Manchester United out of Champions League after lacklustre showing against Atletico Madrid
- Champions League was United’s last chance to win a trophy this season
- Exit means their wait for silverware will continue into its fifth year
Athleti’s 1-0 win over United exposed them as a side that has been widely inconsistent under German coach Ralf Rangnick, just three days after Cristiano Ronaldo’s unbelievable hat trick against Spurs netted them a much needed 3-2 win.
Despite a decent showing in the first leg of the tie in which Rangnick’s side was able to bring back a 1-1 draw from the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, they were unable to break a characteristically defiant performance from Diego Simone’s men.
The game started out with the home side dominating the ball. Against most this would have been a positive start, but under Simeone Atlectio allow the other side to have the ball while they sit back and defend.
This took the sting out of an anxious Old Trafford crowd who grew increasingly frustrated as the Madrid men grew more into the game until, just before half-time the deadloc,k was broken.
Brazilian Renan Lodi latched onto the end of an Antoine Griezmann cross to score only his third goal of the season, minutes after Joao Felix had a goal disallowed for offside.
After the half-time whistle, the game was set up to favour Diego Simeone’s team as they could now play to their main strength – defending.
Raphael Varane and Diego Dalot came closest for the Red Devils, but to no avail, leaving both the fans and the top brass at the club wondering where they stand and where their future will take them.
For Ralf Rangnick this was a match of huge significance as he prepares to leave the managers role for a backseat advisory position.
He was able to see first-hand exactly what his team are made of, which may shine a light on how he can help to improve them in the coming years.
It was especially poignant as two of the men Rangnick has reportedly earmarked to take his place, Ajax manager Eric Ten Hag and Paris Saint-German boss Mauricio Pochettino both crashed out of the Champions League with their respective clubs.
After the match, Rangnick focussed on the positives of his side’s performance: “I think we played a very good first half — exactly the way we wanted to play with a high energy level but we couldn’t convert that into one or two goals.
“It was hard in the second half and always interrupted. There was always somebody lying on the floor.”
He added: “I would also say some curious refereeing decisions. I wouldn’t say they were decisive but at least he fell too often for those time-wasting antics.”
United will now have some time to regroup and refocus as the international break comes into effect on 26 March.
Rangnick’s attention will now be solely on a crucial match against Leicester at home, on 2 April as they aim to break into the all-important top four.