Manchester United continues to plunge to new lows, even in this most dreadful of seasons.
Ralf Rangnick lamented his team’s lack of physicality after last week’s dismal performance against Leicester. It’s a problem that has bedeviled United throughout the campaign, and no one has been able to solve it.
Rangnick, like his predecessor, believed he had found a solution. He boasted about how his players had exhibited more aggression in training before of the game against Everton. It was the same old tale at Goodison Park on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
After falling behind midway through the first half, you’d expect a team fighting for fourth place to be pounding on the door for an equaliser. The truth is, United never looked like they were going to get back into the game, and they came out second best in every area of the pitch against a team that was at its lowest ebb after being pulled to within a point of the relegation zone.
United’s players have failed to deliver on their manager’s promises for the second time this season. They ran 10 kilometers fewer than their hosts, according to BT Sport’s statistics, and Frank Lampard’s post-game comments struck another nail in their coffin.
“We’re hard to defeat here when we come together as players and fans,” Lampard told BT Sport. “It always starts with our physical output, contact, and battling spirit, because that’s what the fans here demand, and deservedly so.” You give them that, and you give yourself a chance in the process.
“You have to fight through it when you’re not playing at your best.” You can give the ball away or appear to be distracted. The only way to get past it is to fly in and make a tackle like we did for the goal; as soon as the goal goes in, my thoughts immediately go to Dominic’s [Calvert-Lewin] tackle in midfield, [Fabian] Delph, or Allan – those are the types of situations we’re in.
“Beautiful football can wait; my aspirations at this club are to remain up and progress, to play well and to change things.” However, given our situation, fighting comes first.”
United’s players would be well to pay attention to such statements. Throughout all of their potential, they have lacked the fight Lampard mentions for the bulk of the season.
This isn’t a team that doesn’t have something to play for. This is a squad that has a chance to sit at Europe’s top table next season. The fact that they were outfought by a team for whom many were already writing obituaries only days before is a harsh reflection of the club’s current state.
With only seven games remaining, their chances of securing the final Champions League spot appear to be all but gone, and the truth is that they can only blame themselves. The brawl may still be going on, but United has been keeping an eye on the score for some time.