Soccer-Relief for Ten Hag but United's fragility exposed yet again


Soccer Football - FA Cup - Semi Final - Coventry City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - April 21, 2024 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag reacts Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United's fragility was laid bare as they contrived to almost lose an FA Cup semi-final they had complete control of against second-tier Coventry City on Sunday.

They managed to scramble into the final against Manchester City on penalties but having led 3-0 with 71 minutes on the clock, it almost felt like a hollow victory.

Coventry, like so many sides this season, exposed United's soft centre and were centimetres away from pulling off one of the comebacks of all time -- Victor Torp's winner ruled out for offside in the last minute of extra time.

As United buckled late on, Coventry's fans bellowed the time-honoured chant of "you're getting sacked in the morning" as Ten Hag looked stunned on the touchline.

The Dutchman could breathe a huge sigh of relief when Rasmus Hojlund rolled home the winning spot kick in front of United's fans -- but the questions about his future will multiply.

"It was an incredible game, a strange game too. We had total control for so long and then gave it away in the last part of the game. We did show resilience to win the penalty shootout," Ten Hag said. "We had control for 75 minutes and have to give Coventry a compliment for what they did in the last 15 minutes.

"We have to improve. We talk a lot about this. First you have to put yourself in a winning position but then you have to take it over the line. In these moments we are making mistakes and not keeping our responsibilities."

United will have to improve drastically if they are to have any chance of avoiding a repeat of last year's final defeat by City, although after an incredible quarter-final win against Liverpool and now this narrow escape against Coventry they may start to believe their name is on the Cup.

"It's mixed feelings. We can be happy with the achievement, getting to the final, that's huge," Ten Hag, who has taken United to two FA Cup finals and a League Cup final, which they won, in his two seasons at the helm, said.

"I want to win it. I'm sure we have a good chance to win this final, although we play the best team in the world. We do have a chance though. We showed that this season."

Former Manchester United skipper Roy Keane said United reaching the final in such chaotic circumstances had done little to take the heat off Ten Hag.

"They'll be celebrating getting to a cup final tonight but all this does is put more pressure on the manager," he said.

"Coventry looked like a Premier League team and Manchester United looked like a Championship side."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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