Monday 27 March 2017

Five things we learned from Manchester United's win over Wolfsburg

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal celebrates with Chris Smalling after the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal celebrates with Chris Smalling after the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Old Trafford, Manchester

Luke Edwards

Manchester United need more consistency in front of goal, but realistically cannot win the Champions League and three more things from Old Trafford.

United need to be far more clinical

Although Juan Mata’s penalty eased home nerves, uneasiness spreads when you fail to take your chances.

Wayne Rooney’s woeful attempt to convert a perfect low cross was the worst of the missed opportunities, but Anthony Martial had failed to hit the target at the end of a surging run moments earlier and Memphis Depay also headed straight at the goalkeeper.

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England needs United to prosper

English football needs Manchester United to do well in Europe. The most successful club side of the Premier League era have been the flagbearers on the continent before and they need to do so again.

Like it or not, in the absence of their old rivals Liverpool, United are the English club the rest of Europe fears the most.

The esteem with which they are is held is the enduring legacy of a famous history, but for the Premier League to regain a foothold in the Champions League, United need to show they are on the path to recapturing their former glory.

Louis van Gaal’s side are top of the domestic table and if they are nothing to fear, Europe will no longer be scared of any English club.

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Valencia needs to watch his team-mates as well as the opposition

There did not appear to be any danger as Wolfsburg built their first attack. United had more than enough defenders to deal with the three players who had ventured towards the edge of their area.

Even when the ball was played into the feet of Max Kruse, he did not have the space or time to line up a shot on goal.

However, Antonio Valencia had inexplicably dropped six metres behind the rest of the defensive line, allowing Daniel Caligiuri to make a basic run behind Chris Smalling and Danny Blind, collect a simple through ball and score. Awful defending which meant United were chasing the game after just four minutes.


Schweinsteiger is more than just quietly efficient

Louis van Gaal signed Bastian Schweinsteiger for nights like these. His name on the teamsheet gives United an automatic air of European expertise.

The German can also play a bit too, breaking up play efficiently, instigating it intelligently. Having fallen behind, you could also see Schweinsteiger telling team-mates to remain calm. He is becoming an increasingly pivotal player for United.


It is not realistic to expect United to win the Champions League

Van Gaal said it is realistic to expect his team to win the Champions League before his contract expires in 2017. This was not a performance to persuade anyone they are good enough this year

To do so they will have to beat far better sides than Wolfsburg, who caused United enough problems to suggest the likes of Bayern Munich – who beat Wolfsburg 5-1 last week in the Bundesliga – would swat them aside.


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