Recap: Manchester United were sent crashing out of the Champions League as Wolfsburg beat the Premier League giants 3-2 in Germany to seal a spot in the last 16. United went into the match needing a victory be sure of progress, and with their defeat at the Volkswagen Arena being compounded by a win for PSV Eindhoven in the group’s other final-round match, Louis van Gaal’s side were condemned to the Europa League.
And they could have no complaints. The visitors got the perfect start, when Anthony Martial raced onto Juan Mata’s through ball before finding the net in the 10th minute. Given that the biggest problem for United this season has been scoring goals and that they have been phenomenally secure at the back, they appeared set fair to get the victory they were seeking. But on this most important of nights, United’s defense was in disarray.
They were certainly not helped by a succession of injuries that was compounded late in the first half with the enforced exit of Matteo Darmian, which left two Champions League debutants, Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, at full-back. But the implosion was still a major disappointment. Wolfsburg equalized just three minutes after falling behind, when Naldo was left free to volley home Ricardo Rodriguez’s free-kick.
Just before the half-hour mark the Bundesliga side, who needed just a point to advance, were in front. United’s defense parted alarmingly, but it was still a wonderful team goal from Wolfsburg. Julian Draxler was the brilliant instigator, slaloming past Bastian Schweinsteiger and playing a one-two with Max Kruse before squaring unselfishly for Vierinha to provide a simple finish.
United were controversially denied an equalizer before halftime, when Jesse Lingard’s cross found the net, but Mata was in an offside position and made a movement near the ball right in front of the goalkeeper, leaving the referee to rule it out. In the second half, David de Gea had to make several fine saves just to keep United alive, before Van Gaal’s men were gifted two lifelines. First came news that PSV had fallen behind against CSKA Moscow, meaning that United would progress even with a defeat. And with eight minutes remaining they equalized in Germany. From Marouane Fellaini’s knock-down in the box, Joshua Guilavogui leapt up and sent a looping header past his own goalkeeper.
But as quickly as events had turned in Manchester United’s favor, they reversed course dramatically. As PSV equalized and then took the lead, United allowed Wolfsburg to go back in front just a minute after pulling level. Again it was from a set-piece, and again it was Naldo left free. The center-back this time headed in a corner to hammer the final nail into Manchester United’s Champions League coffin.
Manchester United supporters, as they so often have this season, couldn’t bemoan a lack of entertainment on Wednesday, but this time it was the result that was absent when it mattered most. Instead, it is Wolfsburg that march on as group winners.
FULL TIME! Wolfsburg 3-2 Manchester United
The referee brings an end to Manchester United’s Champions League campaign after a painful night in Germany. It will be the Europa League in the new year for the Premier League giants, while Wolfsburg go through to the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners, ahead of PSV.
92 mins: PSV have won, so United now have 90 seconds of injury time to get two goals. Safe to say t isn’t going to happen.
And Naldo's goal to put Wolfsburg back in front:
Here's Manchester United's equalizer:
88 mins: United come close to an equalizer, but Martial and Chris Smalling are both denied. From the resulting corner, Lingard’s rocket of a shot strikes a head in the box to bounce to safety. It looks like it just isn’t going to be Manchester United’s night.
GOAL! Wolfsburg 3-2 Manchester United (Naldo, 83)
Quite incredible. For the second time in the match Manchester Untied conceded almost immediately after scoring. And this time it could be fatal for Van Gaal’s side. Guilavogui had just headed into his own net after Fellaini won a knock-down in the box, but Wolfsburg went straight down the other end and scored from a corner themselves. Michael Carrick appeared to lose track of Naldo, allowing the Brazilian to head home his second goal of the match, with Daley Blind unable to keep the ball out on the line. To make matters worse for United, PSV have now taken the lead, leaving United needing to score twice in the final few minutes.
GOAL! Wolfsburg 2-2 Manchester United (Guilavogui, 82)
78 mins: Well the hope for Manchester United did not last for long. PSV Windhoven grab an immediate equalizer, meaning United now need to find an equalizer in the last 12 minutes or they will be out of the Champions League.
75 mins: A huge moment for Manchester United, as CSKA Moscow take the lead from the penalty spot against PSV Eindhoven. That means that even a defeat for Manchester United would take them through to the last 16.
73 mins: Inches away from an equalizer for Manchester United. Memphis’ free-kick looked to be heading for the net, but curled just past the far post.
69 mins: Van Gaal make his last two rolls of the dice, replacing Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juan Mata with Michael Carrick and Nick Powell. The decision to bring on Carrick makes sense, but it’s a very surprising call to bring on the seldom seen Powell for Mata, who set up United’s opening goal.
68 mins: De Gea has suddenly become a very busy man. Maximilian Arnold tests the United goalkeeper this time, with a long range shot that swerved all over the place before De Gea helped it behind. From the resulting corner, Max Kruse had a glorious chance to put Wolfsburg two goals to the good, but side-footed wide of the post.
66 mins: De Gea rescues Manchester United again. This time the effort came from his own player, Lingard, whose tackle took the ball looping toward the goal, only for De Gea to leap skyward and tip it to safety over the crossbar.
