When Manchester United’s Champions League group was revealed, many believed they were gifted an ‘easy’ path through to the knockout stages of the competition. After missing out on Europe’s biggest stage last year, and coming up through the fourth place playoff format this time around, fans of the Red Devils were just happy to be back where they believe they belong; the Champions League. However, the three-time winners have been reminded just how difficult this competition is, as with one game left in their group, United find themselves in a must win situation.
United are currently second place in Group B after a goalless draw with PSV on Wednesday night. This result means they’re just a point above third place, and face a difficult trip to first-place Wolfsburg in their final game of the group stage.
A win in Germany would actually see United top the group, but if PSV beat bottom side CSKA Moscow at home, a defeat or even a draw would see the Manchester club drop down into third and ultimately out of the competition. It’s a very worrying time for the club, who have struggled through the first handful of games.
United’s lack of fire power in Europe has been incredibly noticeable this season, and of late, their lack of goals has many worried. They have just five goals in their last seven games in all competitions. “Of course I am worried, but I know also goals are coming and going. It’s not a consequence of good performances and bad performances.” Said manager, Louis Van Gaal.
Obviously the most important thing for United is to win. Whether they crawl into Germany and scrape through with a 1-0 win against Wolfsburg, or thrash them 6-0, they need to win. Obviously as you progress through a competition of this caliber you are going to have to score goals, especially with the talent present throughout. Van Gaal knows that the goals may or may not come, but in taking it one game at a time he knows the win is more important than the performance at this stage. But he also realises that opportunities are there.
Van Gaal continued, “Also today we could have scored at least three goals. They were not the most difficult chances, but we didn’t score and the next game you can score out of nothing. That’s football.” It’s clear that a man that has so much to say about something that’s ‘just football’, realises his strikers and team, aren’t delivering.
Last night saw Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial miss a couple of clear cut chances either side of half-time to frustrate Van Gaal and company. But perhaps the biggest question sat with the manager and why playmaker and midfield maestro Juan Mata didn’t start, and why he wasn’t introduced until the 85th minute. Questions also continue to circulate over Anthony Martial and whether starting him up top over Rooney, and starting the United captain behind him in the no.10 role, is really working out. Van Gaal’s team selections have been a hot topic all season, and will continue to be so if results in europe remain an issue.
United’s manager than finished by saying “Now our efforts in away games is much better than last year so we have to do it in Wolfsburg.”
“We have won also our home match against Wolfsburg so why we cant win in Wolfsburg? Our away efforts are much higher than last year as you know”.
After struggling to break down an unimpressive PSV side, it’s going to take much more than relying on away form to beat a very strong Wolfsburg side who will be confident at home.