Ole is right. United never do it the easy way. Today, it wasn’t done in any way. The omens looked ominous as 5 years to this day, Wolfsburg knocked United out of the group stage with a 3-2 victory. And on this day, RB Leipzig knocked United out of the group stage with a 3-2 victory. The story written differently, the ending just the same. It got off to an awful start as United quickly found themselves 2-0 down, Angelino and Haidara scoring. A terrible mix up with Maguire and De Gea saw us go 3-0 behind as Kluivert bundled it in. Fernandes and Pogba made it a nervy finish but it was not to be.
Wrong Jigsaw Pieces
At the level that the Champions League is played at, systems, strategy and tactics take on extra importance. Coming up against the creme de la creme of managerial ability means that any misstep on your part is due to punished without any hesitation. After the first two matchdays, Solskjaer was lauded for two games where he managed to outwit two of the most tactically astute coaches across Europe, in Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann. A 3-4-1-2 and 4-1-2-1-2 respectively with a 2-1 and 5-0 scoreline saw the Red Devils deal with the Parisiens and Leipzig. The game in Parc des Princes was a low block at first, which sprung into an offensive trap as Pogba entered the fray. RB Leipzig’s trip to Old Trafford saw both teams go toe to toe as United held a slender lead until Rashford entered the fray. So given the very good tactical performances from the manager, the return games saw Ole get bested in a way that many would have expected. The decision to keep on Fred as he was on yellow came back to bite him in a way only he did not see and Tuchel’s switch in bringing on Bakkar was what led to the corner to put PSG ahead. It loaded all the importance onto today and Ole decided to match Leipzig rather than play that diamond formation again. It was a big mistake. Wan Bissaka and Alex Telles had no idea whether they were coming or going. An early cross caught out both Lindelof and Wan Bissaka at the back post as Angelino struck across the keeper, into the net. The second? An early switch to the left again but Angelino crossed and Wan Bissaka failed to stop again, Haidara sweeping in at the back post as Telles and Shaw were nowhere to be seen to deter the shooter. Playing three at the back does not have to be defensive but often the case for United, when they set up in this way, it is to soak up pressure and counter. The out balls were not there. Matic and McTominay offered very little in possession, the latter coming more into the game in the latter parts of the first half. Not until Greenwood began to show for the ball in space were inroads able to be made into Die Roten Bullen’s half. The chances made with those inroads were of little significance
Unlucky or Incompetent?
As much as United were handled relatively well, they had opportunities as Leipzig will inevitably give up due to their style. But, it is an issue that we see all too often with United were the decision making isn’t quite right. Greenwood has a glorious opening whilst the game is still 1-0 and instead of squaring to Rashford to slot into an empty net, he swept it into the hands of Gulasci. Again, the opportunity to square it was presented. This time it was up to Rashford and it was to be squared to Greenwood but the ball went into Gulasci’s hands again. The third of the opening half came to Rashford again but a poor touch made him have to check and he waited until someone came behind him to nick. Those are the small moments where the difference can be made. Those are the moments that world class players are clinical. It is unfair as United do not make enough chances for them so those moments became even more dear. The second half was more of an onslaught, the RB Leipzig keeper having to make a lot of saves. Bruno hit the bar from a free kick. Bruno did hit the net from the penalty spot, yet again. Pogba headed the ball in from a corner, by way of a couple of deflections.