Manchester United’s FA Cup loss to Middlesbrough was a disappointing result as it was their best shot at a silver medal this season.
It is now quite clear that United appear ready to go five years without a trophy, which is simply not good enough considering where they were under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ralf Rangnick is United’s fifth manager, either caretaker, since Fergie retired and it seems he has been given the almost impossible task of making the current team contend for trophies. The body language after Middlesbrough equalized pretty much summed that up.
While United were knocked out of the competition, there were actually quite a few positives to the performance, particularly with Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba both excellent on the night.
However, not only Sancho and Pogba were sensational. There were plenty of nice elements to United’s display and it has given Rangnick some reason to be cheerful.
We think they should be mentioned, so our United in my mind The writer, Omar Garrick, has listed three areas that have given Manchester United reason to be optimistic, despite the FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough.
1. Sancho delight
Jadon Sancho has come under a lot of scrutiny since his £73m move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2021 and before the Middlesbrough match, he had just two goals to his name.
He seemed to lose confidence in recent weeks, but the two-week winter break gave him a chance to work on himself, and judging by his performance Friday night, he has.
Along with a well-executed goal, Sancho was creating a handful of chances for the rest of United’s strikers and offered an attacking threat when his team were in the lead.
According to SofaScore.com, Sancho had a 92% passing rate, 66 touches, won four duels, completed two crosses, had two shots on goal and created two clear chances.
If he continues this kind of form in United’s next game then he could bring his Old Trafford career to life.
2. Could Pogba solve a key problem in midfield?
Everyone knows Manchester United need a defensive midfielder, but they have also been suffering from a lack of creativity in midfield.
While Fred and Scott McTominay have stepped up for United in recent weeks, they have not created enough chances in attack, which has seen them struggle to create chances.
Paul Pogba returned from an ankle injury and was brilliant in United’s midfield. In fact, he was able to solve a massive creative problem that has plagued Rangnick since he took office.
According to @StatmanDave, Pogba completed 100% of his dribbles, had a passing accuracy of 86%, made 48 passes (four successful long passes), eight ball recoveries and won Cristiano Ronaldo’s missed penalty.
All United fans know the capabilities that Pogba has in his locker; he just needs to show them more often. If he puts in more performances like he did against Middlesbrough, he could be a key player for the rest of the season.
3. Varane begins to settle
Manchester United always seem to have defensive problems and some of their recent signings have not gone according to plan. However, the scouting department was right to sign Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.
Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester United! That’s why we’ve decided to complement our extensive coverage of United on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform aimed specifically at United fans: United in my mind.
Writers and presenters who share their passion for the red side of Manchester will produce written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands and in the press box.
The Frenchman has had some injury problems since his arrival last summer but has returned from injury as the United defender knew he was signing.
Everything he did, whether it was his composure, his sensational passing ability or his brilliant defense; it was exquisite. He is easily United’s most talented defender and the back four look much more comfortable when he starts.
Varane won seven duels in the air, two on the ground, played 11 accurate long balls, made two clearances, three interceptions, one tackle and maintained an 87% passing rate.
Certainly United will concede fewer goals when behind Rangnick.
Do United have reason to be optimistic? Follow our writer United On My Mind omar garrick on Twitter to join in the discussion and give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.