Manchester United have left it to the final game of the group stage to decide whether or not they will progress to the next round of the Champions League and Louis van Gaal’s men face a daunting task at the Volkswagen Arena in Germany.
The final quarter of Manchester United’s victory over Wolfsburg at Old Trafford looked far less than dominant, as Wolfsburg poured attack upon attack at the United defence, they somehow, quivering and shaking, clung on to the one goal lead, with Captain Wayne Rooney making his most decisive action in the match with a goal line block of a ferocious shot by Dante and the team which centers around possession found itself trying desperately to just clear the ball downfield.
Now the Red Devils face the same opponents again, but this time they have the home advantage. That shouldn’t count for much though given the fact that the Manchester United faithful have grown hostile over the course of this season and been vocal about their concerns that the side lacks any form of attacking prowess. The team were booed off the pitch after yet another uninspiring scoreless draw, this time against West Ham United.
Another change from last time out is that Van Gaal now finds himself dealing with a bit of an injury crisis at the club. Morgan Schneiderlin came off in the game against the Hammers and now joins an injury list that features Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw and their, surrounded by mystery and controversy regarding what’s put him there, captain Wayne Rooney. All in all, things there’s quite a challenge in store for Manchester United to win this game.
Crunch situation for Van Gaal
While all the criticism has been coming in against Louis van Gaal and his principles, the one thing that is going for him is that his team is getting the results. They may not be pretty or attractive or attacking, but United are doing relatively well in the Premier League. In the Champions League, however, they are now facing a situation where they may face the disgrace of being knocked out of Europe’s elite competition in the group stage itself.
If that were to happen, then it would open the room for the fans to point out that van Gaal’s Mancheste United cannot compete for trophies at the top level and that if the results were that bad then there was no point to the philosophy. The only way Louis van Gaal can justify his disciplinarian approach and pragmatic gameplay is by getting results and he will need a victory here to keep his critics at bay.
Manchester United currently lie in second place in Group B on 8 points, one ahead of third placed PSV Eindhoven and one behind VfL Wolfsburg. Although they would manage to progress if they matched whatever result PSV managed against CSKA Moskva, the Dutch side look to be favorites against the Russians and the Red Devils can’t afford to pull any punches. Not to mention that yet another boring nil-nil draw could cause a riot in the stadium and calls for van Gaal to be publicly lynched.
Louis van Gaal will have to allow his youthful attackers to go all out against the Germans and for the likes of Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard — this could be their time to rise to the occasion. They will have to be wary of the likes of Andre Shurrle, Bas Dost and Julian Draxler though, and the fifth placed Bundesliga side will be a stern test for Manchester United. A victory will see them appease the fans, while a loss could be the beginning of the end for Van Gaal.