Van Gaal's position under threat as embarrassed Man U crash out of Champions League
The third place finish in Group B means Manchester United still have a chance at a European trophy through the Europa League, but it may also be the last straw for fans who have been vocal this season about the defensive tactics and below-par performances.
Van Gaal enjoyed a fairly positive first season last year with fans and pundits both giving the new manager room to rebuild the side after the seventh-place league finish in 2013/14. Since then, he has spent over $250 million in three transfer windows to stock the team with new players.
However, last night's defeat was a sobering reminder of the chasm between Manchester United and the top teams in Europe. Dumped into the Europa League and slipping to fourth in the English Premier League last weekend, everything at United needs to improve - the fault lies equally with the manager, the players and the board.
United went into the game knowing that they needed a win to qualify for the knockout rounds, and they started strongly, going ahead in the 10th minute through Anthony Martial. After that perfect start though, United wilted in face of Wolfsburg's comeback, conceding twice before the 30th minute. The much-vaunted defensive solidity was nowhere to be seen.
The German side’s second, finished by the impressive Vieirinha was set up in such impressive fashion that there seemed no way back for United at halftime, especially with PSV Eindhoven drawing at home to CSKA Moscow in the other match in Group B. At that point PSV needed to lose in order for United to progress from the group.
The second half started with United on the attack, fighting for their Champions League future. United drew multiple saves from Diego Benaglio in the Wolfsburg goal, and a late own goal from Wolfsburg midfielder Josuha Guilavogui dragged United level on the night, which looked to be enough to send Van Gaal’s side through, with PSV and CSKA at 1-1.
However, the match quickly turned on its head in the 84th minute as Naldo scored to make it 3-2 for Wolfsburg and PSV scored in the other game to make it 2-1. The United players' had visibly lost the game at that point and the last few minutes were a futile attempt to salvage some respect from an abysmal Champions League campaign.
United fans will rue the poor results that led the team to needing a win in their final game - an away draw to CSKA Moscow, an away defeat to PSV Eindhoven and a 0-0 home draw to the same team that may have lost them their chance to progress. A win at Old Trafford against PSV would have made progress academic last night.
Fans of the club will now be concerned about United’s ability to attract the top players, either in January or even the summer, with the club still unable to re-join the top echelons of the sport. Manchester United are still challenging for the title in England, but Wednesday saw arguably the most attacking tactics employed by van Gaal and it was still not enough.
THAT was as average as it could be. Not great at all and there's a long way to go.!— Peter Schmeichel (@Pschmeichel1) December 8, 2015