With all eyes firmly focused at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, Manchester United saw their Champions League adventure come to an abrupt end as they suffered a 1-0 defeat at home against Atletico Madrid.
Despite managing to snatch a late 1-1 draw when they made the trip out to the Spanish capital a fortnight ago, the Premier League giants failed to build off of their home advantage here.
Backed by a sellout support at Old Trafford, Ralf Ranick’s men were eventually met by a chorus of boos as the full-time whistle after Renan Lodi’s first-half header secured United’s fate.
Failing to build off of their action-packed 3-2 win against Tottenham last weekend, we have taken a look at the main talking points as Atletico spoiled the Manchester party on Tuesday night.
Attacking headaches for Rangnick
Storming their way to what appeared a must-win victory against Spurs on Saturday evening, Manchester United opened Tuesday’s second-leg smelling the chance to extend on their Champions League adventure.
However, while Rangnick’s side might have impressed during the early exchanges here, they soon found the same issues that largely haunted them at the Wanda Metropolitano a fortnight ago.
With attacking talisman Cristiano Ronaldo failing to match a similar level that saw him bag a hat-trick against Spurs a few days ago, Anthony Elanga came closest to grabbing United what would have been a crucial strike.
Despite finding a way past Jan Oblak late on out in Spain, the Swedish starlet saw his effort from inside the six-yard box rebound off the Slovakian keepers’ forehead after just 13 minutes.
While Jadon Sancho might have also gone close with a driven effort after the half-time interval, fans around Old Trafford were left visibly confused to have seen Bruno Fernandes make way just after the hour mark.
Although the former RB Leipzig boss might have made the decision to chuck on the likes of Juan Mata for just his fifth appearance of the season late on, Raphael Varane’s header in front of the Stretford End was the only notable moment during the second-half.
A typical Atletico display
Left frustrated to have seen Elanga pinch a late equalizer at the Wanda Metropolitano a fortnight ago, Atletico Madrid clearly didn’t let that minor setback ruin what has been a welcomed purple patch.
While the defending Spanish champions might have dealt with some inconsistencies this season, Head Coach Diego Simeone saw his side put in what was a typical Los Colchoneros performance on Tuesday night.
Soaking up United’s early pressure and with attacking star Joao Felix once again causing Harry Maguire a host of issues, Madrid largely didn’t have to get out of third-gear as Renan Lodi opened the scoring minutes before the half-time break.
Left in acres of space at the back post and guiding Antonie Griezmann’s cross past David de Gea, it is hard to argue that Simeone’s side didn’t deserve to extend on their Champions League adventure over both legs.
Making the trip to Old Trafford on Tuesday night enjoying a four-match La Liga winning run, Atletico certainly underlined why they can be a stubborn test for any of Europe’s elite.
While their cynical time-wasting during the final stage here might have left the United fans perplexed, Simeone couldn’t have cared less as he piled praise on his side following the final whistle.
Top-four all United can hope for
Crashing out of the FA Cup last month at the hands of Championship outfit Middlesbrough at Old Trafford, it was no secret that a shock Champions League success was Manchester United’s only chance of lifting a piece of silverware this season.
Now failing to lift a trophy of any kind for almost six years now, the Premier League giants will know that securing a top-four finish this year is their only way to claim some kind of achievement.
However, while United might have managed to claim that much-needed 3-2 win against Tottenham last weekend, an under-pressure Rangnick will know that his downbeat squad are in an uphill battle to book a Champions League return.
Sat one-point adrift of fourth-place Arsenal and with the Gunners still holding three games in hand, questions will undoubtedly be asked about the future of Cristiano Ronaldo following Tuesday’s defeat.
Crashing out of the Champions League and dealing with a dressing room that appears to have some cracks, Rangnick will know that this could be a final nail in his bid to take up the role on a permanent basis.
A team that looked visibly frustrated at the final whistle and met by a chorus of boos from around Old Trafford, United should be relishing somewhat of a break before they’re next seen hosting Leicester on April 4th.
Manchester United: De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Telles, Fred, McTominay, Elanga, Fernandes, Sancho, Ronaldo
Subs: Cavani, Mata, Matic, Pogba, Rashford
Atletico Madrid: Oblak, Savic, Gimenez, Mandava, Herrera, Llorente, De Paul, Koke, Lodi, Griezmann, Felix
Subs: Felipe, Correa, Kondogbia
Goals: Lodi 41′
Yellow Cards: Manchester United: Dalot, Matic – Atletico Madrid: De Paul, Herrera
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Slavko Vincic
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