It was judgement day for United in the Champions League last Tuesday with a result needed in Germany against Wolfsburg. The Red Devils knew they would likely need a win to qualify with PSV expected to win at home against CSKA and, despite an early chance for Schurrle, United took a lead in the 10th minute when Mata played a ball through to Martial on the left-hand side of the box and the French striker placed his shot across the ‘keeper and into the far side of the net to make it 0-1. It was exactly the start United needed but, unfortunately, it was undone three minutes later when a free kick by left-back Rodriquez was swept into the box and centre-back Naldo connected excellently with a volley that arrowed straight into the right-hand corner of De Gea’s goal to level the game at 1-1.
United had a great chance to regain the lead in the 27th minute when Blind’s corner from the right found Fellaini inside the six-yard box but his header was saved well by the ‘keeper, Benaglio. Then, just two minutes later, Schurrle found Draxler on the right and he cut inside before playing a one-two with Kruse on the edge of the area and then selflessly teed-up Vieirinha for an easy tap-in to make it 2-1 to Wolfsburg. Draxler almost made it three when he found room in the box once again and cut inside onto his right foot but his low shot was saved well by De Gea. However, there was another blow for United right before half-time when Borthwick-Jackson, who came on for the injured Darmian, appeared to equalise for United with a curling cross-come-shot into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box but Mata was adjudged to have been interfering with play, despite not touching the ball, and this the goal was ruled out for offside after a very late flag by the assistant having consulted with the referee.
The Red Devils had to try to put that disappointment behind them and they came close to levelling the scores in the 60th minute when a Martial cross from the right found Fellaini whose header was cleared to Depay on the edge of the six-yard box but his excellent scissor-volley was saved well by the ‘keeper. Soon afterwards, De Gea made the mistake of rushing out of his box without getting to the ball and that gave Schurrle the opportunity to lob him and the German’s effort appeared to be goal-bound only for De Gea to spare his blushes by pulling off an unconventional save to keep United in the game before the Spanish ‘keeper prevented an own goal by making an instinctive point-blank save. Depay then won a corner in the 82nd minute which Blind whipped in to find Fellaini who headed down into the six-yard box which Guilavogui looped over his own ‘keeper to make it 2-2. However, United once again conceded straight after scoring when a corner from the left found Naldo at the back post and he headed back across goal to get his second of the game to make it 3-2.
In the meantime, CSKA had taken the lead with a penalty in the 76th minute, meaning a draw would have been sufficient for United but PSV then equalised two minutes later and won the game with a few minutes to go so United would have to have won in order to go through ahead of PSV and that never looked likely. It was another hugely disappointing night for United but the damage was done in previous games, particularly the ones against PSV, and by finishing third in the group, the Red Devils will now enter the Europa League, which many would consider to be the worst possible fate for the club as it’s a distraction from the Premier League that they don’t really need.
A beleaguered Manchester United made the trip to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday for their first ever league game against Bournemouth. The Red Devils would have taken some encouragement from the fact that Bournemouth had conceded 30 goals in their first 15 Premier League games, while United themselves had only conceded 10. However, the Cherries were on a high having snatched three points at Stamford Bridge last weekend against an out-of-sorts Chelsea side. United made three changes to their starting line-up with their substitutes during the week, McNair, Borthwick-Jackson, and Carrick coming in for the injured duo Darmian and Smalling as well as Schweinsteiger, after the midfielder was suspended for three matches having been charged with violent conduct by the F.A. for a challenge on West Ham’s Reid during the stalemate last weekend.
United were in need of a good result and a good performance in order to get over their midweek exit in the Champions League but they got off to the worst possible start when, only 102 seconds into the game, Stanislas’ corner from the left was swung in towards the far post and went over De Gea’s outstretched arm before smacking off the upright and going into the back of the net. The high winds may have helped but the Cherries didn’t care as they took a very early 1-0 lead. The Red Devils almost drew level in the 5th minute when a free kick from the left by Depay fell to Fellaini six yards out but the giant Belgian’s volley was saved by Boruc who picked himself up to tip Carrick’s follow-up header around the post. Martial then had a chance in the 18th minute when the scorer, Stanislas, played a back pass straight to him but the French striker dragged his shot wide from 10 yards out.
Stanislas himself almost added a second for Bournemouth when a long ball split the United defence and he tried to go around De Gea but the ‘keeper did well to get a hold of the ball. United finally got their equaliser in the 23rd minute when a diagonal ball into the box from Carrick found Depay who chested the ball and volleyed the it in his stride but Boruc got down to block it only for the ball to fall to Fellaini who went past the ‘keeper and fell to his knees before picking himself up just in time to poke it home. It was a determined run and finish by the Belgian to make it 1-1 with plenty of time on the clock to come up with a winner. However, there was another injury for van Gaal to worry about in the 30th minute when Lingard left the field and went straight down the tunnel to be treated with Pereira coming on in his place.
Unfortunately, it was the Cherries who looked the more likely in the second half and they regained the lead from another corner after centre-back Francis made a run from the halfway line and drew a save from De Gea. The resultant corner from Ritchie looked like it was straight from the training ground with a low ball into the box for former-United forward King to strike a low shot into the back of the net to make it 2-1 in the 54th minute. Fellaini did have a half-chance to equalise but he didn’t connect properly from eight yards and the ‘keeper saved easily. Things almost got worse for United in the 73rd minute when substitute striker Murray was played through on goal by Gosling before turning inside onto his left and lifting his curling shot high over the bar.
However, United were unable to create any clear opportunities to threaten the Bournemouth goal and ended a disastrous week with yet another defeat, albeit one that was even less expected.
United now have a week to prepare for the visit of Norwich City to Old Trafford in the Premier League and anything other than a victory will no doubt be met by boos given the growing unrest among supporters.