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. Steve McClaren fired by Derby County — Is Newcastle United his next stop?

    May 25, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Steve McClaren, Derby County FC Steve McClaren, Derby County FC

    McClaren was Mike Ashley’s first managerial target earlier this month. Now unemployed, will McClaren end up at Newcastle United?

  2. VIDEO: Behind the scenes with Xavi Hernandez before his final game at the Camp Nou

    May 25, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona

    Go behind the scenes, all-access style, with Xavi on the day of his final Camp Nou appearance.

  3. Dani Alves: If Barcelona don’t start showing me respect, I’ll leave this summer

    May 25, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT

    Dani Alves, FC Barcelona Dani Alves, FC Barcelona

    With his contract expiring this summer, Dani Alves is posturing — and doing it well — for upcoming negotiations.

  4. MLS Player of the Week — Week 12: Columbus Crew SC’s Kei Kamara

    May 25, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC — Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC — Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC

    We’re only through 12 weeks of the 2015 season, but one man is threatening to run away with the Golden Boot race already.

  5. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 12

    May 25, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT

    Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto FC Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto FC

    Four of the league’s bottom-five teams won over the weekend, making this week’s TOTW a bit of a “who’s that?” instead of a “who’s who.”

  6. In a career full of blunders, firing Carlo Ancelotti is Florentino Perez’s worst mistake yet

    May 25, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Perez Getty Images

    The problem at Real Madrid isn’t the manager year after year, it’s a problem of accountability, and it comes from the top.

  7. Roma top Lazio in Rome derby, guarantee 2nd-place finish, Champions League spot

    May 25, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT

    Francesco Totti, AS Roma Francesco Totti, AS Roma

    Few games can make an entire season the way one victory in the Rome derby can do. Only this time, there was CL football on the line.

  8. 2014-15 Premier League season review: The managers

    May 25, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC

    It’s time to look back at the men who shaped the Premier League’s teams this season: the managers victorious, and gone.

  9. Report: Russia wants to use prison labor to prep for 2018 World Cup

    May 25, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    FIFA FIFA

    The workers would make close to $300 a month for the full-time work.

  10. Check out the L.A. Galaxy’s classy full-page Gerrard ad in Liverpool Echo

    May 25, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The American club wisely made its role in the advertisement understated, as it salutes its new midfielder.

  11. Florentino Perez announces firing of Carlo Ancelotti by Real Madrid

    May 25, 2015, 1:39 PM EDT

    AncelottiCup AP

    The Italian manager had more or less conceded his job status earlier Monday due to a bout with cervical stenosis.

  12. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Americans Abroad

    May 25, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at Britannia Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England. Getty Images

    It’s time to take a look back at the seasons of four American players in the Premier League, and one who is no longer.

  13. Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City: Comfortable Canaries back in Premier League

    May 25, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    during the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final between Middlesbrough and Norwich City at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    It’s called the richest game in the world, with an estimated $180 million on the line, though it didn’t provide a wealth of scoring chances.

  14. Ten biggest storylines of the Premier League season that was

    May 25, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpta2ytvim2vjnzvmnmixmde1nmzmmji2ngzkmwu4ytq4 AP

    Now, it’s time to take a look back at — in no particular order — 10 storylines that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.

  15. FOLLOW LIVE — Lineups as Middlesbrough and Norwich duel for final Premier League slot

    May 25, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25:  Fans walk to the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final between Middlesbrough and Norwich City at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Norwich is hoping for a quick fire return to the PL after being relegated last season, while Middlesbrough was sent packing to the second flight in 2009.

  16. VIDEO: Premier League’s Top 10 goals of the season, from A(dam) to Z(amora)

    May 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    See what Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino tabbed as top of the pops in a surprisingly QPR-heavy Top Ten list.

  17. West Ham lays out coach criteria, as top candidate Bilic says he’ll leave Besiktas

    May 25, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic AP

    The Hammers have specific characteristics in mind for the next Premier League boss at the Boleyn Ground.

  18. USMNT’s Morales signs new deal with Ingolstadt after Bundesliga promotion

    May 25, 2015, 7:54 AM EDT

    INGOLSTADT, GERMANY - MAY 17:  Alfredo Morales of FC Ingolstadt and team mates celebrate the winning the shield after the 2. Bundesliga match between FC Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig at Audi Sportpark on May 17, 2015 in Ingolstadt, Germany.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Morales played sparingly for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga from 2011-12.

  19. MLS transfers: Didier Drogba mulling move, Andrea Pirlo “received offer”

    May 25, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    article-1202950-05D61EA7000005DC-689_468x357 Reuters

    MLS is reportedly pursing the signatures of Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba.

  20. Serie A roundup: Fiorentina qualify for Europa League, Sampdoria fall short

    May 24, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-FIORENTINA-TRAINING Getty Images

    Roundup of Serie A’s final Sunday of the 2014-15 campaign.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy