Juan Mata lone bright spot for Man United as their top-four hopes ended at Huddersfield
HUDDERSFIELD, England -- Manchester United's hopes of a top-four finish are over after a tame 1-1 draw at already relegated Huddersfield.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side extended their winless run to five games after Isaac Mbenza's second half equaliser cancelled out Scott McTominay's early opener. The result, coupled with Chelsea's victory over Watford at Stamford Bridge, condemned United to place in the Europa League for the third time in six years since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.
Prior to kick-off, Huddersfield had lost 22 of their last 24 games in all competitions but they managed to sign off in the Premier League at the John Smith's Stadium with a well-deserved point. It had looked like McTominay's second goal of the season after eight minutes would keep United's slim hopes of Champions League football alive until the final day of the season until Mbenza grabbed an equaliser on 60 minutes just 13 seconds after a United corner at the other end.
The goal also stretched United's wait for a clean sheet to 14 games -- their worst run since a 16-game streak in 1970.
Juan Mata's future is still up in the air, but he made his case for a new contract on Sunday. The Spaniard found little bits of space between Huddersfield's defence and midfield to work his way into the middle of everything positive United did going forward in the first half. Solskjaer might not see him as a regular starter but his vision and passing offers something different, particularly against teams happy to keep men behind the ball.
Alexis Sanchez was given a rare chance to impress but it was another missed opportunity. Gary Neville said before kick off the Chilean has "nothing left" and it was hard to argue after watching the 30-year-old struggle for 55 minutes against a team long since relegated. There was nothing from Sanchez's display against Huddersfield that hinted at the player he was at Barcelona or Arsenal. It was a blessing for Solskjaer that an ankle injury ended his afternoon early in the second half.
Manager Rating out of 10
-- 6The United manager made three changes, brining in McTominay, Phil Jones and Alexis Sanchez for Ander Herrera, Eric Bailly and Romelu Lukaku. The game followed a familiar recent pattern as United started well before tiring in the second half and failing to create anything meaningful. Solskjaer needs the season to end and start again over the summer.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 7 -- Made a good save with his feet when Karlan Grant was sent clean through and another from Grant in the final few minutes.
DF Ashley Young, 6 -- His delivery from set-pieces was dangerous but struggled to get forward during open play.
DF Phil Jones, 5 -- In the team with Chris Smalling only fit enough for a place on the bench. Did well in the air but made too many mistakes on the ball that gifted Huddersfield chances.
DF Victor Lindelof, 6 -- Back on the ground where he had a nightmare last season. Did well to outmuscle Mbenza at the near post in the first half. Went off injured.
MF Nemanja Matic, 6 -- Broke up play in midfield and tried to pass the ball forward whenever he could. Replaced with Ander Herrera early in the second half.
MF Scott McTominay, 7 -- Starting for the first time since Barcelona, he was clattered in midfield then seconds later smacked in a left foot shot that squirmed under Lossl.
MF Paul Pogba, 6 -- Hit the crossbar twice, first with a header and again in the closing stages with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
FW Juan Mata, 7 -- Kept his place after scoring against Chelsea. One of the only United players to emerge with any credit after a positive first half.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 5 -- Handed his first start since March 2 and turned in another performance that makes you wonder what has gone wrong. Afternoon was ended by an ankle injury.
FW Marcus Rashford, 6 -- Had a golden chance to put United back in front but stabbed his shot wide from Mata's cross. Made a lot of runs, but nothing came off.
MF Ander Herrera, 6 (for Nemanja Matic, 54) -- Battled in midfield.
FW Tahith Chong, 6 (for Alexis Sanchez, 54) -- Added pace and energy.
DF Diogo Dalot, 6 (for Victor Lindelof, 83) -- No time to make an impression.