the supporters, for the team, because we did well in the last couple of weeks.
“We trained well, we played well in the first half especially and we are, therefore, very disappointed at the moment.”