Skip to content

Ugly penalty shootout highlights Manchester United’s fragile mental state

Jan 22, 2014, 8:19 PM EDT

ManchesterUnited AP

After a Heimlich maneuver from Javier Hernandez brought Manchester United back from the dead, the Red Devils stepped up to the penalty spot five times at Old Trafford looking to spurn Sunderland.

They gacked four of them.

With David Moyes searching every corner of the Red universe for answers to a season of questions, he found nothing but black yet again.

The night had started with a feeling of new life, as rumors sparkled around Old Trafford that United were on the verge of rescuing Chelsea’s lost man Juan Mata.  But it ended with that same empty feeling that’s plagued the home supporters all season, and it was hard to watch.

Now it’s clear that sunken feeling has spread to the dressing room as well.

One of the most embarrassing penalty shootout showings in recent memory showed the public how horribly fragile the mental state of a once-powerful squad has become.  All you had to do was watch the penalties attempted by Moyes’ men.

Danny Welbeck missed the top corner horribly, flying over.  Phil Jones looked very much like a defender, not testing Vito Mannone. Rafael, another defender, meekly touched well within range of the Sunderland stopper.  Even the wonderkid Adnan Januzaj, who has looked like United’s lone bright spot the last few weeks, couldn’t hit confidently enough to pass the keeper.

Plenty of excuses have flown around the last few months for why Moyes has struggled in his first year at Old Trafford, but tonight’s penalty debacle lies squarely with the gaffer.

With nobody on the team on a good run of form aside maybe the Belgian teenager, Moyes decided to pick a pair of defenders to take spot-kicks, while leaving out striker Hernandez and winger Antonio Valencia.

Mind-boggling.

Even if reports that Chicharito injured himself celebrating his last-ditch goal are true, it doesn’t excuse the selection, for which there were a myriad of better combinations.

And let’s not forget, one of the most mentally fragile players on the squad – goalkeeper David De Gea – flubbed the easiest of collections to give Sunderland extra-time hope to begin with

According to WhoScored, its the Spaniard’s first goalkeeping error leading to a score since 2012, a year when rumors of his exit from Old Trafford flew as many claimed his young mind was unable to handle the rigors of the Premier League.

With a team already scratching and clawing for any kind of positive results, Moyes may have broken his players’ mental state beyond repair.  It’s possible they seal the deal with Juan Mata, which could certainly provide an injection of creativity they so desperately require.

But at this point, Moyes no longer has a shot at the title, and he must tread carefully or the Scotsman risks falling out of European football entirely.

The red on the world-famous Old Trafford home kit has long since lost its fear factor.  Instead, the club is bleeding red, and Moyes must find a way to cauterize the wound now.

Here’s a hint for you David, free of charge: it’s not Phil Jones from the penalty spot.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Man United target Nathaniel Clyne won’t decide his future until summer

    Mar 29, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC

    Are Saints about to lose another young star to one of the Premier League’s “big five?” We’ll find out this summer.

  2. Harry Kane will play for England U-21s at 2015 European Championship

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT

    Harry Kane, England Harry Kane, England

    Kane will join England’s U-21 squad for this summer’s European Championship.

  3. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 2-1 Toronto FC

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

    Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake

    No fun for 70 minutes, and then the final 20 happened. TFC’s criminally disallowed goal was the only difference in this one.

  4. Wayne Rooney: Teams are once again fearful of an “aggressive” England

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    Wayne Rooney, England Wayne Rooney, England

    There’s a real reason, other than “easy schedule,” for England’s improved performances since the World Cup.

  5. Report: Raheem Sterling will turn down any Liverpool contract offer until end of season

    Mar 29, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Raheem Sterling, England Raheem Sterling, England

    Sterling isn’t interested in negotiating a new deal until the summer — even if it’s for $270,000/week — and a few reassurances are made.

  6. Luis Suarez says if he comes back to England, it would only be with Liverpool

    Mar 29, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    Luis Suarez was candid as ever after Gerrard’s charity match, and he opened up the possibility of a Premier League return down the road.

  7. WATCH: Thierry Henry displays silky move at Gerrard charity match

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    Henry Getty Images

    Thierry Henry showed off his sparkling passing skills at Steven Gerrard’s testimonial.

  8. Aron Johannsson replaced on USMNT roster by Jordan Morris due to toe infection

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT

    Morris Getty Images

    The United States loses one of their goalscorers from Friday’s friendly, but now it’s a youngster’s turn to make a statement.

  9. Southampton posts first profit since administration

    Mar 29, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    Southampton Getty Images

    A whopping turnaround, led by owner Katharina Liebherr, has taken place at St. Mary’s and the financial evidence is there.

  10. Belgium coach says Januzaj must earn his spot back at Manchester United

    Mar 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    JanuzajWilmots Getty Images

    If Adnan Januzaj wants to make a return to the Belgium squad, he must focus on earning playing time at his club first.

  11. Report: Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner set to sell team to UK group

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT

    Lerner Getty Images

    An agreement has reportedly been reached between the current American owner and a domestic ownership group.

  12. Gareth Bale fires back at club critics after Wales success

    Mar 29, 2015, 7:34 AM EDT

    Bale Getty Images

    Gareth Bale knows what people are saying about his recent play at Real Madrid, but he’s not listening.

  13. MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 0-0 Seattle Sounders

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:41 PM EDT

    Zach Loyd, FC Dallas Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

    A disappointing result for FCD, given Seattle’s lack of Dempsey and Martins, but a great one considering their early red card.

  14. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

    Vancouver Whitecaps Vancouver Whitecaps

    Three more points for Vancouver, who win it late on Robert Earnshaw’s Whitecaps debut. He scores for everyone.

  15. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 1-0 LA Galaxy

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    D.C. United Getty Images

    It was the late, late, late show at RFK Stadium, and despite being thoroughly outplayed, D.C. United go home with three points.

  16. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City Ike Opara, Sporting Kansas City

    Sporting KC get their first victory of the season, while NYCFC suffer their first defeat of the year — and history.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment