Louis van Gaal’s team fall flat on the big occasions, Jesse Lingard is the one shining attacking light and other things we learned from Manchester United 0 PSV Eindhoven 0
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Van Gaal’s side lack the X-factor
Like a second-rate X-factor contestant’s live performance, too much of United’s display was flat in this goal-less bore. They lacked tempo and adventure. There was no zip in their play. Van Gaal may point to his 30-year track record of producing attacking teams but there has been no sign of one during his year-and-a-half in the United dugout. The United faithful are having to get used to their team produce sterile performances against inferior opponents. A mean and organised defence, complemented by a brilliant goalkeeper, has made them a Premier League contender but more ingenuity is needed in Europe.
United’s Champions League chances rest on winning in Wolfsburg
The good news for United is that their Champions League chances rest in their own hands. The bad news is they must go to group leaders Wolfsburg in a fortnight and win to guarantee a place in the competition in the new year. With PSV at home to group minnows CSKA Moscow, a match the Dutch team will be confident of winning, Van Gaal’s team are likely to have to secure three points from the most difficult of their six group stage games. They are well capable of keeping a clean sheet in Germany. Scoring a goal will be altogether more difficult.
Schweinsteiger is starting to show his age
The Germany World Cup winner sat out training on Tuesday to give his body time to recover for this fixture. If it was done so with the intention of making him more effective in this match, it did not work. Schweinsteiger’s play was pedestrian and predictable. He was granted time on the ball as the visitors sat deep. But all too often, he took the safe, easy option. Little wonder he was hauled off at the hour mark and replaced by Marouane Fellaini. The plan to tailor Schweinsteiger’s training schedule is a sensible one. He is 31 and has played a lot of top-level football in his storied career. Yet the sense is that his best days are behind him.
Lingard has brought ingenuity to the team
The Academy graduate looks a real talent. Raw, yes. But Jesse Lingard has the skill-set to shake up a forward line that has been too predictable this season. With Juan Mata demoted to the bench and Memphis Depay pushed out on to the left flank, Lingard kept his place in the team and acquitted himself well. He showed that he needs to bring greater composure to his box play when he failed to make the most of two of the best three chances that came United’s way, one in either half. But Lingard played at a tempo lacking in most of his colleagues and looked the most likely of United’s front four to conjure a breakthrough.
United faithful are getting used to sterile performances
There was a crescendo of boos at the end of this match. Not vociferous, but audible enough to once again provide an indication of the home supporters’ dissatisfaction. The painful truth for United worshippers is that sterile performances such as this one are now common. The credo of Van Gaal is keep it tight at the back, and attempt to nick a goal. This is anathema to folk reared on cavalier, swashbuckling teams.