Huddersfield 1-1 Man Utd: Isaac Mbenza ends Red Devils’ top-four dream

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They would not have tolerated this from Jose Mourinho or Louis van Gaal. They certainly would not have taken it from a David Moyes Manchester United. So what makes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so very different? If the current United manager does not start next season well then he may find that he is not so revered after all.

This was pauper’s football from Solskjaer’s United team. Devoid of imagination, tempo, rhythm and ideas. Solksjaer’s United – the one that started so vividly under him back in winter – has been steadily regressing for weeks and here was the inevitable conclusion, a failure to beat one of the worst teams ever to play Premier League football and failure to qualify for the Champions League at a time when each of their competitors from Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea have seemingly been doing their very best to help them out.

United have taken eight points from their last eight Premier League games. A point a game over the course of a season would get you 38. In old money they would call that relegation form and the only excuse open to Solskjaer is that these are not his players, this is not his team. 

Huddersfield Town halted their eight-game losing run in the Premier League as they held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw

Huddersfield Town halted their eight-game losing run in the Premier League as they held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw

United took the lead on eight minutes when midfielder Scott McTominay (right) scored his second senior goal for the club

United took the lead on eight minutes when midfielder Scott McTominay (right) scored his second senior goal for the club

But Isaac Mbenza hit back for Huddersfield to equalise against United, who can no longer finish in the top four this season

But Isaac Mbenza hit back for Huddersfield to equalise against United, who can no longer finish in the top four this season

MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LIVE TABLE

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-2-3-1) Lossl 7; Durm 5.5 (Smith 45mins 6) Schindler 6.5, Kongolo 6.5, Lowe 6; Bacuna 6.5, Hogg 6; Mbenza 7.5 (Diakhaby 90mins 6), Mooy 6.5, Pritchard 6; Grant 6

Subs not used: Coleman, Kachunga, Mounie, Stankovic, Daly

Goal: Mbenza 60

Booked: Lossl

MANCHESTER UNITED: (4-2-3-1) De Gea 6.5; Young 6, Jones 5, Lindelof 6 (Dalot 82mins 6), Shaw 5.5; Matic 5 (Herrera 52mins 6) McTominay 6; Mata 6.5, Pogba 6, Sanchez 5 (Chong 52mins 5.5); Rashford 5.5

Subs not used: Grant, Smalling, Pereira, Fred

Goal: McTominay 8

Booked: Jones 

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire) 7

Man of the match: Isaac Mbenza 



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No 39 Scott McTominay won a free-kick in his own half and scored past Jonas Lossl, who should've done better, moments later

No 39 Scott McTominay won a free-kick in his own half and scored past Jonas Lossl, who should’ve done better, moments later 

Huddersfield hit back after Lossl caught a cross and kicked a long ball forward which was missed by No 23 Luke Shaw on its way through to No 18 Isaac Mbenza, who scored

Huddersfield hit back after Lossl caught a cross and kicked a long ball forward which was missed by No 23 Luke Shaw on its way through to No 18 Isaac Mbenza, who scored

For more stats and maps check out Sportsmail’s brilliant Match Zone.

But just as the Norwegian was given the credit for the revival that followed his arrival, so he must take responsibility for what has followed. He didn’t buy these players but he does coach them and in recent weeks one wonders what they have been doing daily at Carrington.

To put this juddering result in to context, Huddersfield have been relegated since the end of March. Before this game the Yorkshire club had lost all but two of their previous 24 games, a run going back to the end of November. The only teams not to beat them during that spell were Wolves (who lost 1-0) and Cardiff (who drew 0-0).

So to fail here at the John Smiths Stadium takes some doing. It’s even harder when you are gifted the lead early in the game.

That is what happened here when Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl allowed a low shot from Scott McTominay to pass straight through him in the eighth minute. For a good while after that, Huddersfield looked very much what they are, a really poor football team.

United were hardly full of tricks themselves but they were comfortable and such was the deficit of confidence and belief amongst those in pale blue and white that it looked and felt as though more goals would come.

However, this is a United side that can lose its way very quickly indeed. They are emotionally fragile and that makes them very vulnerable indeed to some of the unexpected things that can happen in any given game on any given day.

Having started the day playing in gloves, United pair Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez discovered after about 20 minutes what the rest of us knew from the start, namely that it really wasn’t very cold. So by 25 minutes, the gloves had come off and before long United’s wheels followed.

Huddersfield improved markedly in the latter stages of the first half and when Lossl delivered a long and skilful kick down field early in the second period, Luke Shaw fly-kicked at thin air as he tried to clear it and Isaac Mbenza ran clear to score. The goal came straight from a United corner and that probably tells us everything about it. 

Chilean international Alexis Sanchez made his first start in 12 matches for United on Sunday afternoon in Yorkshire

Chilean international Alexis Sanchez made his first start in 12 matches for United on Sunday afternoon in Yorkshire

Sanchez battled with Huddersfield defender Christopher Schindler (right) early on in Sunday's match at John Smith's Stadium

Sanchez battled with Huddersfield defender Christopher Schindler (right) early on in Sunday’s match at John Smith’s Stadium

United were ahead on eight minutes when Scotland midfielder McTominay scored his second Premier League goal for United

United were ahead on eight minutes when Scotland midfielder McTominay scored his second Premier League goal for United

McTominay fired home from just inside the Huddersfield penalty area to give United the lead over the league's bottom side

McTominay fired home from just inside the Huddersfield penalty area to give United the lead over the league’s bottom side

United did create some late chances and Pogba hit the bar. But Huddersfield were also very much in the market for another goal too and just as this afternoon could have ended a little better for Solskjaer and his players so it could easily have got a whole lot worse.

Earlier, Solskjaer’s refusal to drop goalkeeper David de Gea could have been interpreted as loyalty or stubbornness. Whichever way you lean on the argument, it hardly mattered for the first half hour at least. So poor were Huddersfield that De Gea was a spectator for long periods of the first half.

Huddersfield were relegated a good while ago and this was their last home game of a two-year residency in the top division . There was no sense of freedom in their play, though. Instead they looked like a team that couldn’t wait for the season to end.

The home team did improve towards the end of the opening period and De Gea made a good save with his feet to dent Karlan Grant in the 40th minute. But a better team than United would have been out of sight by then.

With Solskjaer trying yet another combination of attacking players in a bid to try and being about improvement in his own labouring team, this was a line-up with Sanchez in it. Both he and Pogba were prominent as United made the early running, as was the Spaniard Juan Mata. But none of that was to last and Sanchez was hauled off in the second half. Surely the Chilean has played his last United game.

The game was slow early on and that allowed United to build play carefully, something that suited them, and when the first goal came it was a soft one.

United’s build up down the left side was attractive and progressive. But Huddersfield goalkeeper Lossl should have done better with McTominay’s shot. Lossl was probably a little bit unsighted as the ball came at him through bodies from the edge of the penalty area. 

Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl watched on as the ball hit the net, after he made a mess of trying to stop McTominay's shot

Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl watched on as the ball hit the net, after he made a mess of trying to stop McTominay’s shot

McTominay was congratulated by United team-mate Luke Shaw as the team-mates tapped hands before the game restarted

McTominay was congratulated by United team-mate Luke Shaw as the team-mates tapped hands before the game restarted

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrated McTominay's first-half opener by punching the air with a clenched fist

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrated McTominay’s first-half opener by punching the air with a clenched fist

Still, the ball came straight at him and the Huddersfield goalkeeper would have been horrified to feel it bounce off his left knee and in to the goal.

For a while, everything was too easy even for this United team and , knowing that goal difference may yet be important to them, there was a little urgency to their play. Victor Lindelof headed wide from a corner and then Mata curled a decent effort wide of the far post with his left foot.

Later on there was a also a very good save from Lossl, who touched a Pogba header away when it seemed destined for the top corner.

But slowly Huddersfield had started to find a way in to their game. The home team looked a little more ambitious and a little more confident and they could easily have scored towards the end of the first half.

