First, the good news for Manchester United: Even with their derby defeat to bitter rivals Liverpool on Thursday, the Red Devils are all but assured of a 2nd-place finish in the Premier League.
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Also good news: The horrific fixture congestion, which saw Manchester United play three games in five days, is now behind them.
And now, the bad news: After beating Aston Villa in the first of those three games, Manchester United were comfortably outclassed and outplayed as they were beaten by 3rd-place Leicester City and (now) 5th-place Liverpool. It’s hardly the season’s end that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have wanted, but in many ways it’s an understandable outcome.
21 different players started the games on Tuesday and Thursday, with only defender Eric Bailly being retained. Speaking after Thursday’s loss at Old Trafford, Solskjaer lamented the “easy goals” that Manchester United conceded in “key moments,” namely the final 15 minutes of the first half and the first 90 seconds of the second — quotes from the BBC:
“When you play against good players and good teams you can’t give easy goals away, especially goals in the periods we did.
“We had a good start to the game and we didn’t grab that momentum, we should have done more and just before halftime to concede from a set play is disappointing.”
“They deserved the win. We conceded goals in key moments of the game. We didn’t build on the momentum or break up their momentum. We gave them at least two goals. Key moments went against us.
“We didn’t build on the good times. We should have gone more for it at the start of the game. Sometimes we let them off the hook and let them play out.”
“Everyone would miss their captain and leader. Harry [Maguire] has been amazing since he came to this club. We will miss a player of that quality but we have players that are ready to step in.”
Alas, Manchester Unites still hold a four-point lead on Leicester in the race for 2nd place, and the Red Devils still have the Europa League final against Villarreal to end the 2020-21 season on a fantastic high note.