United crash out of the Champions League with an abysmal performance
Hanging on to the coattails of the impressive start to the campaign, United needed only a draw in Leipzig to secure the qualification that seemed all-but-assured only a few weeks ago. In a hammer blow to both the club and the fans, United fell to an embarrassing loss that finds the Europa League beckoning once again.
Had United not stumbled to that fateful defeat in Istanbul, the pressure may well have been off as this final game of the group stage approached. The past was written however, and with that immense pressure piling on to a team already suffering awfully with slow and torrid starts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent out a defensive lineup to try and exercise a measure of caution.
The terrible start which has become a trademark of this United team in recent weeks was of course, inevitable regardless of Ole’s tactical changes.
Just two (yes, two) minutes into the match the hosts seized the initiative through a driven volley from Angeliño (yes, the City loanee), and thus began half an hour of sheer panic in the United ranks.
Angeliño wasted no time in then turning into the provider, chipping an eniticing ball to the back post where Amadou Haidara doubled David De Gea’s misery.
Such woeful defending was echoing its way up the pitch as United constantly found themselves chasing the heels of a free-flowing Leipzig team, and there was soon a third in De Gea’s net from a Willy Orban header – mercifully however, VAR intervened to correctly judge him offside.
45 minutes of the worst football this writer has had to watch since *checks calendar* last weekend against West Ham, and things were already looking bleak for the Reds.
Half-Time: RB Leipzig 2 – 0 Manchester United
The second half performance from United had to be better, both out of necessity and because displaying a worse half of football than the previous was nigh-on impossible.
Thankfully it was. The team grew into the game and there were chances, but United’s forwards met staunch resistance from Péter Gulácsi in the opposition net.
The golden chance came for Bruno Fernandes, the talisman for United’s recent comebacks, after a foul just outside the area on substitute Brandon Williams. Fernandes expertly clipped the ball over the wall, and it dipped magnificently towards the top corner.
It hit the bar.
And Leipzig ran straight up the pitch and scored a third.
United now stared at a three goal deficit between them and Champions League qualification. And as usual with this team, only as the reality of the situation clicked did they start to play seriously.
With ten minutes left to play, Mason Greenwood was brought down in the box and VAR once again came to United’s aid. Fernandes buried the penalty kick.
Two minutes later, the Portuguese put the ball up to the back post where the outwardly-unhappy Paul Pogba rose highest to head towards goal. There was yet another questionable VAR intervention as the ball appeared to glance off Harry Maguire’s arm, but the goal stood.
Desperation flared as only one goal was needed with precious few minutes to spare. The final chance came from the defiant Pogba, whose whipped cross in to a panicked Leipzig defence so almost snuck its way in. Scrambling to clear the hosts instead turned the ball goalwards only for Gulácsi, who knew nothing of it, to repel what would have been the golden goal for Manchester United.
So it was that United were consigned to the Europa League.
To find the club in this position after completely outplaying both PSG and Leipzig early in the campaign makes this pain so much worse. The sad and uncomfortable truth however, is that United have not shown that they deserve to play in the Champions League with the performances since.
Though United were only one goal away come the final whistle, the scoreline should not have looked anything like the 3-2 it ended as. Each of Leipzig’s goals directly came from the error of one or more of United’s defensive players, and truthfully both of the late goals were generous gifts from the VAR officials.
For now, all that can be done is to eschew where the blame truly lies, and begin rectifying the cause for such blame by exorcising the demons of with an emphatic win against City at the weekend.
Full Time: RB Leipzig 3 -2 Manchester United
Man of the Match: Angeliño