Saturday, 17 September 2016

United Left Frustrated By Feyenoord

Feyenoord 1 Manchester United 0

After making wholesale changes to his starting line-up it wasn't exactly the start Jose Mourinho wanted in his first European tie as United manager as his side fell to their second defeat in a week.

Hopes were high as Manchester United returned to the scene of Sir Alex Ferguson's first European triumph as United's manager. It was at the De Kuip stadium that the Red Devils enjoyed a glorious victory by defeating Barcelona 2-1 to lift the old European Cup Winners Cup back in 1991.

Their attention was now fully focused on the Europa League and a tricky opening group match against Dutch side Feyenoord, which would be the shortest trip for Mourinho's men in a group that will see them face longer journeys to Turkey and The Ukraine.

United departed Manchester with a squad that didn't include rested captain Rooney and injured Shaw but still had a side capable of seeing off the threat of the Dutch team.

Mourinho's starting XI for his first European match as manager of the side: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Pogba, Mata, Herrera, Martial and Rashford.

Only three players started the game from the eleven that played in the derby so there was a chance for Smalling to partner Bailly in place of Blind and defensive duo Rojo and Darmian replaced Valencia and Shaw.

In midfield, Pogba remained but he had a new partner in Schneiderlin with Herrera and Mata in support.

Up front, the impressive Rashford was handed his first start of the season alongside Martial.

The opening ten minutes was a cagey affair with both sides weighing each other up until the home side tested De Gea with a curling shot from the edge of the area by Berghuis. The United number one was alert to the early threat.

The rock in the United defence Eric Bailly took a knock to the thigh as he cleared his lines and stayed down for a worrying few minutes. He was thankfully able to continue after running it off.

A surging run from Herrera was halted by a foul which Pogba took but his effort on goal was easily saved by keeper Brad Jones.

United's first real chance fell to Martial in the 24th minute following good work from Darmian on the right side of the penalty area. His cross was low and hard and as it fell to Martial you felt it was goal-bound until it flew inches past the post.

The bright spark in the United side was the recalled Ander Herrera, who was covering every blade of grass on the pitch as he helped both the attack and defence.

Feyenoord had a slightly aggressive style to their play, which was shown in the number of free kicks they conceded as they tried to bully United out of their rhythm.

Record signing Pogba failed to stamp his authority on the game as he was dispossessed far too easily on a few occasions.

As the home side saw more of the ball the home supporters raised the atmosphere as they sensed their team were in the ascendancy this, in turn, prompted Mourinho to urge his players to calm down as he watched from the touchline.

As the half entered its final ten minutes it has to be said that United's play had been passive with no real threat in attack.

Mata almost got onto the end of a headed flick-on but that was as close it got as the half ended in a boring goalless draw.

Half time and not a lot to talk about as both sides struggled to get out of third gear. Neither keeper had been troubled and Mourinho will have to gee his players up if they are going to take control of the match and impose themselves further up the field.

Rashford cut a lone figure up front as he lacked any decent service and when he did gain possession he gave it away far too easily. The more he plays the quicker he will improve his all round game as his potential is immense.

At the start of the second half, Pogba slotted in higher up the pitch clearly looking to become more involved in the play than he was in the first forty-five minutes.

In fact, it was Pogba who tried a speculative effort from long range five minutes after the restart, but his shot was high over the bar. An effort more in frustration than anything else as there was nothing else happening in front of him.

By the 55th minute the pace of the game hadn't picked up and it badly needed an infusion of energy from somewhere as Ibrahimovic started to warm up down on the touchline.

Pogba once again tried his luck from distance but his shot was wide of the mark.

After the hour mark, Mourinho had seen enough and made a triple substitution by bringing on Ibrahimovic, Memphis and Young in place of Rashford, Martial and Mata.

A message of intent had been made by the manager as he sensed the game was there to be won. Immediately following the changes the three substitutes almost created a goal as Young did well on the right and delivered a cross to the far post that was met by the head of Ibrahimovic and Memphis almost connected with the ball.

As the match entered its final fifteen minutes it was a match even in chances, but with United edging the amount of possession without managing to create any clear-cut openings.

Ibrahimovic did manage to rise the highest to another Young delivery from a free kick, but the big Swede directed his header too high.

Under fire Memphis showed the lack of confidence in his game at the moment as he fired a volley high into the jeering crowd. That summed up United's night.

Then Feyenoord took the lead on the counter with a goal that should have been ruled out for offside during the build up. Jorgensen was allowed to play on and crossed from the right and found an unmarked Vilhena in the box to fire easily past De Gea.

It was shocking defensive play by United who seemed to stop for the offside flag that never came and ended up conceding a sloppy goal.

To their credit United did go on the attack immediately after conceding and it was Smalling who almost benefitted from a neat flick from Ibrahimovic but his shot was blocked by a crowd of defenders.

Memphis failed to impress again as his free kick, which should have been aimed at a host of teammates in the box, was high wide and handsome.

As the clock hit 90 minutes Ibrahimovic took over the free kick duties and fired a thirty yard effort hard and goal bound that the keeper did well to get his body behind.

It was then the turn of Herrera, who was just about to pull the trigger until a late tackle on him denied him the chance of grabbing an equaliser. That was the last piece of action on a night that will not linger in the memory as there was absolutely nothing memorable in United's play whatsoever.

An opening defeat in the group stage isn't a disaster. However, there are tougher matches ahead and if United do in fact want to add this trophy to their museum showcase then Mourinho will have to put a bomb under his players.

Too many players that were given a chance to shine by Mourinho were off their game, including the recalled defending trio of Smalling, Darmian and Rojo. Maybe it was down to rustiness as they have all lacked valuable game time.

Mata and Herrera huffed and puffed without creating anything of substance. Pogba has yet to hit his stride and he played with a new midfield partner in Schneiderlin who did his job well enough after a spell on the sidelines.

Up front Martial has yet to hit the heights of last season and you would expect a player of his quality to hit top form soon. Rashford failed to live up to the hype surrounding his recent exploits, but he is young and will hopefully learn from the bad games as well as the good ones.

Ibramovich and Young did manage to lift the tempo of the game slightly when they were brought on. On the other hand, there is the matter of Memphis who once again failed to give his manager any reason to call on him anytime in the near future. He may drive a Rolls Royce but he is playing like a clapped out banger.

Two defeats on the bounce now and Mourinho will have to pick a side capable of beating Watford in the Premier League to avoid a hat-trick of defeats.

Until then thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.