Ralf Rangnick has admitted that he is “incredibly disappointed” after watching his side lose a penalty shoot-out to Middlesbrough and go out in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Despite getting an early spot kick, missed by Cristiano Ronaldo, and going ahead through Jadon Sancho with 25 minutes on the clock, United squandered numerous chances to finish the game against a side currently seventh in the Championship. Middlesbrough controversially equalised through Matt Crooks midway through the second half, with the ball clearly hitting Duncan Watmore’s hand before he provided the assist.
Having failed to find a way through in extra time, despite racking up a ludicrous 30 shots to Boro’s six, the hosts crashed out on penalties when Anthony Elanga blazed his effort over the crossbar. United have now lost seven of their last eight penalty shoot-outs, a run stretching back to 2009.
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Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live after the match, Rangnick gave a downbeat assessment of the match. “Incredibly disappointed, we should have won and killed off the game in the first half,” he said.
“Crossbar, post, missed penalty and numerous chances. It should have been 2-0 or 3-0.”
Asked how Elanga was feeling after missing the decisive penalty, Rangnick admitted the 19-year-old had taken it hard. “Anyone can imagine how he is, he is shattered and absolutely disappointed,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, Watmore’s handball was one of the main post-match talking points. Asked about the incident directly, the former United academy player said: “If I’m honest, it was completely accidental. I know it obviously touched my hand but it was not intended at all, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be [ruled out].
“Obviously it was just amazing to make a difference and set up Crooksie. Me and Crooksie were in a United age group together here so it was quite special for both of us. The fact that he scored made it even more special.”
Up in the ITV studio, Ian Wright and Roy Keane agreed that the handball had been accidental and, under the current rules, there was a case for allowing the goal to stand. “There’s absolutely nothing deliberate there because, you look at him, and he’s actually trying to move his hand out the way,” said Wright.
Keane concurred, saying: “I agree, I think it’s accidental… you just need to take that bit of luck on the night.”
Rangnick was less magnanimous. “We conceded a goal which I don’t understand why it stood,” he said. “He controlled it with his hand.
“In the moment when they scored, it was clear that VAR would not allow this goal to stand. We were not well positioned in that moment, too open and allowed them the counter, we should have won the game.”
While he was full of praise for Boro, Keane produced a characteristically withering assessment of United’s performance. “You have to be critical of United,” he said.
“First half, fantastic, but to lose to a Championship team at home in the cup, it’s obviously not good enough.”
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