PSV EINDHOVEN vs MANCHESTER UNITED
United opened their group stage in the Champions League in Holland’s third largest city. The Dutch champions have adopted a different philosophy in the last few years with the concentration on youth rather than being the traditional big spenders of the Eredivisie; slightly different to United’s approach whilst under van Gaal’s stewardship.
In: Young and Martial.
Out: Fellaini and Carrick.
- This was another game where United dominated possession without making it count.
- Despite this United’s play looked brighter in the final third where the pace of Matrial and Memphis pose a real threat. These two showed encouraging signs of developing a good understanding.
- Smalling was excellent here, but the rest of the defence was less than commanding. Darmian had his first off-night in a United shirt.
- Shaw’s injury is horrific, a personal tragedy for the player when he has been playing so well. Did it have an impact on the team performance thereafter? It probably did.
- This year United have been solid at the back and pedestrian up front. It was strange then to see the opposite in this game. Is it time to get it right at both ends of the pitch?
United made a relatively positive start which was punctuated with a sickening injury to Shaw. The surge inside was a reflection of the confidence in the young left back. The only question was, why wasn’t it a red card or foul awarded?
The formation change resultant from this was Blind moving to the left and Rojo replacing him but United maintained the tempo.
PSV could be seen pressing the United backline, the three of Schweinsteiger Smalling and Rojo needed to split more effectively to avoid this press but were unable to do so often enough. The speed and tempo of PSV was impressive as they also exploited the space behind the fullbacks Darmian and Shaw. Billy Idol lookalike Maxime Lestienne was very effective on the PSV left.
Boom! The returning Depay scored a good goal which showed inspiration from Martial’s goal on Saturday. It was decent in the way he took the channel of space between Arias and Bruma. as he accepted a neat pass from Blind (part of a very linear passing play). It was also pleasing to see him celebrate and avoid that faux sincerity as seen from others.
Martial played higher than Memphis both were ably supported by Mata who was key to their movement around the box. United looked decent and were worth the lead.
Does this team lack mental strength? You can’t help but feel this sometimes so it wasn’t surprising when they conceded a goal at a set piece, which always frustrating. It followed a corner, the first of the half and it was scored by Moreno. Darmian was easily outmuscled and the header came off Blind making it impossible for Young to stop it. The usual marking at corners had been affected by the Shaw substitution.
Nonetheless, United were showing good signs of width, not something you often say these days.
United took the early initiative with 75% possession in the half. Yet this was brought about from PSV defending deep with a 4-5-1 and it was frustrating to see United not taking advantage of this. Playing everything through the middle wasn’t wise even though with Depay and Young swapping wings. Perhaps the defenders should have done more, moving out with the ball and drawing a midfielder out to create space. Smalling must take heart from his first half foray; do it more.
Darmian had a difficult evening particularly on corners and unfortunately he was at fault for PSV’s second goal, Leaving space behind him into which the ball was played in behind him. The positioning of Blind and Rojo left a lot to be desired. The latter similar to Darmian suffering as part of the high positioning fullbacks.
United were staring down the barrel of a defeat and van Gaal reached for his Plan B, Fellaini, who came on for Herrera. When United needed it most with the chances available United needed strength up front to hold the ball. Regardless of his impact on the game he needs to improve how he receives the ball showing plenty of poor touches during his time on the pitch.
It was frustrating at the end to see Mata miss a great opportunity created by an exquisite pass by Schweinsteiger. He should have pulled the trigger sooner rather than being mixed up controlling or passing it.
United showed some positive signs, the performance of Smalling (including his Beckenbauer moment in the first half), the number of attempts and the movement of Memphis and Martial. It might be tempting to castigate the team for not converting their chances but credit should be paid to PSV who blocked 8 of United’s attempts. A note should be made for Bruma who was most impressive.
As United played a high and decent tempo Van Gaal noted that, “We are dominating the game, we are creating chances and we are not finishing” which was true and failing to capitalise on the dominance was costly. The ironic thing about United’s Premier League performances is that such style might suit them better in Europe and if Martial and Memphis can offer the pace and neat interchanges up front there may be hope but this needs time.
A defeat on Champions League Match Day 1 isn’t the end of the world.