Do Manchester United really want to be playing Thursday nights in the Europa League? Well, it’s hard to say, but they might not have to do it much longer if they repeat Thursday’s debut performance.
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Jose Mourinho fielded a squad made up of mostly first-team players, and fringe starters at worst, in Thursday’s clash away to Feyenoord, last season’s third-place finishers in the Netherlands, and suffered a second straight defeat, 1-0, on the heels of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City in the Manchester derby.
The game’s first real chance came in the 24th minute, when Matteo Darmian got in behind the Feyenoord defense and cut the ball back to Anthony Martial at the top of the penalty area. From there, Martial settled the ball with his first touch and fired a right-footed shot a foot wide of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
With his side failing to create much of anything on the attack, Mourinho turned to the underutilized triple-substitution in the 63rd minute, bringing on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Memphis Depay and Ashley Young to replace Martial, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford.
Ibrahimovic had a golden opportunity to head United into the lead in the 75th minute, but the big Swede’s redirect of Young’s free kick was skewed wildly from the top of the six-yard box.
United weren’t made to pay for their deep-sitting approach until the 79th minute, but when they were, the game’s decisive moment had arrived. Nicolai Jorgensen appeared to be offside as he ran in behind the United defense, but the assistant referee’s flag stayed down. Jorgensen raced into the penalty area and cut the ball back to the top of the box, where Tonny Vilhena arrived in in full stride and slotted the ball past David De Gea with a cool left-footed finish.
The result sees United go joint-bottom of Group A after the first matchday. Ukrainian side Zorya join Feyenoord atop the group with a 1-0 victory of their own on Thursday, over Fenerbahce.