Last night’s defeat to PSV will hurt Manchester United, but Luke Shaw’s double leg fracture would hurt even more.
Louis van Gaal’s philosophy has once again come under scrutiny with United failing to translate possession into goals. The team lacked both directness and vision in their attack against PSV. United players attempted just eight dribbles in the game. Van Gaal must goad his players to make more direct and incisive runs at the opposition goal.
Case in point, Chris Smalling almost came close to scoring in the first half. Smalling disposed Luke De Jong and ran towards goal instead of attempting to make a pass. Except for that momentary spark, Smalling kept passing sideways to Danny Blind for most of the first half.
After the win against Liverpool, United were quickly brought to the ground by PSV, with the home side coming from a goal behind to win the opening group fixture 2-1. The visitors were hard pressed by PSV for most part of the game and were limited to passing the ball in their own half. In the weekend, United rushed Liverpool into committing mistakes by quickly surrounding the opposition and winning the ball back almost immediately after losing possession. They failed to replicate the same strategy that had worked so well for them against the Merseyside club.
Despite enjoying more than 60% possession, United were reduced to passing sideways than probing for gaps behind the defence. The only positive from the game was the fans caught glimpses of what could be the start of a lasting partnership between new signing Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay. Playing the role of a lone striker, Martial held the ball up front, waiting for Memphis to bypass PSV’s defense from the left.
Though Depay opened the scoring for United, he was wasteful in front of the goal. The former PSV striker, however, continues to find the net in the competition and his goal was a result of sheer individual skill rather than team effort. Shaw and Depay have lighted up the left with their explosive dribbles down the flank in almost every game this season, but it was cut short after the left-back’s horrific leg injury just 15 minutes into the game. The double fracture on his leg could keep Shaw out for months. It will be a double blow for United as Shaw began the season well after a low-key debut last year.
United’s best chances of the night came in quick succession just before half-time. Juan Mata timed his run perfectly deep into the enemy line, but couldn’t decide whether to cut back Bastian Schweinsteiger’s chip to Depay or take a shot at goal. In the end, the Spaniard’s rare indecisiveness in front of the goal costed United.
This United side doesn’t have a player who could come off the bench and turn the game on its head. They must make do with what they have and aim to split the defense than exhaust the opposition by trying to out pass them.