Manchester United 1-1 Middlesbrough (aet, 7-8 pens): Boro benefit from controversy before dumping ou

Manchester United 1-1 Middlesbrough (aet, 7-8 pens): Boro benefit from controversy before dumping ou

Manchester United exited the FA Cup on penalties after a contentious 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough in the fourth round at Old Trafford.

Anthony Elanga blazed over to send Boro through 8-7 following United’s seventh spot-kick defeat in eight contests, although they would no doubt argue the tie should not have advanced to that stage.

Ralf Rangnick might point to generous officiating from Anthony Taylor that did not punish Duncan Watmore’s handball in the build-up to Matt Crooks’ second-half equaliser for Boro.

But United’s inability to add to a lead secured by Jadon Sancho was equally damaging, their 30 shots worth a combined 4.32 expected goals – an early Cristiano Ronaldo penalty among the misses as the Red Devils crashed out.

By the time Sancho made the most of Boro’s latest piece of haphazard defending to break the deadlock with a deflected shot across Joe Lumley, United could have been two or three up.

Sancho clipped a delicate attempt onto the crossbar after Lumley spilled a long ball, then Anfernee Dijksteel clumsily brought down Paul Pogba in the box, only for Ronaldo to drag his spot-kick wide. Bruno Fernandes volleyed wildly over when played onside, too.

Chances continued to come and go after the 25th-minute opener, with Marcus Rashford letting Boro off the hook again early in the second half.

And that profligacy came back to bite United in bizarre circumstances when Watmore blatantly controlled Isaiah Jones’ cross with his hand but directed a lob across the face of goal, allowing Crooks to steal in and net a leveller that the VAR did not overturn.

Fernandes pulled a straightforward finish against the foot of the post soon afterwards, failing to prevent an extra time period in which Dean Henderson was required to make a close-range stop from Aaron Connolly to reach the shoot-out.

Each of the first 15 kicks were scored, before Elanga finally failed, stunning the home support.

What does it mean? United left short despite dominance

Ronaldo, Fernandes and Rashford will all wonder how they did not get their names on the scoresheet, but United then tired in the closing stages and could even have lost in extra time.

With Pogba and Sancho hobbling before they were replaced and Fernandes battling on, Rangnick found only limited options on his bench. With Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek out on loan and others missing for various reasons, Elanga, Fred, Phil Jones and Juan Mata represented underwhelming reinforcements.

Sancho the bright spark before knock

United fans are still waiting for Sancho to really find his feet back in England and this performance will likely be forgotten due to the result, but the winger was much improved.

Sancho scored, hit the crossbar and created two chances, albeit he benefited from Luke Shaw’s attacking play at left-back, playing five key passes himself.

Boro benefit from contentious call

There were no shortage of fall guys, with Ronaldo and Fernandes particularly guilty of wayward finishing while Jones and Dijksteel endured a torrid time up against Shaw and Sancho.

But the officials unfortunately stole the show in allowing Boro’s equaliser to stand. The VAR may have been reluctant to interfere following an accidental handball by Watmore, who did not score the goal, but Taylor surely should have identified a clear infringement in the first place.

What’s next?

United’s focus turns back to the Premier League and Tuesday’s trip to Burnley. Middlesbrough’s promotion push continues the following day at QPR.

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