5 things we learned as 10-man Man United handed loss in Champions League opener vs Young Boys
Young Boys vs Man United
Manchester United got their 2021/22 Champions League campaign underway a short time ago.
The Red Devils would be drawn in Group F alongside Serie A outfit Atalanta, Villarreal – who beat United in the Europa League final last season – and Swiss outfit, Young Boys.
And with the latter of that trio, on paper, the easiest opponent for Man United, it was imperative that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and co. got their European campaign off to a winning start on Tuesday, especially if they wished to avoid the embarrassment of not making it out of their Cl group like in 2020/21.
But, when all was said and done at the Stade de Suisse, Man United would fail to do so.
Of course, it would be Cristiano Ronaldo who opened the scoring in Switzerland, tapping in an effort from a lovely outside of the foot pass from Bruno Fernandes.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was then shown a straight red card after just 36 minutes, which eventually led to Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu equalising for Young Boys 66 minutes in. A sloppy back-pass from Jesse Lingard 94 minutes in then gifted Young Boys a second of the day and all three points.
Here are five things 101 learned from the game.
A mixed day for Solskjaer
Before taking over at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not have that much experience managing in Europe’s top-five leagues.
This has shown throughout his United stint, including in the Champions League last term.
Man United were drawn alongside Istanbul Basaksehir, PSG and RB Leipzig in their group for 2020/21.
As a result, it was imperative that Man United picked up maximum points vs the weakest side in the group, Istanbul Basaksehir.
However, Solskjaer did look to underestimate the Turkish side when away to them, starting a fairly weak eleven that eventually lost 2-1, with that result eventually leading to United failing to make it out of their CL group.
But, whilst Young Boys are Man United’s weakest opponent this time around, Ole still opted for a very strong XI against them, which suggests that the Norwegian has learnt his lesson from last campaign.
Ole has named his first side of our 2021/22 #UCL campaign #MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 14, 2021
His actions during the game, however, suggested that this may not actually have been the case. Of course, it was not his fault that Wan-Bissaka got sent off. However, his decisions after going down to 10-men were questionable.
Taking off Jadon Sancho after just 36 minutes seemed pretty odd. OGS would then take off Van de Beek at half-time and switch to a back-five, essentially inviting Young Boys to come and attack them whilst having one less runner in midfield.
This was followed by a very slow Nemanja Matic being brought on for Bruno Fernandes and the pacey Anthony Martial not coming on until the 89th minute. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but surely Solskjaer would have been better served leaving on Bruno to help start counters and bringing on Martial earlier for his pace on said counters?
Van de Beek blew his chance
Donny van de Beek would be handed his first start of the 2021/22 season vs Young Boys.
The Dutchman has been unable to earn any sort of regular football during his stint in Manchester, with the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay favoured ahead of him.
However, with McTominay still not back from injury, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally handed Van de Beek a chance to impress on Tuesday.
But despite the fairly weak opposition, Van de Beek did very little to show he should be handed a more regular spot in United’s XI.
The Dutchman’s positioning was a particular concern. He was deployed in a pivot alongside Fred, but would far too frequently bomb up the pitch and leave Fred on his own, something you really cannot afford to do when playing alongside the Brazilian.
Van de Beek was then taken off at half-time for Raphael Varane, having basically done nothing to warrant Solskjaer handing him another start anytime soon.
Sancho is lacking confidence
Jadon Sancho was Man United’s big-money signing this summer, setting them back a reported £73m.
With such a high fee, as well as his previously impressive years with Borussia Dortmund, a lot was likely expected of Sancho when he returned to England.
However, so far, the winger has looked a shadow of himself. Vs Young Boys, for example, Sancho was constantly passing backwards, looking wary of taking players on and just generally lacked any sort of confidence.
This was unlikely helped when he was hooked after just 36 minutes following Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s red card.
Of course, young players arriving from foreign leagues can often need some time to adjust. United fans will just be hoping that the 21-year-old can rediscover his best form sooner rather than later.
Bruno Fernandes remains integral to Man United’s success
Bruno Fernandes has of course been Manchester United’s MVP since his arrival from Sporting in the 2020 winter transfer window.
However, when Ronaldo joined, many were likely expecting Fernandes’ importance/influence to dwindle – much like he is a less integral player for Portugal where he also plays with the 36-year-old.
But that has most certainly not been the case so far. Fernandes scored a stunning goal vs Newcastle over the weekend and was once again one of the best players on the pitch vs the Young Boys.
Ronaldo may have tapped in the 1st goal of the day, but it would not have been possible without Fernandes’ creative pass:
It just had to be him, didn’t it! 🎯
Cristiano Ronaldo gives Man Utd the lead at Young Boys! ⚽️
Three goals in two appearances. A fairytale return to the Red Devils so far! pic.twitter.com/NpbHZOySKU
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 14, 2021
Ronaldo will not help Man United in big games
Man United’s record against big teams in recent years is not especially great. But with Ronaldo now on their books, United fans were probably hoping that could change.
And, whilst the Portuguese may pop up with the odd moment of magic in huge ties, he is unlikely to be very useful over the course of a big game.
Young Boys are not a big team, but after going down to 10 men, Man United needed all of their players to be running at full tilt, much like you need when you are going up against a strong side like Chelsea or Liverpool.
Ronaldo, though, did not do this vs Young Boys, and was eventually taken off after 72 minutes for a much more active Jesse Lingard.
This is not necessarily a dig at Ronaldo as he is now 36 years of age and cannot run like a 20-odd-year-old.
However, it does show that his presence will likely hamper his side more than it helps them when they face big teams like Chelsea in the league this season.
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