Manchester United crashed out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, as the Red Devils lost 3-2 to Wolfsburg in Germany and finished third in Group B.
Anthony Martial gave United the lead early on but Wolfsburg came flying back with goals from Naldo and Vieirinha in the first half. An own goal from Joshua Guilavogui late on looked to have sealed a spot in the last 16 of the UCL for United but seconds later Naldo grabbed his second and Wolfsburg’s third to break United’s hearts.
Louis Van Gaal‘s side will now play in the Europa League, as for most of the evening it looked like they would sneak through the back door with PSV Eindhoven trailing CSKA Moscow in the other Group B game. However, the Dutch side turned it around to win and make the UCL last 16, while United crashed out and will now play Thursday night soccer.
Devastation for LVG and his injury-hit squad as Wolfsburg and PSV reached the knockout stages.
It all started so well for United as Martial was played in by Juan Mata and the French striker kept his cool to slot home and put the visitors ahead.
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However, the lead only lasted for three minutes as Naldo leveled after his smart volley from Ricardo Rodriguez’s free kick. 1-1.
The game continue in an end-to-end fashion with Marouane Fellaini going close to putting United back in front, however on the half hour mark Wolfsburg turned the game on its head as Vieirinha finished off a flowing team move — Julian Draxler carving United’s defense apart — to put the German side 2-1 up.
As half time approached, both teams continued to push forward and Wolfsburg got plenty of possession in dangerous areas and Draxler should have finished off a break following a mistake by Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield for United.
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A hugely contentious moment arrived right on half time as Jesse Lingard‘s cross from the left flank missed everyone and nestled into the far corner of the net. United’s players thought they had equalized but as they wheeled away in celebration the linesman raised his flag. Juan Mata was stood in an offside position and clearly in the eyeline of the Wolfsburg ‘keeper but United’s coaches remonstrated with the referees as the first half came to a close.
With 45 minutes to go in Germany and other results going against them, van Gaal’s boys were heading out of the Champions League.
In the second half the game calmed down with United having plenty of the ball and right on the hour mark Memphis forced a superb save out of Diego Benaglio as he acrobatically sent an effort in at the back post after a knockdown from Marouane Fellaini. Mata then went close again for United but they nearly shot themselves in the foot when David De Gea raced off his line and then quickly retreated to claw a lob from Andre Schurrle out of the top corner and away to safety.
De Gea then made another great stop as Lingard directed the ball towards his own goal and United were under pressure with both Arnold and Naldo going close.
Late on United pushed hard for a goal which would have helped their cause as Memphis curled a free kick inches wide and then forced Benaglio into a smart stop at his near post. Then, they did make it 2-2 as Fellaini directed a header towards goal which was flicked into his own net by Guilavogui, with United going through as things stood.
However, that lasted for just 1 minute and 27 seconds but then Naldo beat Michael Carrick in the air from a corner to head home. 3-2 to Wolfsburg and goodbye United as PSV Eindhoven almost instantaneously went 2-1 up after they had trailed CSKA Moscow.
Martial had a magnificent chance two minutes from time which Wolfsburg blocked and then the follow up from Chris Smalling was also blocked as United crashed out of the Champions League and van Gaal had a face like thunder at the final whistle.