At the end of 94 minutes, boos rained down from the Old Trafford stands from the Manchester United fans and though it was not directed at the players, it showed the frustrations of a set of fans denied silverware again for the fifth consecutive season. United had been ousted from the Champions League 2-1 on aggregate by a wily Atletico Madrid side.
After a first leg, from which United escaped with a 1-1 result, Atletico deployed all their Champions League experience to nick the second leg by 1-0. The goal was scored by Renan Lodi in the 41st minute as Atletico shocked Ralf Rangnick and his interim reign looks to have ended on the night.
Studio pundit and former United legend, Paul Scholes, said he did not believe Atletico had a better team than United on the night but that they had a better coach in Diego Simeone. A lot of frustration was also directed at Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic, who unwittingly made himself the villain of the piece with some questionable calls but truth be told United did not do enough to make it through to this season’s UCL quarterfinals.
Rangnick elected to start Anthony Elanga ahead of Marcus Rashford while Paul Pogba was also benched in favour of Bruno Fernandes. Elanga created the first bit of excitement when he leaped so high he clattered Jan Oblak in the third minute. The young forward could have scored his second goal of the tie in the 13th minute but his goal-bound shot was unwittingly saved by Oblak’s head.
Rodrigo De Paul then brought out a sprawling save from David de Gea. Fernandes seemed to have been caught by Reinildo in the box in the 21st minute but the referee waved play on. Atletico showed their intent in the 34th minute when Joao Felix finished a sweeping move but Marcos Llorente had been a tad offside in the buildup.
Seven minutes later, they pounced and United were aggrieved. First, it looked like Elanga was fouled by Reinildo and then Llorente floored Fred in the buildup. Between the apparent foul on Elanga and the Lodi’s header was a 34-second period in which United did not recover their shape.
The second half was a more intense affair but Atletico set out their stall to waste time and frustrate United. Elanga almost got a quick equaliser a minute into the second half after he skipped past two challenges but his shot was wide off Oblak’s right post.
United captain, Harry Maguire suffered some boos after putting De Gea in trouble as the tension got higher. Jadon Sancho, who had been bright all match, blazed a volley marginally wide in the 59th minute after a good cross from Diogo Dalot.
Felix was a toe away from increasing Atletico’s lead in the 62nd as United pushed forward. Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, and Rashford came on in the 67th as Rangnick rang the changes. Oblak was called into an excellent save from Raphael Varane’s header in the 77th minute. Juan Mata replaced Maguire in the 84th minute as United continued to try to play on the front foot.
But it was not enough and as the whistle went, Simeone went running towards the changing rooms as objects were thrown onto the pitch. The jubilant Argentine had masterminded another away win in England, following the win over Liverpool in 2020.
United have to throw everything at making it into the Premier League’s top four with nine matches left in the season and being fifth behind Arsenal, who have three games in hand.
In the other game on Tuesday night, ajax were surprisingly dumped out of the competition by Benfica, who won 1-0 at the Johan Cruijff Arena. Darwin Nunez scored the only goal in the 77th minute to send the Portuguese through to the quarter-final 3-2 on aggregate.
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