Former Manchester United players Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes were critical of the Red Devils’ performance in the 1-1 draw away to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.
United were second best for most of the Champions League tie and failed to create many chances against a well-organised Atletico side. However, they did manage to find a route through with 10 minutes remaining, as Bruno Fernandes set up substitute Anthony Elanga to smash the ball past Jan Oblak.
It ensures United will head into the last-16 second leg at Old Trafford next month on an equal footing with the Spanish champions, despite a 90-minute performance where again Ralf Rangnick’s men lacked incision and drive.
It’s for that reason Ferdinand feels the team will be more than happy to come back from Madrid with a draw.
“Man United would have taken that result before the game, but I thought they were lucky tonight,” he said during BT Sport’s post-match coverage. “They were poor; in the first half they were really poor, in the second half, a touch better.
“But we’ve said it before, can you weather the storm? Can you stay in the game? For as bad as they played, David De Gea didn’t have much to do today in terms of chances saved, there weren’t many.
“But you’re looking for a better performance, more intensity in the players and cohesiveness and togetherness that what was there from the players today.
“But the goal, Elanga pops up with a goal. Bruno, an assist in every Champions League game this season, as bad as he played up to that point. There’s a lot of stuff you would moan about, but it’s 1-1, they’ve got a result.”
Par for the course for the Red Devils
Ferdinand’s assessment of the game looked quite upbeat compared to Scholes’s downbeat view of United’s performance.
The former midfielder said this sort of showing has become the norm for United in recent months, although he did praise Rangnick’s substitutions against Atletico.
“When you say ‘strange performance’, I don’t think it is a strange performance, it’s a typical performance of Manchester United these days, since November when this manager came in,” said Scholes.
“It’s been very much the same, they’ve been very lucky to get through games and win games. You have to say his record is good, and his substitutes were. On Sunday [against Leeds United] he made a big call bringing Fred on and he scores the winner.
“Tonight he made a big call, we all thought ‘these subs look a little strange’. Then Elanga comes on and scores the goal. It’s not strange for me, it’s just a typical Man United performance tonight.”
“I thought Elanga just gave them a bit of urgency and intensity,” fellow ex-England international Owen Hargreaves added. “There was no-one really running in behind.
“He’s still only 19 and he plays with an urgency you need. Young kids often are feelers and he galvanised United.
“The last 10 minutes they looked a lot better and they will be delighted with that result. They weren’t great, United, but you take that result all day when you don’t play well.”