Football Features

“Ronaldo can’t play Rangnick-ball” – Man Utd rue missed chances as Middlesbrough pick up penalty shoot-out win

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 23:09, 4 February 2022

In a dramatic and baffling night of football, Middlesbrough beat Manchester United 7-8 on penalties in the FA Cup.

The Red Devils were by far the best team in the first-half and wasted a whole flurry of chances but Middlesbrough hung in there, picked up a dramatic and controversial equaliser, and then hung on for penalties where they triumphed.

Here’s how the players rated at Old Trafford:

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Manchester United

Dean Henderson – 7 – Had nothing to do for an hour but when Boro started creating chances, Henderson proved himself equal to them. Unlucky to concede after that ridiculous handball decision. Big save from Connolly in extra time, but flopped the shoot-out.

Diogo Dalot – 6 – Pushed the tempo reasonably well but his final ball was horrid. Brilliant penalty.

Raphael Varane – 7 – Cool, calm and in control.

Harry Maguire – 7 – Really powerful performance. Excellent penalty.

Luke Shaw – 6 – Some good forward raids but his crossing was woeful.

Scott McTominay – 5 – He is so utterly limited on the ball it clearly stunts United’s flow. That’s all there is to say, really. He’s useful against teams who push up and press, but teams that sit in confound him. Smashed his penalty under Lumley.

Paul Pogba – 7 – Looked brilliant for an hour. Loads of great touches and his increased quality on the ball especially when compared to the alternatives made a massive difference to United’s quality of play. Notably started flagging in the second-half, though.

Bruno Fernandes – 7 – Simply sensational. Ran the show. An incredible dynamo of movement and passes that caused havoc for Boro. Picked up a sublime assist for Sancho. Sagged off a bit second-half but still looked United’s best hope. Inexplicably smacked the ball off the post after Boro left him with an open goal. Scored his penalty with a nerveless hop.

Marcus Rashford – 7 – Looked really sharp on the right, where he cut down on the over-dribbling and focused more on making killer runs off the ball. If United can start finding him regularly, good things could happen.

Jadon Sancho – 8 – Struck the bar with an early chip. Looked a menace whenever he had the ball, driving and causing problems for Boro. Opened the scoring with a great run and neat (if deflected) finish. Had some trouble with cramps and had to come off during extra-time

Cristiano Ronaldo – 4 – An audacious overhead kick was saved early. His movement was phenomenally intelligent but his execution was awful, mostly because he very clearly does not have the legs to play at the tempo Rangnick wants. Could be a devastating sub but physically may be too far gone for this intense a style of play, and this was against lower league opposition with two weeks rest!

Missed a penalty in normal time, which would have given United a very early lead. Buried his shot in the shoot-out to make up for it, at least. Still, though, for all he offers United off the pitch and in the locker room, Cristiano Ronaldo cannot play Rangnick-ball.

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Manchester United Substitutes:

Anthony Elanga (for Rashford 82′) – 5 – Nowhere near Rashford’s level. Missed a sitter in stoppage time.

Fred (for Pogba 82′) – 6 – Looked bright. Took up excellent positions. Slotted his penalty beautifully in the bottom corner.

Phil Jones (for Varane 90′) – 5 – Gave away a free-kick.

Juan Mata (for Sancho 100′) – 6 – Linked play superbly. Buried his penalty.

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Joe Lumley – 7 – Shaky all night. Dropped the ball on the edge of his area just minutes into the game. Let a(n offside) Rashford shot go through him. Consistently played his team into trouble with his passing. Looked like he would drop a clanger every time the ball went near him but United just didn’t… get the ball in his vicinity enough. At least not with any real velocity.

Anfernee Dijksteel – 5 – Had no ability to handle the movement around him. Conceded the penalty with a clumsy challenge. Lucky for him United’s execution on the ball was scandalously bad.

Dael Fry – 8 – Made a game-high 13 clearances. Got the ball away repeatedly. Sent Henderson the wrong way with an excellent penalty.

Paddy McNair – 8 – Poor positioning played Sancho onside for the goal. Picked up as the game wore on, however, and converted his penalty with the utmost assurance.

Isaiah Jones – 7 – Really great battle with Sancho. A constant threat going forward. Delivered good crosses into the box.

Matt Crooks – 7 – A hustling, bustling display. Bagged an incredible equaliser when he appeared to tuck home a Watmore shot. Absolutely incredible that VAR didn’t rule it out for Watmore’s obvious handball, but an incredible moment for Crooks.

Jonathan Howson – 7 – Intense, battling display in the middle of the park. By contrast was cool and composed in the shoot-out.

Marcus Tavernier – 7 – Worked hard. Belted his penalty into the top corner!

Neil Taylor – 7 – Defended smartly, recalling the days when he won four in a row against United.

Andra Sporar – 5 – Battled well against the United defenders but didn’t have the quality to hurt them.

Folarin Balogun – 5 – A joyless display for on Boro debut as he was starved of service. Hilariously and cruelly, his replacement created the equaliser for Boro.


Duncan Watmore (for Balogun 62′) – 7 – Had a sensational impact when he handballed a Jones cross and then his chipped it over the onrushing Henderson; the shot was heading wide but was tucked home by Crooks for a dramatic equaliser. Great penalty.

Martin Payero (for Crooks 79′) – 5 – Couldn’t get into the game. Awful penalty but Henderson fumbled it in.

Aaron Connolly (for Sporar 90′) – 6 – Almost scored a dramatic winner in extra time but didn’t hit it with any authority.

Lee Peltier (for Taylor 90′) – 6 – Solid. Buried his penalty into the roof of the net.

Sol Bamba (for Jones 119′) – n/a – Came on late. Buried his penalty with the coolest run-up you’re likely to see.