Five things learned about Manchester United in League Cup elimination

Manchester United Old Trafford

Manchester United’s League Cup run came crashing to an end against Sunderland on Wednesday evening.

Penalties were needed to settle the two-legged semi-final affair after a frantic finish to extra time, with David Moyes’ men coming out on the wrong end of the shootout.

Following are five things learned from the latest blow to the Red Devils’ cause.

Chances of silverware have virtually evaporated

From a realistic standpoint, United saw any remaining chance of taking home a trophy this term vanish with Vito Mannone’s denial of Rafael from the spot. Mathematically they’ve yet to be eliminated from Premier League contention at 14 points back from leaders Arsenal, but reality says otherwise. And at this rate, Moyes’ men look as if bowing out of the Champions League in the round of 16 to Olympiakos is a distinct possibility. Winning the League Cup wouldn’t have been a herculean triumph by any stretch, but at least would’ve been something to placate supporters.

Old Trafford not a fortress

For long spells of the Sunderland contest, United quite plainly looked like the away side. The Black Cats claimed 54% of the possession on United’s turf – a statistic that would’ve been unthinkable during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign – and held the initiative for much of the day. United may not have ‘lost’ this one from a technical standpoint – though the result will go into the books as one – but failed to impose themselves. Seven defeats at Old Trafford this term make for ugly reading as the famed ground has ceased to be fortress under Moyes.

Adnan Januzaj is still a kid

It’s easy to forget that the multinational wonderkid is still just an 18-year-old – especially when he’s consistently United’s top performer. The reliance on his talents was quite obvious throughout the encounter and he nearly saved the Red Devils’ hides in assisting Javier Hernandez’s last-gasp strike. Januzaj then stepped up to the spot and saw his weak penalty attempt thwarted in a reminder of his tender years. He’s still developing – and putting him in a situation where he needs to do everything is bound to see him stumble every so often.

Kagawa’s window is closing

As if getting minutes weren’t hard enough for the Japan international, Juan Mata’s seemingly imminent arrival likely signals his end. Kagawa started well with some dangerous balls into the area, but gradually drifted out of the game to depart on the hour mark. Where the ex-Dortmund man fits into the squad now is anyone’s guess – it’s a reasonable shout that an offer may come in by the end of January, whilst a summer departure would be quite likely should he last the winter window.

Rooney and van Persie dearly missed

In the attacking third United looked to be lacking inspiration and a clinical touch. Outside of his flicked assist for Jonny Evans’ opener, Danny Welbeck offered little, whilst Hernandez had a pair of excellent opportunities but couldn’t take advantage of either. Having Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie back in the squad will be like a pair of new signings – ones that, according to Moyes, aren’t far off. The two have had a hand in a combined 27 of United’s 36 Premier League goals this term – a perfect illustration of exactly what they mean for the club’s attacking prospects.

image: © dullhunk

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