Louis van Gaal has insisted that his Manchester United side must go out and beat Wolfsburg in Germany on Tuesday and not rely on the result in Group B’s other final-round fixture going their way. United will go into the game sitting second in the table, a point behind Wolfsburg and one ahead of PSV Eindhoven. A win for the Dutch champions at home to the already eliminated CSKA Moscow would mean United needing a victory at the Volkswagen Arena.
"It's very important for the club to continue in the Champions League also for the players because they want to show their qualities at the highest podium," Van Gaal said in his pre-match press conference. "You have to prove, as a club, as a team and as players, that you can continue. We can't depend on the result of PSV Eindhoven."
A victory, though, will mean Manchester United having to do something they have failed to accomplish in five of their last nine matches -- score a goal. Supporters at Old Trafford have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of entertainment offered up and booed their side off the field after yet another goalless draw on Saturday, against West Ham.
With captain Wayne Rooney not making the trip to Germany because of an ankle injury, particular responsibility to score goals will fall upon Anthony Martial. The France international became the most expensive teenager in the world when United paid Monaco £ 36 million for his services. And he made a fine start to his Old Trafford career, scoring four goals in his first four appearances. But the goals have dried up since, and he has found the net just once in his last 13 outings.
“I think he is very talented,” Van Gaal said. “But we have to say, also, that he is just 20-years-old and we have to give him time. I’m convinced he should continue in the team and he will score at the right moment again. You cannot expect that a 20-year-old, in his first year in the Premier League, scores every week.
“I didn't expect that when he came. He was exceeding expectations at the start of his career at Man United and I know that. I have to explain that. He doesn't need that pressure to score in every match.”
Manchester United were able to find two goals to beat Wolfsburg at Old Trafford at the end of September, but both teams have been much stronger at home in this season’s competition. While United have taken just one point on the road, Wolfsburg have beaten both PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow at the Volkswagen Arena. Indeed, prior to Saturday, when former Manchester United man Shinji Kagawa gave Borussia Dortmund a late win, Wolfsburg had gone 29 home Bundesliga matches unbeaten.
Dieter Hecking’s team earned a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years by finishing second in the Bundesliga last season. But having lost star man Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City in the summer, it has been something of a stuttering start to this campaign, and they currently sit fifth in the Bundesliga. Still, they now know that a point on Tuesday will send the club through to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in its history.
“We shouldn't be too concerned about United; we should be focusing on ourselves,” Hecking said, reports UEFA.com. “I don't feel any pressure. I am really looking forward to this game and I know my team will do all they can for the historic achievement of reaching the knockout stage.
“We want to stir up the fans' enthusiasm and we will do all we can to reach the next round. We are capable of competing with anyone, even Manchester United. We're not considering a draw -- we want to win.”
D: Trasch, Naldo, Dante, Rodriguez
M: Arnold, Luiz Gustavo
Vierinha, Draxler, Caligiuri
G: De Gea
D: Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Young
M: Carrick, Schweinsteiger
Mata, Fellaini, Lingard
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: Fox Sports 1