Where once effective and sometimes even enchanting, Manchester United is now stale, bland, and ultimately disappointing. There’s this cold inevitability to watching them take the pitch now, like the icy fingers of the Ghost of Christmas Future clutching at your arm and creepily whispering "Scoreless Drawwww" as you waste two hours of your life you’re increasingly aware of never getting back.
Thursday’s last-32 Europa League tie against Midtjylland was absolutely no different.
Fresh off of a 2-1 loss to Sunderland in the Premier League and sort of reeling from the maybe-not-all-that-bad news of Wayne Rooney being sidelined for up to two months with a knee injury, it stood to reason that a game against a small Danish club formed 17 years ago with a stadium that only seats 11,800 would be a decent opportunity for a rebound.
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It even looked it in the 37th minute when Memphis Depay managed not to ruin a decent service from Jesse Lingard with his cinderblock first touch, gathering it up just in time to sneak an opener past Midtjylland keeper Mikkel Andersen that Andersen probably should’ve saved.
It was Depay’s fifth goal of the season in all competitions and his second in Europe. It was also just enough to make you bargain with yourself about whether Depay could finally be poised to break out of that perma-first-team-substitute role he’s been frozen in since sleepwalking his way through United’s 2-0 loss to Stoke on Boxing Day.
That was until Michael Carrick got caught in possession for the umpteenth time and Pione Sisto torched Ander Herrera to slot home an equalizer just seven minutes later.
Now, Midtjylland has been the source of some intrigue since edging out Southampton back in August and being billed as giant killers. There’s this whole thing about their 32-year-old owner having a Money Ball approach to player acquisitions and such, as well as having a neatly coiffed man bun to go along with it, but that’s got absolutely nothing to do with United’s ramshackle defending.
That’s Paul Onuanchu, freezing Michael Carrick and Paddy McNair with a stepover so slow that it might as well have been done underwater, tripping over his own feet, recovering, and putting an even slower shot past Sergio Romero to seal the game for Midjtylland in the 77th minute.
Prior to twirling that poky game winner in his leather sling and lodging it at the near post to topple a team that cost over $300 million to build, Onuanchu’s Wikipedia page was exactly one sentence long, which is perhaps the most fun fact about this game.
United has three days to get it together before playing Shrewsbury Town (which I am obliged to mention is a third-tier team) on Monday in a fifth-round FA cup tie. That following Thursday they welcome Midtjylland at Old Trafford for the return leg.
I’d like to think they’d win both of those, but honestly, who knows?