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Erik ten Hag admits Manchester United ‘got away with it’ in shootout win over Coventry

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Manchester United recovered from missing their first spot-kick in the shootout to progress to the final

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag admitted his side ‘got away with it’ to reach the FA Cup final.

But he denied the manner of their penalty shootout victory against Championship side Coventry was an embarrassment.

United were 3-0 up and cruising with 20 minutes left.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, they conspired to throw away a winning position, and ended up being taken to extra time, where they only avoided defeat when Victor Torp’s last-gasp effort was ruled out for offside by video assistant referee Peter Bankes.

United eventually triumphed on penalties. However, after wasting stoppage-time leads to draw with Brentford and lose to Chelsea in the Premier League recently, it was another day that offered more questions than answers about Ten Hag and his players.

“We can play on very high levels, but we can go to very low levels in the same game,” said Ten Hag. “That’s not explainable.

“I have to teach my players, clear. We have to do better on such occasions. On several occasions, we let each other down. Today we got away with it.”

Brazilian wideman Antony cupped his ears at the Coventry fans at the end, even though United were 3-0 up when he replaced Alejandro Garnacho.

However, it was noticeable that the Coventry players remained on the pitch longer at the end to take the acclaim of their fans, with United heading to the dressing room rather sheepishly.

Ten Hag rejected the idea that they day had been an embarrassment for his expensively assembled squad, saying that the near-capitulation should not be used to judge his own tenure as manager.

“That would be crazy,” he said. “You need tools to manage this. With all the injuries, we don’t have many tools. We don’t even have a back four in their best positions.

“At the end of the day, it is an achievement to reach the final two years in a row. I see the mistakes we make but it is not an embarrassment.”

‘Looking for leadership’ and ‘lucky to win’

Not everyone shares Ten Hag’s opinion, with Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher believing United’s players will feel embarrassed.

“Mark Robins famously kept a Manchester United manager in a job,” he said. “I think that today has cost a Manchester United manager his job. I don’t see how he stays. They must be the most embarrassed dressing room after winning a game.”

Of more importance are the thoughts of co-owners Joel and Avram Glazer and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, plus new technical director Jason Wilcox, who all watched proceedings from the Royal Box.

Like former captain Roy Keane, they must have noticed the players’ joint reaction once Rasmus Hojlund had netted the winning penalty.

“I can’t believe what I am watching,” Keane told ITV. “You’re looking for leadership but it isn’t there.

“The Manchester United players and supporters weren’t going over the top because they were lucky to win.

“Coventry looked like a Premier League team and Manchester United looked like a Championship side. All this does is put more pressure on the manager.”

With a place in next season’s Champions League more or less beyond them now that they are 16 points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, United winning the FA Cup could be key in determining whether Ten Hag gets the chance to fulfil the third and – currently – final year of the contract he signed when he moved to the club from Ajax in 2022.

Former Red Devils full-back Gary Neville says the manner of Sunday’s triumph does not reflect well on the Dutchman and his team.

However, he also knows the value of winning tournaments – and victory in a repeat of last season’s final with Manchester City would be a major high given the strength of the opposition, no matter how it is achieved.

“They have saved themselves an absolute battering for four to five weeks,” Neville told Sky Sports.

“They might get it for a few days, but not weeks. It is an uncertain, turbulent few months for Manchester United because the new owners have wiped out the whole lot at the top of the club.

“But winning trophies cannot be underestimated. They won a trophy last season [the EFL Cup] and if they won the FA Cup, it would be extremely difficult to sack him.”

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