|photo by Flowery *L*u*z*a*||via PhotoRee|
Manchester United's season veered from bad to worse on Wednesday night as the Red Devils crashed out of the Capital One Cup semi-finals to 19th ranked Sunderland, losing 2-1 on penalties at Old Trafford. United manager David Moyes suffered yet another indignity in a season full of them, overseeing a side that was dominated during the second half and was only a minute away from exiting the competition at home without taking the game to penalties, a fate it later appeared some of the United players may have preferred. Saved only by an increasingly infrequent Fergie-time goal by Javier Hernandez, United were unable to convert from the spot, spurning four of their five opportunities, and sending a midfielder and two defenders among others forward for their roll of the penalty dice.
A bad, late error by David De Gea, an easy shot rolling calamitously off the goalkeeper's hands and into the home side's net, neatly encapsulated the team's fate this season. A mental lapse, a lack of confidence and an inability to bounce back sealed the Red Devils' fate on an evening that will remain a black mark on Moyes' CV whether or not he is able to turn around his United career. In one of the uglier performances in a season already full of none-too-pretty game -- particularly at home -- Wednesday night's performance may have taken the cake, and only served to pit loyal United supporters even further against each other. And so the question after the latest setback remains: patience or flight, and what cost does each entail....?
As Moyes looks increasingly overwhelmed, United's Board must decide how best to move forward. Taking a quick glance at the manager's obviously agitated body language, however, it is becoming clear to this observer that he may be aggravating the problem currently rather than alleviating it. Moyes clearly needs help; the question is, will he receive it?
Herewith, some individual ratings on a night that many of the players will want to forget as quickly as possible:
De Gea: Little to do before the break and less to do afterward. A schoolboy mistake, though, by the 'keeper to send the contest to penalties. 4.0
Rafael: A threat darting forward and blazed just over the bar to start the second half. 5.0
Smalling: An all over menace and massive in the air and on the ground. 7.5
Evans: An unlikely hero with the first goal. Kept his team afloat on defense, too. 7.0
Büttner: Little to recommend, to be honest, other than a late block of an Adam Johnson shot. 5.0
Januzaj: Silky smoothness on and off the ball, although much too willing to pull the trigger from distance in the second half. Needs to bulk up in the off-season, too. 6.5
Carrick: Metronomic in the middle and forced to help out on defense, as well. 5.5
Fletcher (c): Quiet performance but began to be steadily overwhelmed in the second half, and suffered too many late game turnovers. 5.0
Kagawa: Telepathic first half communication with Chicharito, but faded badly in the second half. 4.5
Welbeck: His shot turned into a nice flick on, but otherwise another quiet evening. 4.5
Hernandez: Denied by Vito Mannone within the first six minutes, but never quite got in the rhythm of the game. Still able to pull a rabbit out of his hat when he needed to, though. 6.0
Valencia (Kagawa), 62: If possible, the team played even worse after he came on the pitch. Fresh legs but at what cost? 4.0
Evra (Büttner), 85: N/A
Jones (Carrick), ET: N/A
United: X1XXX (Welbeck, Fletcher, Januzaj, Jones, Rafael)
This is farlieonfootie for January 23.