Manchester United’s wait for their first trophy since Jose Mourinho’s second season goes on after their Carabao Cup semi-final defeat to neighbours Manchester City on Wednesday evening.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now progressed to four consecutive semi-finals as United manager, losing on each occasion.
The first was also a defeat to Manchester City in the League Cup, when they went out 3-2 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium. They were then beaten convincingly by Chelsea in the FA Cup last four at Wembley before eventual champions Sevilla sent Solskjaer’s men crashing out in August’s Europa League semi in Germany.
City, who advance to face Mourinho’s Tottenham in the Wembley showpiece, were 2-0 winners at Old Trafford as Solskjaer was left to pick the bones out of another disappointing cup defeat.
“It’s not psychological,” he said. “It’s just sometimes you meet good teams in the semis and we just didn’t have enough. We met, at the moment, probably the best team in England and we just didn’t have enough today.”
‘Top players turn up on big occasions’
But the pressure is building on Solskjaer and his key players to start delivering on the big stage.
“It’s not easy, it’s not easy winning football trophies,” said Roy Keane during Sky Sports’ coverage.
“[Bruno] Fernandes has had great praise and over the past month people have been comparing him to people like Eric Cantona etcetera.
“But Cantona [won trophies]. Fernandes didn’t really do much tonight. The top players turn up on the big occasions, and that’s what the Cantonas used to do to get their hands on trophies. And that’s where this team is a little bit short.
“They’ll probably need one or two more players to come into the squad, no doubt, and the mentality they need – maybe the confidence of winning this semi-final to get them over the line and then you get momentum.”
Manchester United last tasted silverware when Mourinho steered the club to League Cup and Europa League glory in the 2016/17 campaign, but Solskjaer believes it won’t be long before the current crop add to Old Trafford’s crammed trophy cabinet.
Solskjaer added: “We’re getting closer. This is a much better version of Man United than a year ago, in those semis. So that’s positive but it’s not enough.”
Europa League is Ole’s best bet
So when will United end this run of near-misses? Three opportunities lie ahead this term.
In the Premier League, United sit second on goal difference with a game in hand over leaders Liverpool. However, with more than half the season remaining they are still considered third-favourites for the crown with both City and Liverpool shorter odds to top the pile in May.
Solskjaer’s men are 8/1 to win the FA Cup, with the third round commencing this weekend when United host Watford, but perhaps their best hope is in Europe.
After a miserable Champions League group campaign, the Red Devils have again been plunged into the Europa League round of 32. They will face Real Sociedad in the next round but it is that man again, Mourinho, who is favourite to win the trophy. He is 5/1 to lead Tottenham to Europa glory, with United 13/2 and both Arsenal and AC Milan your next best bet at 9/1.
Manchester United to win a trophy in 2020/21 (via Sky Bet):
Premier League 6/1
Europa League 13/2
FA Cup 8/1