Even in this most dismal of seasons, Manchester United continually find ways to plummet to new lows.
After last week’s disappointing showing against Leicester, Ralf Rangnick bemoaned his side’s lack of physicality. It’s an issue that has plagued United throughout the campaign and one that nobody has been able to find a solution to.
Much like his predecessor, Rangnick thought he had hit upon a solution. Ahead of the game against Everton, he proudly spoke about how his players had shown more aggression in training. Come 12:30pm at Goodison Park on Saturday, it was the same old story.
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Having fallen behind midway through the first-half, you’d expect a side battling to try and stay in the race for fourth to be banging on the door for an equaliser. The truth is, though, United never looked like they were going to get back into the game, and against a side at their lowest ebb after being dragged to within a point of the relegation zone, they managed to come out second best in every area of the pitch.
Not for the first time this season, United’s players failed to deliver on their manager’s promise. Damning stats shared by BT Sport revealed they ran 10km less than their hosts, and Frank Lampard’s comments after the game hammered yet another nail in their coffin.
“When we come together as players and fans alike, we’re hard to beat here,” Lampard told BT Sport. “It always starts with our physical output, our contact, fighting spirit, because that’s what fans demand here and rightly so. You give them that and you give yourself a chance.
“When you’re not playing at your best, you have to fight through it. You might give the ball away or look like you’re not at it. The only way to get past that is to fly in and make a tackle like we did for the goal, as soon as the goal goes in my thoughts go to Dominic’s [Calvert-Lewin] tackle in midfield or [Fabian] Delph or Allan – those sort of moments we’re in.
“Beautiful football can come later on, I’ve got ambitions at this club to stay up and move on, play well and change things. But, the position we’re in, fighting comes first.”
United’s players would do well to hear those words. For all the talent they possess in their squad, that fight Lampard speaks of has been lacking for the majority of this season.
This isn’t a side with nothing to play for. This is a team that can still be dining at Europe’s top table next season. For them to be outfought by a side many were already writing obituaries for just days earlier is a damning indication of where the club is at.
With just seven games remaining, their chances of claiming that final Champions League spot look to be all but over, and the simple fact of the matter is they only have themselves to blame. The fight might well still be on, but United have looked out for the count for some time.
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