Van Gaal’s United far from Best in 0-0 draw with PSV
Van Gaal's United face early exit after a shocking display
MAN UNITED 0
PSV EINDHOVEN 0
At the seventh-minute mark, Old Trafford turned into a spectacle of lights, illuminated by flashbulbs from thousands of cellphones.
It was a poignant way to remember one of Manchester United's greatest, George Best, who was the first superstar to wear the club's No. 7. Best died 10 years ago.
Ryan Giggs was the closest player to a replica of the Northern Irishman, although the attacking DNA of the club, first given life by the Busby Babes and then the triumvirate of Charlton-Law-Best, never went missing.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), when the Red Devils were supposed to blow away modest PSV Eindhoven, Louis van Gaal's team produced a snoozefest, instead.
The dreary 0-0 affair leaves the English aristocrats in dire straits.
Van Gaal's side now need to beat Group B leaders Wolfsburg at the VfL Wolfsburg Arena in their final group game on Dec 8, to be sure of a passage into the knockout Round of 16.
The latest performance was an embarrassment that left van Gaal with nowhere to hide.
A powerful start which failed to reap dividends soon made way for the usual staid fare of midfield possession and ponderous attacks.
Anthony Martial's quiet performance up front wasn't helped by the overall subdued display of his supporting trio.
Jesse Lingard perhaps did enjoy some moments of influence, although the youngster was guilty of missing a couple of sitters, but Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney will want to erase this outing from their memory quickly.
Showing neither the conviction nor ability to force the tempo in the opponents' half, Depay and Rooney extended their run of disappointing performances.
In midfield, the ever-cautious van Gaal planted Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger together, a luxury United couldn't afford.
With the double defensive act sticking stubbornly to their tasks, United coped with PSV's attacks easily.
But that's missing the point.
Had Schneiderlin or Schweinsteiger been sacrificed from the start for a more attack-oriented player, United would have added another dimension to their offence, which they sorely needed.
It's never just been about prescribing the right medicine, but also administering the right dose.
United could certainly afford to take risks, because of their solid defence. They needed to take a gamble, because a draw was beneficial to only PSV.
The result against the Dutch outfit is a setback which cannot be underestimated.
The 3-0 defeat by Arsenal in the Premier League early last month sparked similar angry outbursts among the club's faithful everywhere, but at least that was a humiliation that could be repaired over the course of a long season.
This failure to beat PSV gives them only one chance to get their Champions League campaign back on track.
PSV, who need three points against bottom-placed CSKA Moscow in their final group game to guarantee a slot in the next stage, will fancy their chances at home.
United will advance if they at least match PSV's result.
Their fate lies in the hands of van Gaal, a veteran from the top rung of football managers.
He has won at least one league title at every club he has managed.
He has seen off countless rivals in the Champions League.
Twenty years ago, an Ajax Amsterdam side who included Edwin van der Sar, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids and Jari Litmanen stormed Europe with a sizzling brand of attacking football to win the top prize.
Van Gaal, 43 years old then, was the architect of one of the best teams ever assembled.
But that magic has hardly been seen at the Theatre of Dreams since his arrival.
Many are wondering why he cannot unlock that sense of adventure in a team whose DNA is all about attack and dazzling attacking individuals.
Right now, it looks like United have lost their verve under van Gaal.
And that only means a group-stage exit from the Champions League.
(Wayne Rooney) needs to step up to the plate. Now he’s the captain, there’s more responsibility and I think he’s got to do a lot more. You’ve got to lead by example. He didn’t do that tonight. He doesn’t look sharp, he looks awful. Mentally he doesn’t look really sharp, physically he doesn’t look in great shape. He needs to have a look at himself
- Former United skipper Roy Keane
We keep saying defensively they’re sound and I think they are but their forward play just wasn’t good enough tonight. You look at these teams across Europe, your Bayern Munichs, your Barcelonas, it’s the players up front who make the difference. Attacking wise, they don’t look a threat, they don’t look like they’re going to go and score goals.
- Former United midfielder Paul Scholes
No, we’re not. I think we need to score more goals as a team. I feel we showed a lack of composure which put ourselves under pressure a lot of times. It’s a learning curve for us, but we can’t go on saying it’s a learning curve. We have to start turning these games into victories.
- Wayne Rooney on whether United were ruthless enough
The Manchester United of old would blow that group away, be qualified after four games. It is the story of the season. They are quite a way away at the moment. They’re just a defending team with attackers with no help from elsewhere. It’s very, very one-dimensional.
- Former United striker Michael Owen