Manchester United players took to the field full-time in Germany on Tuesday in recognition of what their last show of pedestrians had cost them in the first half.
A 3–2 loss to RB Leipzig means United will not be one of the 16 teams in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
And this is not the only price for failure.
The damage will be seen in the accounts, in their dealings with current and potential future players, and in the faith the fans placed in coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
With Paul Pogba’s agent seeking to take a step for his client and former United defender Phil Neville talking about a “chase” against his former team-mate Solshire, BBC Sport is looking into the fallout and reaction to United’s big loss.
A decade of failure in the Champions League
Solskjaer had a loss on Tuesday, which means he is now the first coach for a British team to lose six of their first ten Champions League matches.
“We didn’t play as a team well enough. We never started,” he said. “This is the principal’s responsibility.”
However, the Norwegian record is just a continuation of United’s poor form in Europe since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from the club.
Since he ranked second in the 2010-11 season under the leadership of the Scotsman, who had previously won the championship twice during his reign at Old Trafford, the Red Devils have not made it past the quarter-finals, and last reached that stage in 2018-2019.
Their winning percentage in the Champions League over the seven seasons since Ferguson’s departure is 45.71%. In the seven years preceding that the rate was 61.33%.
Failure to exit the group stage on this occasion may be easier to defend in 2014-15, when they finished third behind Wolfsburg and PSV and 2011-12, when Benfica and Basel won to qualification.
But it remains disappointing for the team, which was hoping to beat one of Leipzig or Paris Saint-Germain, especially after beating both teams in their first two matches in Group H.
However, while the Europa League is not a minor consolation at the moment, it does offer United another chance for European success, in the competition they won four seasons ago.
United lose pounds and maybe Pogba?
Simon Stone from BBC Sport:
Amazingly, since reaching the final in 2011, United have won only two matches in the knockout round of the Champions League, in 2014 when David Moyes’ side came back from their 2-0 first-leg defeat to beat Olympiacos and in 2019, at That wonderful night against Paris Saint-Germain, when Marcus Rashford canceled a stoppage-time penalty kick in a two-goal defeat from the first leg at Old Trafford.
But aside from the football aspect – and the more inevitable questions about Solshire and his ridiculously inconsistent team – there are also financial consequences to consider.
Had United reached the Champions League quarter-finals, they would have received an additional 21 million euros (19.04 million pounds) in prize money alone. Reaching the same stage in the Europa League will win 3.1 million euros (2.81 million pounds). These amounts will actually be higher due to the central market pool allocation but this will only widen the gap.
By the size of their stadium, United suffer most from the constant absence of fans – currently over £ 100m since the start of the pandemic – so losing this lucrative stream of revenue hurts.
He will polish minds ahead of the transfer window next month, as Mino Raiola seeks to sell Pogba at a reduced price, Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo are hanging around on huge paychecks without approaching the first team, and Solskjaer is looking for reinforcements to strengthen his team.
Witch hunt for initial removal from work
Six victories from 10 league matches put United in sixth place in the Premier League table, five points behind leaders Tottenham Hotspur in a postponed match. Hardly score failed side.
However, they are used to falling behind in matches before banding together to win, including their last two league games – at Southampton and West Ham.
They did the same on Tuesday, trailing 2-0 within 13 minutes with goals by Angelino and Amado Hydra, before Justin Kluivert scored the third goal.
This time they were unable to recover, despite the titanic efforts of Bruno Fernandez and Paul Pogba.
This would inflame the voices opposing Solshire’s position as coach, although former United defender Phil Neville was quick to defend his former United team-mate.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I think there is a terrible story – the moment United loses a match that appears to be a disaster. It’s not a disaster, it’s a disappointment.”
“There are United teams in the past with better coaches than Ole who went out at this point and there are less league coaches than United who do not get the same stick as Ole.
“The narration inside the club is so different from the outside that there seems to be a complete witch hunt to get this boy out of work.”
“We did not perform”
United manager and captain offered no excuses for the defeat.
“We talked about what they would do early in the match,” Solskjaer said. “We needed to manage it and we didn’t manage it well enough.
“We’ve done everything we usually do in preparation. We know everyone wants to be ready for a match like this. Sometimes it takes players 15-20 minutes to kick off but maybe we’re just not feeling well on the street.”
“Today it didn’t work out for us. Of course we were for it. I can’t fault the character and effort.”
United Captain Maguire echoed these sentiments.
“We started the match very slowly,” he told BTV. “They were not good enough – the first 20 minutes we were not in. They put two balls in the penalty area and we failed to deal with them.”
“We have to look at ourselves, we have given ourselves so much to do. I have seen how close we are to the end but we are starting too slow and we cannot keep falling behind.
“We said Saturday in the first half, 2-0 late, the next goal is decisive and we said it again tonight. They made it 3-0 and the mission became bigger. The third goal proved to be the decisive goal but even three down we got close at the end.”
“I don’t want to look at excuses. We have to go out and be aggressive and win balls. These are the basics. If you can’t defend crosses you will lose matches. I don’t want to look at the figure – not an excuse.”
“It’s a tough group but we felt we had to qualify. These are the criteria for this club. I am a destroyer for everyone. We worked hard to reach this competition. No matter what group we got, it will be difficult. We have to do more.”
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