New Delhi: Manchester United's disastrous campaign under Louis van Gaal sank further after the English side lost their first leg Round of 32 tie of the Europa League against Danish side FC Midtjylland.
It was a tie United should have wrapped up after taking the lead through Memphis Depay, but like what has been the usual scenario this season, they allowed the hosts to comeback after making unnecessary mistakes.
Veteran Michael Carrick and Juan Mata were guilty of losing possession of the ball and allowing the hosts to take the chances and kill the tie. For a side where possession has been the mantra under Gaal, losing unnecessary balls in dangerous positions ended up being ominous.
United looked as the second best team on the pitch and lacked the intensity and leadership to propel them to get a positive result. This has been a familiar story of late and there is no advancement to change that wave of rot.
Statistics show United have won just nine games out of their last 27 games to suggest the road they are in is an unknown territory.
After the game, Gaal blamed to be victim of Murphy's law after 14 first team players being injured with David de Gea being the latest in that list. But it is a game United were expected to win and their lifelessness in Denmark showed, Gaal has no place to hide and blame misfotunes.
United's progression has been jolted under the Dutchman this season and he is in further pressure now to save his job. Interestingly, his players have been the main contributors to all the negativity and scrutiny the club and its manager has faced most part of the season.
With the return leg next week, United need a goal at least in Old Trafford to progress and not allow their opponents to score. But with several sides coming to the Theatre of Dreams and getting results in their favour, the Danish side know they are in with a major chance of progressing.
The senior players in United should have no excuse for their prosaic play and lack of hunger. Along with the manager who has looked clueless, United also need to look at their players and decide on their futures with majority of them being below-par.
As United travel to League One side Shrewsbury Town on Sunday for the FA Cup fifth Round, they need to get a win desparately and build on it. Next week will determine the season for United as in to where they are headed with the return leg of Europa League, followed by a key clash against EPL title contenders Arsenal.
Gaal who said United will focus on Europa League to gain Champions League qualification for next season, has already seen his players falter and that desire too is slipping away.