Digital Football Journalist @ronnabe
Manchester United 0-2 Cardiff: Nathaniel Mendez-Laing double in embarrassing United defeat
Report and highlights as Neil Warnock's relegated side sign off with win at Old Trafford
Last Updated: 12/05/19 8:24pm
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing's double ended Manchester United's wretched season on a sour note with a 2-0 home defeat by relegated Cardiff.
Arsenal's win over Burnley guaranteed United would be unable to finish fifth regardless of the scoreline at Old Trafford, but they put in a grimly familiar performance devoid of the intensity, passion or quality required, albeit also lacking luck against a Cardiff side handed a slice of fortune from referee John Moss in opening the scoring.
Cardiff winger Mendez-Laing received the slightest of touches from Diogo Dalot's sliding challenge to go down in the area, before picking himself up to beat David De Gea from the spot (23).
Striker Mason Greenwood, United's youngest starter in Premier League history, had a number of chances and was inches from scoring when Neil Etheridge turned his close-range effort onto the post, but his bright performance was one of few plus points from a miserable afternoon at Old Trafford.
They had other chances to level but could not honestly say they were better than 18th-placed Cardiff, the first relegated side to beat a top-six team this season.
Manchester United: De Gea (6), Young (4), Jones (5), Smalling (5), Dalot (5), Pereira (7), McTominay (4), Pogba (5), Lingard (6), Rashford (6), Greenwood (7).
Subs: Martial (6), Gomes (5), Valencia (6)
Cardiff: Etheridge (7), Peltier (7), Manga (6), Morrison (8), Bennett (7), Bacuna (6), Gunnarsson (7), Murphy (8), Mendez-Laing (9), Reid (7), Zohore (7).
Subs: Richards (5), Ward (5), Hoilett (n/a)
Man of the match: Nathaniel Mendez-Laing
And the visitors' second summed up United's season, with some calamitous defending allowing Mendez-Laing to slot in unmarked after half time and double an advantage Cardiff would hold comfortably.
How Cardiff embarrassed United
The excitement for Greenwood's full debut was nearly rewarded when his early header was kept out by Etheridge, and the 17-year-old went closer still to the perfect start when his shot was brilliantly turned onto the post by the goalkeeper soon after
But United, as they have so often this season, drifted from a bright start and let the game ebb and flow around them. Cardiff were already knocking on the door when Moss gave them a glorious chance to open the scoring. The referee harshly adjudged Dalot's brush on Mendez-Laing constituted a foul and awarded a penalty, which the winger duly dispatched.
Cardiff gladly took the momentum to end the half the stronger side, but there was always a chance a half-time team talk from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would see to that.
But after a momentary improvement, United crumpled under the slightest pressure. A throw-in from the right caught out stand-in centre-back Scott McTominay, who was busy wrestling Bobby Reid, allowing Josh Murphy a clean run into the area where he squared for Mendez-Laing to tap in.
The spirit of United's homegrown talent still shone through, but there was little else to encourage the hosts that there was any hope of a comeback, and bar one late turn and shot from Marcus Rashford, they never threatened one.
Reid could have put the icing on the cake for Cardiff at the other end, catching the United defence cold when latching on to a long ball forward, and while he bent the ball just wide of De Gea's post, he was still smiling at full time after Cardiff signed off from an ultimately disappointing season in sensational fashion.
- Manchester United have only kept two home clean sheets in the Premier League this season, their fewest at Old Trafford in a top-flight campaign since 1962-63 (2).
- Cardiff became the first newly promoted team to win away at United in the top-flight by a 2+ goal margin since Nottingham Forest in December 1977 (4-0).
- Cardiff won an away league match against United at Old Trafford for the first time since April 1954, ending a run of seven games without a win (W0 D2 L5).
- Cardiff attempted 11 shots in the first half against United - the most by an away team at Old Trafford in the first half of a Premier League game this season.
- Mason Greenwood (17y 223d) became the youngest ever player to start a Premier League game for Manchester United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "We're not a club which should end up sixth, that's where we are at the moment but we're ready for it, the fans, supporters today too, it's near embarrassing when you walk off the pitch clapping them and get the support we have.
"That's the base of this club, the foundation is so great, we'll come back again."
Neil Warnock: "I'm meeting up tomorrow with the chairman and the chief executive. I've not personally heard from the owner. I've just heard what he said to the media. So I'll have a good chat tomorrow with the lads.
"When you see this today it makes you really proud to be the manager of a club like this. We're going to be talking about everything. We're going to be losing good players like [Victor] Camarasa, [Harry] Arter, [Oumar] Niasse - we've got one or two injuries as well that will take a few months to clear up. So we're going to need some help.
"But I don't want us to just tick along. We've got to have a go, like Burnley did. I think we're in that situation like Burnley were when they went down first off."
Man of the match - Nathaniel Mendez-Laing
Mendez-Laing doubled his goal tally for the season at Old Trafford, but that alone does not earn him the man-of-the-match award. The tricky winger was fortunate to win the penalty leading to his opener but the manner he got it summed up his eagerness to be direct, and the difficult afternoon he gave the United defence.
He went close to another before half-time and was a real pain for both full-backs, drifting across the home backline throughout the match at Old Trafford, and his passion and intensity summed up everything United lacked.