Man Utd 2-1 Wolfsburg: A triumph of spirit over supremacy


United saw the return of Champions-League-Football-Proper to Old Trafford last night, following an evening when both Arsenal and Chelsea were defeated in their respective group games. Could we get our European campaign back on track and also go some way to salvaging the reputation of the Premier League?

In the end, we got the 3 points, but it was a hard-fought game that had fans fuming at aimless balls up-field and some seriously questionable refereeing.

When Draxler was one-on-one against De Gea for Wolfsburg’s early opener, it’s a sign of the Spaniard’s biblically-authoritative presence that I was fully expecting him to repel the strike, but this was one effort Dave couldn’t save.

It was fitting for Smalling to score the winning goal, following a delicious back-heeled lob from Mata to play him through, as our increasingly commanding centre back was easily our best player on the night. The chants of “There’s only one Mike Smalling” were entirely deserved.

Mata himself, scorer of the penalty to get us back into the game, was our other standout performer, creating chance after chance and coming up with the magic when we needed it.

He has made the false-winger position his own, and is clearly an absolutely key player for us.

Tony Martial was also extremely impressive once again, showing his fantastic strength and crafty feet to repeatedly cause problems for Die Wolfe at the back. How Rooney missed after a brilliant run and pass from the number 9 is beyond me.

Before that miss, Rooney had been making the most of the space in front of midfield to spray a string of beautiful balls out wide; after it, he had a shocker.

Schweinsteiger, for me, was having his best game in a United shirt up until he was booked. He was a powerful presence in the centre of the park, playing in the deeper midfield role, winning the ball back time after time when United surrendered possession. Unfortunately, the yellow card blunted his influence, and he inevitably tired as the game went on. As for Schneiderlin, he looked somewhat uncomfortable in the more advanced midfield role, and didn’t have a night to remember at all.

Speaking after the game, Van Gaal said it was “unlucky” that United had created so many chances but failed to finish them, but praised United’s spirit and the “beautiful goal” architected by Mata. After we took the lead, however, the manager was less than impressed, describing United’s constant loss of the ball as “remarkable” given we have controlled possession so well in the last few games. Ultimately, the team spirit kept us in the match, the manager said.


Listen to Van Gaal’s post-match interview below: