THE MANCHESTER UNITED fans turned up.
Yes, they always do.
They even turned up in Cologne last season for the closing stages of the Europa League, just so they could be in the same city as their team even when there was no hope of getting in the stadium.
They still went there to cheer the team bus in and then returned to the town centre to watch the game on TV.
One fan even flew back after the quarter-final for work and returned for the semi.
The bloke who has not missed a United game in 47 years, he’ll have turned up.
Even with the Covid restrictions in this country he has driven to Old Trafford and all away grounds, sat outside in a car park and watched the match on his phone.
Yes, even twice in five days from Manchester to Brighton and back at the start of last season.
So, he will most have definitely turned up.
As did everyone who scrambled to get one of the 2,000 tickets available to watch perhaps the club’s most woeful ever performance in a major final.
The price of them turning up?
Having had a Covid test before leaving and before returning and now self-isolation for at least five days and having to stick swabs down their throats another three times.
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At a conservative estimate all that alone comes to around £300.
Knowing that, they still turned up.
So when manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says after another disappointment in a major cup competition that his team just ‘didn’t turn up’ it is not going to wash.
Some with red spectacles on will look back and claim a season of progression.
From third to second and from four Cup semi-final defeats to a final.
And they will be right, this is not a call for Solskjaer to go and I have backed him all the way.
But having said that, nights like Wednesday cannot be dismissed with a shrug, because there is real anger at that performance.
Words are not enough this time.
With a few exceptions there was a lethargy in that showing that was simply unacceptable.
Two shots on target in 120 minutes against a side that finished seventh in La Liga.
They only had one, but they knew they weren’t as good on paper, but could find a way of getting through on the pitch and they did.
United were not up against Bayern Munich. Villarreal had a team with rejects from North London and one from Merseyside.
But once again faced with a well organised team that sits deep, United cannot find the answer.
For Villarreal think Sevilla in the semi last season.
Both teams looked more determined and had more belief in their plan and destiny.
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Neither allowed the enormity of the situation overwhelm them.
Much like RB Leipzig in their final Champions League group game. Having lost 5-0 at Old Trafford they managed to beat United 3-2 at home to go through at their expense.
While there is no disgrace losing to Manchester City in successive League Cup semi-finals the woeful exits to Chelsea in the last four of the FA Cup last season, when David de Gea chucked another one in, and Leicester in the quarter-finals this season were unforgiveable.
Too often United allow big games to drift away from them without anyone grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.
For all the understandable lauding of Bruno Fernandes he can go into a sulk when the ball is not finding him.
The likes of Mason Greenwood was praised by some, but he needs to score and score more.
If Marcus Rashford wasn’t fit don’t play him, put Paul Pogba on the left and Nemanja Matic alongside Scott McTominay.
As for the goalkeeper.
Well you can understand him going with De Gea given Dean Henderson’s performance against Liverpool.
But the Spaniard looked like someone who didn’t want to be there, he was at fault for the goal.
As for the penalty shoot-out – I’ve seen blokes coming out my local crumble to the ground with more grace than he did as he kept falling the wrong way in that shoot-out.
It was therefore no surprise when his tame kick brought the whole sorry episode to an end.
That was the signal for all the usual ‘ we must work harder’, ‘we’ll come back stronger’, ‘this disappointment will drive us on’.
The players will now head off to the Euros and get this out their head before finding a beach for a month ahead of the new season.
They will return to Carrington and talk about a summer of soul searching after the guff in Gdansk.
United fans are growing tired of this.
As the clock ticked towards midnight on Wednesday and the faithful trudged back into central Gdansk, the drinks that were meant to toast victory were now to drown sorrows.
Perhaps the team could have ‘turned up’ to witness that.
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