Manchester United’s bid to win this year’s Carabao Cup ended after the club suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the hands of regional rivals Manchester City on Wednesday.
The Red Devils had built momentum ahead of the game. They were looking forward to avenging last season’s defeat to Pep Guardiola’s side at this same stage of the competition. However, rather than revenge, it was a repeat performance from last year’s League Cup semifinal.
The Citizens dominated the game from the start and ended up with a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford, thanks to goals from John Stones and Fernandinho.
Manchester United are still in contention for a couple of trophies this season but the Carabao Cup was their most realistic chance of ending the campaign with silverware. Having been eliminated, it remains to be seen how the club will react to getting knocked out of the competition.
Four semi-final defeats under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done well to transform the fortunes of the club since being appointed two years ago. In his time in charge, the Norwegian has managed to get Manchester United back in the Champions League. He has also ensured that the Red Devils are challenging for the Premier League this year.
What has been missing, though, is a trophy. Wednesday’s loss to Manchester City signalled the fourth time under Solskjaer that Manchester United have lost a semi-final.
They progressed to the last four of every cup competition last season but fell short in each of them. They lost to Chelsea in the final of the FA Cup, were defeated by City in the Carabao Cup semifinals and were dumped out of the Europa League by Sevilla.
The Red Devils are currently doing well in the league but Solskjaer is bound to come under pressure if he keeps bottling semi-final games. There’s a limit to what the fans and the club’s hierarchy can take, and to go three years without a trophy will definitely not be appreciated.
A psychological barrier for Ole’s Reds?
As it stands, Manchester United are struggling to progress in semi-finals. They play well in cup competitions but falter when they reach the last-four stage.
In his post-match press conference, Solskjaer rejected suggestions that his side’s semi-final challenges were psychological.
“It’s not psychological,” the Manchester United boss said, as quoted by Manchester Evening News. “It’s just sometimes you meet good teams in the semis and we just didn’t have enough. We met probably the best team in England and we just didn’t have enough today.”
“We wanted a final to look forward to as it would give us an extra boost. You’ve got to dust this off, use the night to get the disappointment away, and then we’ve got big league games [against] Burnley, Liverpool. And within a month, suddenly the Europa League is here again,” added Solskjaer.
There is still a lot to play for but until Manchester United exorcise their semi-final demons, they will struggle to win trophies. Their recent failures, though, point to the fact that it could be a psychological challenge for the Old Trafford side.
Published 07 Jan 2021, 23:56 IST