That was a horrible performance. After a dream of a start where we scored and had several good chances, Ajax pegged us back before half time and nicked a late winner in the match and piled on the pressure to see if they could nick a late winner for the two legged tie.
Bottom line, we are through to the last 16 of the Europa League where we face Athletic Bilbao*. But we could have put the game to bed in the first thirty minutes and saved the legs for Sunday's tricky match at Carrow Road.
Javier Hernandez scored the opener by twisting and turning the last man inside out before slotting home easily. Good ball by Dimitar Berbatov to find him, whose build up play in and around the 18 yard box was a pleasure to watch. But.....
He was so reluctant to shoot. So was Chicarito at times and Welbeck when he came on in the second half. I mentioned this in the game thread, but recently we have been playing like Arsenal teams. Trying to find the perfect pass instead of shooting from perfectly decent positions. It is so infuriating and we waste many goals because of this. The trio of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez from 2007-08 would have lapped chances like that up. When they get in those positions, they shift the ball once and get a shot in. Any wonder why Ronaldo is one of the two players to have almost a 1 in 1 goal ratio to games ever since he moved to Real Madrid? He is selfish. We need a little more selfishness in our team.
Back to tonight
We weren't playing great, but we were doing enough. Ajax leveled though just before half time. A goal that reeked of handball. Aras Ozbiliz was the offending man, but it didn't worry him as he powered his shot home into the bottom corner. De Gea had no chance.
Second half and we were even poorer. A particular period around the hour mark and Ajax were dominating without scoring. De Gea clawed out a brilliant save under his own bar. His confidence in goal reassuring, considering his earlier troubles this season. Paul Scholes and Jonny Evans came on for Tom Cleverley and a poor Ashley Young. Phil Jones moved from CB (Where he played well) to CM where he offered more protection to the midfield. Ji Sung Park moved from his CM position to LM.
But the subs didn't make much of a difference. For the first time since he returned, Paul Scholes couldn't take a hold of the game and Ajax continued to pour forward, yet still couldn't break though. Nani surged forward on the counter but his effort crashed off of the bar.
With five minutes left Ajax had a free kick about 40 yards out in a central position. Standard. Should be easily defended. Nope. Three men came surging toward the ball that was aimed for the back stick and the only man within a 100 miles of it was Jonny Evans. Shocking marking. Even Arsenal would be angry about that. No reason for it what so ever. De Gea got a hand to it but it was from point blank range and Toby Alderweireld headed home.
We managed to cling home but it was far from easy. A game that should have been easy against poor opposition. A game that we were ahead in within five minutes off kick off. A game in that we had numerous shooting chances, yet declined the invitation. Our killer instinct at times this season has been abysmal. That trait was in full show tonight.
We look ahead now to the Premeir League. A trip to Carrow Road awaits. One positive is that our big hitters are rested and returning players have got some vital match practice in. Any more positives we can take out of this sub par performance?
* Stick here for build up to the Athletic Bilbao clash. Our managing editor Gene is a big fan of their Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa and his inventice tactics and formations. I am sure he is already looking forward too giving us a scouting report on his team