After spending nearly half a billion dollars on transfers since taking over at Manchester United in May of 2014, Louis Van Gaal has led his side to…the Europa League.
The Red Devils fell out of the Champions League with a 3-2 loss to Wolfsburg on Tuesday, as one of the richest and most historic clubs in the world will now head to the Europa League to face the likes of Rapid Wien, Sparta Prague, and FC Sion.
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After David Moyes‘ disastrous season in charge of United saw the club out of European competition entirely, Van Gaal was brought in to restore order and bring Champions League success back to Old Trafford.
While LVG got the team back into the Champions League, bowing out in the group stage was not in the plans. Already under heavy criticism before the loss to Wolfsburg, Van Gaal will now be under even more pressure moving forward.
Things got off to a bad start in the Champions League on day one, as United lost to PSV Eindhoven 2-1 in the opening match of group play. United led that match in the first half, and then conceded twice while losing Luke Shaw to a broken leg as the 20-year-old was off to a wonderful start to his season.
After responding with a good win over Wolfsburg and a draw on a tough trip to Moscow, United seemed to have their footing in Group C. With a win over Moscow at home, the Red Devils controlled their fate moving forward.
But then they were held to a scoreless draw at home to PSV in a match that highlighted United’s offensive struggles, something that has troubled the side throughout the season. Still, United controlled their own destiny.
Leading up to Tuesday’s match against Wolfsburg, all the talk was about the lack of goals from Louis van Gaal’s side. Then, Anthony Martial gave United a lead less than 15 minutes into the match, and it looked like they would pull it out and finish atop the group. However, after conceding two goals in the previous nine matches, United conceded two goals in the first half to Wolfsburg. They would go on to lose the match, their second loss in group play from a winning position.
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For a side that had been so solid defensively, many believed one goal is all United would need in Germany to advance. However, with LVG’s side shorthanded by injuries, they were exposed. In a must-win match on the biggest stage, Guillermo Valera made his first start for the club. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Nick Powell each came on as substitutes for their second appearances with the team. United’s most experienced player on the roster Michael Carrick did not come on until the 69th minute, and veteran Ashley Young never got off the bench.
Van Gaal’s team decisions will certainly be questioned, but none of that truly matters now as United is out of the Champions League. They will now face long Thursday trips in the Europa League that fans want no part of. The sole focus of the club must be to win the Premier League, or it will be another season of failure at Old Trafford. But based on Tuesday’s performance, there’s quite a way to go.