Last night was one of the most painful defeats for Manchester United fans in recent history. The 2-1 loss at Basel meant that we missed out on knockout stage football in the Champions League and will now go into the Europa League. The defeat itself has left people wondering why. Why did we lose a game we musn’t lose? And why have we found ourselves eliminated from the Champions League?
Manchester United controlled the game in terms of possession. 56.7% possession to be exact but the efficiency in attack was lacking. Very few clear cut chances were created. 1 to be exact; Nani’s cross to Rooney which he mis hit/didn’t hit. Penetration was poor. The players were impatient. Time and time again in possession the players sent it wide and crossed the ball in, only for it to be caught by the goalkeeper or cleared by the defence. Man Utd attempted 46 crosses throughout the game and only 7 connected to a Man Utd player. That is an average of 1 cross every 2 minutes. To put this into context, Man Utd attempted more crosses last night than Stoke City has in each of their Premier League games this season.
The fact that we attempted so many crosses brings me onto team selection and formation. We fielded 5 defenders, 4 wingers and 1 striker. Ryan Giggs himself attempted 9 crosses from playing in a central midfield position. He was often forced wide meaning penetration from the middle was often limited. Although Nani was probably our best player on the night, he attempted 17 crosses himself. Only 3 of them reached a Man Utd player, 1 reached Rooney who should have scored. Man Utd’s persistence in crossing the ball was in itself baffling. Rooney was a lone striker up against 2 tall, physical centre backs who more often than not averted any danger from crossed balls. Crossing to a lone striker makes the game even more difficult than it should’ve been. If the game plan was to overload the box with crosses from out wide, surely we should have started with a second striker? The way that we played warranted the introduction of a second striker much earlier in the game.
Lapses of concentration in defence also contributed in Man Utd’s defeat to Basel. The first goal could’ve been totally preventable had David De Gea caught it, though it’s understandable that he did what he did. Unfortunately, his touch fell straight to a Basel player who netted to make it 1-0. For the second goal Shaqiri should’ve been ushered into the corner onto his weaker foot yet he was allowed to cut inside and put in a cross which ended up in Basel scoring. Disappointing to say the least. I felt that the fight in the players was also lacking. There were many occasions in which I was yearning for the team to close down and win the ball back to no avail. When the chips were down and we really needed something from anyone, no player stepped up with a match-winning contribution.
In my opinion, confidence was the key reason as to why Man Utd find themselves out of the Champions league. The Manchester United players last night lacked the confidence in their own ability. They lacked the patience to play the ball along the ground and break down the opposition, instead opting to cross the ball as often as possible. Ultimately this was our downfall. Now the players have an even bigger job of showing their character to come back from what’s been viewed by many to be as quite a low point.
How do you feel after last night’s defeat? Feel free to comment below.
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