It had actually taken Huddersfield 25 minutes to register their first real shot, an effort from Juninho Bacuna passing wide of the post.

However United seemed intent of helping their opponents and nobody quite typified this like Phil Jones. Twice in three minutes the United defender gave the ball away. First Alex Pritchard stole in to feed Mbenza, who poked a shot over on the run, and then Bacuna profited from a sloppy Jones clearance to play Grant clear. The Huddersfield forward should have levelled the scores but even so the save from De Gea was a good one, stretching his right leg out to save with his foot.

A goal would have lifted the stadium. As it was Huddersfield at least carried some of this momentum in to the start of the second period and looked a far better team than they had early on.

French midfielder Paul Pogba showed off his impressive athleticism as the United star attempted to control a high ball

French midfielder Paul Pogba showed off his impressive athleticism as the United star attempted to control a high ball

Huddersfield were level on the hour when Mbenza latched onto a long ball and punished a mistake from No 23 Shaw

Huddersfield were level on the hour when Mbenza latched onto a long ball and punished a mistake from No 23 Shaw

Mbenza slotted a low shot through the legs of United No 1 David de Gea after collecting a long kick from his own goalkeeper

Mbenza slotted a low shot through the legs of United No 1 David de Gea after collecting a long kick from his own goalkeeper

A decent break down the right from Bacuna in the 52nd minute found Grant in space at the angle of the area. He aimed for the far top corner and wasn’t far off and this moment was immediately followed by a double United substitution. Ander Herrera replaced Nemanja Matic while young Tahith Chong came on for Sanchez who seemed to be suggesting he was injured.

Briefly United flickered back in to life and Pogba shot wide from 18 yards. But the next significant action was at the other end as Huddersfield struck in venomous fashion to equalise.

Goalkeeper Lossl hadn’t seemed too badly affected by his early error and came to claim a United corner on the hour. His volleyed, swerving clearance then set Mbenza in to a foot race with Luke Shaw. When Shaw tried and failed to intercept, Mbenza was able to run clear and slide the ball under De Gea in to the net.

It was a pretty miserable effort from Shaw. His attempt to stop the pass was hardly athletic. Nevertheless, It was perhaps the longest assist of the Premier League season by Lossl – maybe about 85 yards – and it was skilfully done. Huddersfield were back in the game and at this stage – with Chelsea winning – United were destined to finish outside the Champions League places.

There followed a few minutes when Huddersfield attempted to play the ball in and around United. That’s what confidence can do. The direct route always looked their best bet of breaking through again, however.

United, for their part, looked lost but did recover to create two chances with a little less than 20 minutes to go. First Jones added to a catalogue of personal errors that continues to grow weekly by side footing Ashley Young’s free-kick over the bar from seven yards. Then, Marcus Rashford played a smart one-two with Mata only to blow the finish badly wide as he struck the ball on the run with his right instep.

Late on, there was more to come. Chong, looking suspiciously offside, drew a low save from Lossl before Pogba crashed a shot against the underside of the bar. But still Huddersfield threatened to utterly embarrass their opponents, Mbenza breaking away down the left to draw a save from De Gea’s right foot.

Eight minutes of added time – much of it due to the time it took to replace a corner flag damaged by Mbenza’s celebration – were signalled and we waited for the late United charge. It didn’t come, of course. Just like their season, very little happened.

John Smith's Stadium erupted into celebration after Mbenza scored his first goal for the club to make it 1-1 on 60 minutes

John Smith’s Stadium erupted into celebration after Mbenza scored his first goal for the club to make it 1-1 on 60 minutes

No 6 Pogba looked concerned as he stood with his hands on his hips after seeing United pegged back on Sunday afternoon

No 6 Pogba looked concerned as he stood with his hands on his hips after seeing United pegged back on Sunday afternoon

Solskjaer and his assistant Mike Phelan (left) looked dejected after Huddersfield's equaliser at John Smith's Stadium

Solskjaer and his assistant Mike Phelan (left) looked dejected after Huddersfield’s equaliser at John Smith’s Stadium



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