While Manchester United captain David De Gea asked whether his teammates had the hunger to go for trophies and not just top-four finishes and knockout round places, his boss Ralf Rangnick felt his side got a raw deal from Atletico Madrid and the referees.
United fell 1-0 at Old Trafford and 2-1 on aggregate, and Rangnick felt there was a foul on Anthony Elanga less than a minute before Renan Lodi put Atleti ahead. He also felt that Atleti milked the clock once they got the lead.
[ MORE: De Gea questions Man Utd squad ambition ]
Which, really, Ralf… is not exactly unwrapping breaking news.
“It was hard in the second half. Always interrupted,” Rangnick said. “There was always somebody lying on the floor. I would also say some curious refereeing decisions. I wouldn’t say they were decisive but at least he fell too often for those time-wasting antics and four minutes at the end added on was a joke for me.”
United’s bigger problem was not finding the goal.
Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak chose a good time to be at his world-class best and managed to outduel a strong but far less busy David De Gea.
But this is what teams should expect from Atletico Madrid, and Rangnick would do well to wear a loss in which he started Anthony Elanga and Scott McTominay over Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.
When those choices work, they are genius. When they don’t, especially when their failure is pretty simple to predict, they look like unnecessary risks.
“We played a very good first half, energetic and at a good pace but we didn’t convert that energy into a goal,” Rangnick said, as United controlled the first half but was hit on the counter for two goals — one offside, one not.
“It’s important to score first against Atleti. And the counterattacking move moments before halftime didn’t make life easier for us.”
So now what? The top four is in focus with a tough run-in set for Man United.
“It’s important that we finish the season on the best possible note,” Rangnick said. “In order to finish fourth, we cannot afford to drop many more points. I think we’ve drawn too many games.”