Wolfsburg 3 - 2 United
Varela Smalling Blind Darmian(Borthwick-Jackson)
Lingard Mata(Powell) Memphis
|Our players looking ecstatic about playing in the Europa League in February|
That was a real roller-coaster of emotions. Martial scored an early goal and I thought we'd just defend that goal, as we usually do. However, Wolfsburg leveled almost immediately and managed to go ahead after some shocking defending from our players and, admittedly, brilliant play from the Germans. To my delight, in Holland, CSKA managed to go in front against PSV but their lead only lasted a couple of minutes. United managed to draw when one of Wolfsburg's players headed behind his own keeper. Me and my friends were on our feet jumping like lunatics; we thought we'd be able to defend the scoreline and were hopeful that CSKA and PSV would draw their game. We were mightily wrong though. Wolfsburg managed to get in front a minute and twenty seconds after we leveled the score and PSV scored a winner. We were in the second round and out of it in a matter of a few minutes.
This is perhaps one of the games I'd have expected LVG to use his boring 4-2-3-1 formation. However, he opted for one holding midfielder (Schweinsteiger) as Fellaini was evidently put in a more advanced position. Today's game has uncovered a damning truth; we can either be really good defensively or good when attacking, the players currently available aren't good to do both in the same game. I thought we were very good when going forward and we were only denied a win by some excellent defending from the Wolfsburg players. Their defenders were putting their body in the way of every shot our players managed. I bet we had more attempts today than we had in the last 4 games combined. I really do think that it was a good attacking performance today.
But what was the cost of our attacking performance? We were left exposed at the back. Our defending was a bit shocking sometimes. Smalling showed us that he's human after all and can make mistakes. He should have been marking Naldo when he scored their first goal. Smalling's poor performance is not half as worrying as the sight of him limping during the final stages of the game. I reckon he won't even be available for our next match. Him and Darmian both got injured during today's game, that's two more players on our injury list.
In a night which saw us crash out of the Champions League, surprisingly, there are quite a few positives:
- DDG was excellent
- We were willing to run at Wolfsburg's defenders
- Varela barely put a foot wrong
- Mata was playing well in the number 10 role, I have no clue why he was subbed off.
- Cameron Borthwick-Jackson put in a great shift instead of the injured Darmian
- Martial reminded us that his finishing is top-notch
- Memphis had a decent game on the left
- LVG has great faith in our youngsters. We ended the game with Martial, Memphis, Lingard, Borthwick-Jackson, Varela and Nick Powell. That's six players who are aged 22 or under. They're only bound to learn from today's setback.
Now that we're out of the CL we can focus solely on the Premier League. Yes, we'll be looking to win the Europa League but I don't think it will be given as much importance as small teams, like Liverpool and Tottenham, do give it. I'm actually more annoyed that we're going to be playing in the Europa League than that we're out of the Champions League....if that makes sense. Will today's loss be a stepping stone to greater things? We remember what happened after 2005 when we were eliminated in the group stages against Benfica. That side had a young Rooney and Ronaldo in it. You do get the feeling that we're in a similar situation to the one in 2005. Rooney and Ronaldo's places are taken by Memphis and Martial, both exciting talents who, I believe, will be world-class in a few years time. Hopefully, tonight's hurt will make them yearn to improve.
Bournemouth away next. Do we have enough players to play the game? I don't know. Our injury list seems to be growing every time we play a game. Come on United!