Manchester United’s win over Wolfsburg was much needed. The defeat in their first game of the Champions League group stage meant that tonight’s game was much bigger for United. Wolfsburg are probably the toughest team in their group, and after defeat to PSV, United needed to make sure they won the game.
But it meant more than that to English football. The ‘best league in the world’ was in danger of ridicule after Arsenal and Chelsea were left red-faced last night and Arsenal are now on the brink of a very early exit.
And even more worrying for the Premier League is the very real possibility that Italian clubs could overtake English clubs in the UEFA coefficient rankings and win a Champions League spot off the Premier League.
United had to win, and they did. It wasn’t pretty, in fact it was nervy and edgy, but they got the job done. Just. And here are three things we learnt from it.
The Art of Defending by Antonio Valencia. pic.twitter.com/VzhTbU8CZv
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) September 30, 2015
The eyebrows were raised when Louis Van Gaal’s team was announced before kick off tonight. Matteo Darmian started at left back whilst Antonio Valencia started at right back. The warning signs were there, but Valencia took to the field anyway – and then proceeded to put in a defensive performance you’d expect from a winger forced into an appearance as a makeshift right back. Luckily for United, they hung onto their win.
You know when Martin Tyler calls him Lord Bendtner things have gone too far… pic.twitter.com/XSHMx9PyAg
— BreatheSport (@BreatheSport) September 30, 2015
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Nicklas Bendtner is not God. He is not the messiah and he is not the ‘one that got away’ for Arsene Wenger.
Coming onto the pitch with his team losing 2-1 to Manchester United, Bendtner had his chance to be a hero and turn the game around, to inflict damage on English football in their quest to keep a hold of their fourth Champions League spot. When you have the Lord Bendtner himself on the bench, it seems like the sub to make when you’re losing the game. He couldn’t save it for the Wolves. Much to our surprise.
Manchester United fans spent most of this evening having kittens.
Van Gaal’s team selection looked good, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Martial (given his form) and Mata all playing, with De Gea behind them between the sticks. This time last season, United fans would have thought their great side was back towards their best again. Until they say Valencia at full back!
But what happened next was uninspiring. United conceded early but managed to get themselves ahead. And then they sat on their lead.
How many times in footballing history have Manchester United sat on a lead? Under Sir Alex Ferguson that was unthinkable. There’s nothing wrong with being conservative and making sure you don’t let the opposition back in, but Ferguson always knew that a third goal would end the contest. United fans are expectant of a certain standard, and they aren’t getting it at the moment.