United win passing battle but lose war against PSV
Jury's still out on United becoming a force in Europe again
PSV EINDHOVEN 2
(Hector Moreno 45+2, Luciano Narsingh 57)
MAN UNITED 1
(Memphis Depay 41)
Doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results; Manchester United's philosophy embodies Albert Einstein's definition of insanity.
Their return to the Champions League yesterday morning (Singapore time) mirrored an imperfect start to the English Premier League season.
This was a game Louis van Gaal's side should have won comfortably.
Much like their previous defeat, at Swansea City, they cannot argue that ample opportunity was not afforded.
Walking into the lion's den at the Philips Stadion, where he had won only twice in 10 prior attempts with three clubs, possession continued to preoccupy the Dutchman's game plan.
United may have won the passing battle but they lost the all-important war.
Two decades have elapsed since van Gaal's youthful Ajax side etched their name into Champions League history and his current transition at Old Trafford bears hallmarks of a similarly recent history.
Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial pose striking resemblance to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in the years leading up to the Red Devils' 2008 triumph in this competition.
There is no question of their talents but they remain unrealised in their entirety.
Depay, the catalyst for PSV Eindhoven's surge to the Eredivisie title last season, has placed himself in contention as United's Champions League specialist with continual demonstrations of quick heels leading to his third goal of the season, poetically biting the hand that once fed him.
Questions over Martial's status as football's most expensive teenager, meanwhile, are becoming less clamoured.
Glances of strength and creative guile that belied his 19 years suggest his £36 million ($77.7m) outlay was an astute investment, just two games in.
Deficiencies still exist within the attacking third. Van Gaal turned to Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia in a bid to stem the tide. Neither produced the catalyst United craved.
The addition of Adnan Januzaj, currently on loan to Borussia Dortmund, and the recently departed Javier Hernandez would almost certainly have offered a game-changing effect.
Elsewhere, Juan Mata's hopes of retaining a long-awaited role in the No. 10 position are likely to be short-lived after just one outing.
Few eyebrows will be raised should the Spaniard find himself shunted back to the more familiar wide position for Sunday's trip to Southampton.
Luke Shaw's horrific double leg fracture invariably dominated the Red Devils' frustrations. Its wider implications will reverberate into van Gaal's increasingly difficult tenure.
An undisputed first choice for both club and country, this was supposed to be the England international's time to shine.
Such was his desperation to kickstart his career that a fitness coach accompanied him throughout the summer break.
Barely a quarter of an hour into his Champions League debut, that preparation appeared to have counted for little.
Scythed down by Hector Moreno, the challenge could have easily warranted a penalty and a straight red card. Referee Nicola Rizzoli decided against either.
Shaw's withdrawal unseated the settled centre-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Daley Blind, with the latter deputising at left back, while United's lack of defensive cover was laid bare when his replacement Marcos Rojo was caught out as Luciano Narsingh headed the hosts' decisive winning goal.
That Moreno, himself on the receiving end of a campaign-ending injury from Arjen Robben at last year's World Cup, went on to score PSV's equaliser in first-half stoppage time added insult to injury for the Red Devils.
Shaw's impressive form has been one of the few positives behind United's lurching and inconsistent start to the season.
The ease with which Joshua Brenet and Maxime Lestienne were allowed to carve open the United defence, spared only by the offside flag, offered a premonition of what lies ahead during his prolonged absence.
Van Gaal's candour cast doubt over whether United's squad, at an assembled cost of £280 million, can hold their own on the continental stage rather than merely making up the numbers.
That jury is still out.
- PSV: Jeroen Zoet, Santiago Arias, Jeffrey Bruma, Hector Moreno, Joshua Brenet, Davy Propper, Jorrit Hendrix, Andres Guardado (Stijn Schaars 72), Luciano Narsingh, Luuk de Jong, Maxime Lestienne (Juergen Locadia 86)
- MAN UNITED: David de Gea, Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw (Marcos Rojo 24), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ander Herrera(Marouane Fellaini 75), Ashley Young (Antonio Valencia 86), Juan Mata, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial