Champions League: Man Utd crash out
Manchester United’s 3-2 Champions League defeat at VfL Wolfsburg on Tuesday (Dec 8) was difficult to understand, said manager Louis van Gaal after they crashed out in the group stage for the first time since 2011.
United went into the game needing a win to guarantee a place in the last 16 but were outplayed for long stretches and, having clawed their way back into the match, conceded a late goal to finish third in Group B and qualify for the Europa League.
The irony for a shell-shocked Van Gaal was his team finally found their scoring touch, after two goalless draws in their last three games, but fell apart in defence. “The result is difficult to understand,” the Dutchman told a news conference.
“I am happy we have scored and not happy we have two times in two minutes given a goal away.I have to analyse why that is happening. Normally we are very good in that aspect.” - Lous van Gaal
The result will further increase the scrutiny on Van Gaal who has been heavily criticised for a perceived negative style of play.
Having scored just one goal in drawing their last three games, United needed just ten minutes to take the lead at Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen Arena.
Anthony Martial’s early strike for the Red Devils was cancelled out by first-half goals from Brazil’s Naldo and Portugal’s Vieirinha.
Manchester United's Anthony Martial (right) and Juan Mata look dejected after Vieirinha scored the second goal for Wolfsburg. PHOTO: REUTERS
United drew level when Wolfsburg’s French midfielder Josuha Guilavogui scored a late own goal seconds before Naldo claimed his second by heading the winner.
“It was a crazy match,” said Van Gaal.
“We twice gave away goals within two minutes after we had scored, that was difficult to understand.“I am happy that we scored, but I am not happy why we defended so poorly and it’s something I have to analyse.
“I’ve said in advance this was a tight group and you see it in the results we had.
“Our competitors showed it’s not always United who finish first or second.”
As well as frustrated supporters, there have also been no shortage of pundits willing to put the boot in.
Within minutes of United’s defeat on Tuesday, former United and England defender Rio Ferdinand described their Champions League exit as “embarrassing”.
“If you strip it back this squad needs a hard look,” he said on BT Sport.
“There is no pace or power. People are looking around at each other rather than saying, ‘I will drag you through’.”
That opinion was echoed by Ferdinand’s co-pundit and former United and England team mate Michael Owen who suggested the players Van Gaal had sold over the last 18 months would beat Tuesday’s team.
The Dutchman is now likely to reflect that United’s elimination has been largely self-inflicted.
On the plus side the Champions League exit will allow United to focus their attention on the Premier League, handing them a potential advantage over their title rivals.
“We now have to wait until next year but we have got enough to fight for, the FA Cup and the Premier League,” Van Gaal said.