Manchester United have suffered a shock defeat at the hands of PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadium tonight. Memphis’ solo effort was cancelled out by a deflected Moreno header from a corner, then early in the second half a rare Matteo Darmian mistake was capitalised on when Narsingh put away a fantastic Lestienne left wing cross.
The most important moment of the night undoubtedly occurred when a fantastic Luke Shaw run deep into the PSV box ended in a desperate and reckless challenge from Moreno. This also seems to have ended Luke Shaw’s promising second season at the club, as he is now confirmed to have a double right leg fracture. Moreno’s challenge was an awful attempt to halt Shaw’s strong run and potential goal scoring opportunity. Despite the quality of the tackle you would expect that he had the right to make this challenge, my problem with the situation is that it was a clear penalty and red card. I do think that had it not been within the first ten minutes of the match and that it was at the Philips Stadium, the outcome of the challenge would have been drastically different.
United have clearly failed to focus after this moment and never really recovered. Louis van Gaal was clearly distraught at the press conference, possibly the most solemn I have seen him since his tenure began at the club. Clearly he has a lot of time for Shaw, initially he criticised his lack of fitness but this was more a paternal concern. Pre season and thereafter he has been more complimentary towards Shaw and has given him starts in every game. Shaw has repaid the faith and performed admirably in every match, comfortably one of the top full backs in the league. Van Gaal must feel that he cannot catch a break at this club having kept De Gea at United and beating Liverpool with a goalscoring debut for his newest protégé Martial, now losing his best full back and the match to his old arch rivals.
United showed glimpses of the future where we have some electric pace at our disposal. Martial did not receive the ball out wide today as much as I thought he would. He did however engage the centre backs a fair bit in the second half and some good passes behind the defence towards Memphis. Ashley Young, Martial and Memphis leading the line provides ample opportunity to run at players and into space to create chance. In the second minute of the game Ashley Young put out a familiar ball into the right hand channel for Martial to run onto and attack the back line. If the game had not changed with Shaw’s injury in the fifteenth minute this would most likely have set the tone for tonight’s encounter.
The mystery that is Ander Herrera…was deployed as a deeper lying midfielder tonight. After winning and then emphatically converting his penalty against Liverpool, I thought he would play again in a more advanced position. I’m not convinced that he can effectively play as a holding midfielder and having paid £25m for Morgan Schneiderlin why take the risk? He would have also provided protection in set pieces that PSV would obviously look to use to hurt United. As Ashley Young had a good second half against Liverpool van Gaal may have thought he deserved a recall to the starting eleven (he was unlucky to get dropped after enjoying a good 2014/15 season). Accommodating Mata, Young, Memphis and Herrera probably was the reason for this choice.
I’m not sure that it would be fair to judge the team performance after the Shaw injury. Moreno arguably should not have been on the pitch when Daley Blind parried his header into the net. The immediate reshuffle saw a rusty Marcos Rojo placed into the centre of our defence and Blind sent out to the left back post. Daley Blind has slowly been winning us fans over with his performances at the heart of the defence. His best games last season came from the left back position during our most fruitful phase of the season, but it will surely destabilise the developing partnership and understanding between him and Chris Smalling.
Width and the Wing.
I don’t think we engaged the flanks enough in this game. In the moments we pushed out wide and cut in behind defenders there were some good chances and Memphis’s goal arose in this way. Martial was very quiet after the Shaw incident and in the coming matches he will influence events more and more. PSV’s goals both came from crosses.
Overall right now the way I feel after this game is similar to how I felt after Rooney was injured against Bayern Munich prior to the 2010 World Cup. It effectively derailed United’s season and severely dented England’s cup ambition. This could fire both ways for the current situation, United could respond the same way they did after losing to Arsenal in what I felt was the FA Cup “final-elect” last season and go on a “backs to the wall” winning run. It could also further shake up their already inconsistent start to the season. Most of us will be hoping for the former