Manchester United is currently sitting in seventh place in the English Premier League, six points outside of the Champions League qualification spots. They also lost in their first FA Cup match against fellow Premier League club Swansea City in early January.
Now the final hope for silverware has slipped away after losing on penalties to Sunderland after a 3-3 tie over the two legs in the League Cup semi-finals. Sunderland will most likely be playing in the Europa League next season regardless of the result in the final, barring a major collapse by Manchester City over the last half of the season.
The final two minutes of the match were a roller coaster for both clubs with Manchester United entering the 119th minute up 1-0 on the night and holding the away goals tiebreaker. David De Gea fumbled a low strike to equalize for Sunderland, putting them ahead on aggregate before United struck with nearly the last kick of the game. Javier Hernandez scored from six yards out on a low cross to force the penalty shootout.
Manchester United was very poor in the shootout only connecting on one of the five kicks from the penalty shot with Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone making two critical saves.
There will be folks around who use the excuse that United didn’t win because of the absences of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. While they may have a point, do people forget that this is Manchester United? This club is one of the most recognizable clubs in the world. You’d think that if anybody could have good players to replace their starters it would be this club.
There are a few positives that can be taken away from this match though; the first being the leadership shown by Javier Hernandez. By the end of the match, Hernandez could barely walk to the center circle for the penalty kick shootout and yet he sucked up every ounce of strength in his body to score the tying goal to force the penalty kick shootout. The rumored summer transfer of Wayne Rooney to Real Madrid would be such a positive for Hernandez, who would only gain more minutes and continue to show how good he really is.
The continued solid play of 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj should be remembered as well. Januzaj led the team today with eight shots, two on target, plus the assist on the Hernandez goal. He has proven to be a good contributor for David Moyes and has a very bright future considering how he is playing at this high level at the age of 18.
While the Premier League Title is surely out of reach, the Champions League is not. United could be in for a boost as early as this weekend with the rumored signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea. They have also been rumored to be in talks with Juventus over Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal. These signings could be a nice boost for United, who will eventually need to address their need to replace Ferdinand and Vidic at center back.