with videoManchester United have won the last home game of the season without any problems. In the pouring rain, Ralf Rangnick’s team was 3-0 too strong for Brentford. But after a mediocre season and a lot of protest against the club management, it was a party with a big hangover.
Qualification for the Champions League could already be forgotten by United after the painful loss against direct competitor Arsenal. For a change, it has not been that London club this season, but the Manucians who are the schlemiel of the traditional top six. But the ticket for the Europa League was also in danger. With West Ham only three points behind, and Wolverhampton virtually three loss points less, even a place in the Conference League was not guaranteed.
All the more important tonight was the early goal by Bruno Fernandes, who got the ball on a silver platter from Anthony Elanga in the ninth minute. The Portuguese threw out all the frustration at the back line with a primal cry, as United had never taken the lead in the previous three games.
That frustration also dominated Cristiano Ronaldo in the first half. The Portuguese missed a life-size opportunity, did not receive a penalty after a fierce intervention by Mads Roerslev and saw his goal rejected by the VAR just before half-time. The fact that he will miss the Champions League for the first time since the 2002/03 season will undoubtedly not help.
Still, the superstar managed to entertain the mostly grumpy crowd with nimble heels and other tricks. His effort was rewarded halfway through the second half. After a serious foul on himself, the striker shot hard from the spot, only to let ‘SIUU’ echo through Old Trafford for the last time this season.
Moments later, in the 73rd minute, the party of victory and the misery of club status came together. While most fans cheered for Raphaël Varane’s well-rounded corner kick – the 3-0 – the hard core left the stadium for yet another protest against Joel and Avram Glazer, the club’s owners. The idea was that for seventeen minutes – one minute for every year ‘the Glazers’ own the club – United would play in front of a half-empty stand.
But United fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season. The vast majority decided to stay put to see their club win again for the first time in three games and keep a clean sheet. The latter last happened in the 0-0 draw against Watford on February 26. But with no more than a ticket to the Europa League and the club management not caring about the protests, it will remain a temporary party. For Erik ten Hag, the task seems to be to hold onto tonight’s dominating game for a year according to season, and to try to keep all other problems out of the field.
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