Tuesday 21 November 2017

European nightmare

United's hopes hang in the balance after defeat in Denmark

Midtjylland’s Paul Onuachu celebrates after victory over Manchester United in the Europa League last night Photo: Reuters
Midtjylland’s Paul Onuachu celebrates after victory over Manchester United in the Europa League last night Photo: Reuters
Midtjylland’s Paul Onuachu and Manchester United’s Michael Carrick tangle in the MCH Arena, Denmark Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's chances of progressing in the Europa League are in the balance after they threw away the lead to go down 2-1 at FC Midtjylland in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

Memphis Depay's close-range finish put United in front in the 37th minute, but Pione Sisto - capitalising on a Michael Carrick error - equalised seven minutes later, and a fine strike from Midtjylland substitute Paul Onuachu with 13 minutes to go then handed the Danish champions victory on the night.

Red Devils goalkeeper Sergio Romero produced a series of fine saves after replacing David de Gea, who was forced to pull out of the first XI having sustained an injury in the warm-up, while Jesse Lingard was unlucky not to restore United's lead at 1-1 as his effort hit the bar.

The match will have made for uncomfortable viewing for United's increasingly under-scrutiny boss Louis van Gaal, who has admitted the club's best chance of making the Champions League for next season appears to be winning this competition.

Van Gaal had to cope going into this game with having 12 senior players unavailable - including captain Wayne Rooney, out for six weeks with a knee injury - and there was yet another blow for United just prior to kick-off as De Gea joined the list.

Despite that setback, they looked to make a positive start and in the eighth minute Juan Mata's low shot was saved by Mikkel Andersen.

But three minutes later they were almost behind. A corner was met by a powerful Kian Hansen header that Romero did superbly to palm away.

Moments later as Vaclav Kadlec found himself in space and through one-on-one with Romero, who pulled off another fine save.


United looked vulnerable, but within a minute they were ahead, Depay receiving the ball from Lingard's cross and managing to prod it in from close range off Andersen.

The lead was soon cancelled out as Carrick saw his attempted pass go straight to Sisto. United could not get near the Denmark international as he advanced to the edge of the box before unleashing a shot past Romero.

At the start of the second half Lingard was inches away from putting United back in front as his volley from Ander Herrera's cross struck the woodwork - although they were soon thanking Romero again, with him brilliantly tipping Onuachu's header over the bar.

Sisto looped a shot wide and it was then Onuachu who took centre-stage, firing in a delightfully-placed strike from the edge of the area, with United having done little to stop him.

Van Gaal blamed United's defeat on "the law of Murphy".

"When you start the game and your goalkeeper is number 14 (players out injured) then you are not starting like usual I think," he said.

"A lot of things are happening in the heads of the players and the first 10 or 15 minutes we were not so good. But after that we came in the match, we scored, we could have scored more. The second half we didn't win any duel, any second ball.

"You cannot afford to concede a second goal, but we could have scored also, Jesse Lingard had two remarkable chances, so it is the law of Murphy I think."

Forced out

The Dutchman said De Gea was forced out by a knee problem.

He added: "We have to wait and see, we have to investigate tomorrow with a scan, we cannot answer now."

Michael Carrick was more scathing of the team and admitted they were not at the races.

The experienced midfielder said: "It's just not good enough, it's not acceptable, the performance and the result, it's nowhere near good enough."

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