64 mins: So close to a disaster for Manchester United! David de Gea needlessly came racing out of his box to try and intercept a through ball, and Schurrle easily got there first, leaving the United goalkeeper stranded. But De Gea redeemed himself spectacularly, getting back to claw away what was a fine attempted lob from Schurrle.
62 mins: United come close twice in a couple of minutes to get back on level terms. First the ball fell to Memphis, who hit an acrobatic volley that Benaglio did well to parry away, and then Mata was inches away from reaching a deflected shot and turning it into the net from close range. Manchester United applying real pressure now for the first time.
56 mins: Some more nice buildup from United, this time involving Varela, but Lingard delivered a woeful cross straight out of play. Manchester United are having more of the ball now, but they’re struggling to really threaten the Wolfsburg defense.
53 mins: Some good skill from Memphis down the left, before putting in a good cross that Fellaini was eyeing up. But Dante got to the ball first and was then adjudged to have been fouled from Fellaini from behind. Those were more positive signs from United, though.
51 mins: Varela gets a good tackle in to stop the progress of Schurrle. But it’s still an incredible position for Manchester United to be in, with both of their full-backs making their Champions League debuts in such a crucial encounter.
48 mins: Another strange decision from the officials. Memphis shrugged off Naldo to get free down the left of the box and was initially allowed to play on only to be later called back for a foul. The officiating team seems a little indecisive tonight.
Second half kicks off: Wolfsburg get the game back underway.
HALFTIME: Wolfsburg 2-1 Manchester United
Real controversy at the end of the half, with the assistant seemingly only raising his flag after protests from Wolfsburg and a conversation with the referee. The officials got the decision right, but you can be sure Manchester United will have something to say about it if things don’t go their way. But, in truth, United can have few complaints at being behind at the interval. After getting an ideal start from Martial’s goal, their usual defensive steel has vanished to allow Wolfsburg to take command. Credit, though, must go to Wolfsburg, especially for a wonderful second goal. With United also losing Darmian before the break, an inexperienced defense has it all to do to keep Wolfsburg out in the second half, never mind finding an equalizer. As things stand, with PSV drawing with CSKA Moscow, United would drop into the Europa League.
45 mins: Agony for Manchester United. Jesse Lingard and his teammates ran off celebrating after his cross found its way into the back of the net, but the assistant referee’s flag was up and the goal has been ruled out. It’s hard to disagree with the decision, with Juan Mata clearly in an offside position and making a movement right in front of the goalkeeper.
43 mins: And it’s 18-year-old Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who only made his Manchester United debut last month who replaces Darmian. This really is a patched up Manchester United back four now, with Varela, making his first start, on the opposite side of the defense.
42 mins: Another blow for Manchester United’s injury-ravaged squad, ands particularly defense. Matteo Darmian has had to go off with what looks like a hamstring injury. The visitors are currently down to 10 men, while a replacement is readied.
39 mins: David de Gea keeps Manchester United alive. Schweinsteiger gave the ball away and Wolfsburg streamed forward onto United’s backline. Draxler, the brilliant creator of Wolfsburg’s second goal, really should have found the net himself this time, but his low shot was beaten away by De Gea. Dangerous times for the visitors.
37 mins: As things stand, with PSV goalless against CSKA, Manchester United would be out. And a dream start in Wolfsburg has turned into something for a nightmare for Van Gaal. The defensive solidity that has been the cornerstone of their play this season has completely gone missing and Wolfsburg are looking like they could inflict further damage. Just now Schurrle almost got through before finally being closed out.
Here's that wonderful second goal from Wolfsburg:
GOAL! Wolfsburg 2-1 Manchester United (Vierinha, 29)
That’s a beautiful goal from Wolfsburg as they carved Manchester United apart to take the lead in Germany. Julian Draxler was the creator, slaloming past Schweinsteiger and playing a delightful one-two with Kruse to get through in the box, before unselfishly squaring the ball to give Portugal international Vierinha the simplest of tasks of side-footing into the gaping net.
27 mins: So close to a second goal for Manchester United! Daley Blind delivers an in-swinging corner from the left perfectly onto the head of Fellaini. From six yards out, the Belgian appeared certain to score, but Benaglio got down well to keep it out.
26 mins: Manchester United games have provided scant entertainment this season, but there’s no lack of it so far in this match. Both teams are wide open at times and vulnerable to counter-attacks. It would be a surprise if the scoreline remains as it is.
23 mins: It’s a bit scrappy from both teams right now, with possession being given away far too easily. But Wolfsburg do manage to get forward, ending with a shot from Joshua Guilavogui that deflects safely into the hands of David de Gea.
21 mins: Having found goals so hard to come by of late, Louis van Gaal will surely be sick that having got in front his team almost immediately gave away their advantage. Wolfsburg are now back in the ascendency in the group, a point clear of United. PSV Eindhoven are still goalless with CSKA Moscow, so as things stand both Wolfsburg and United would advance.
Here's a look at those two goals, first Martial and then Naldo.
16 mins: An early blow for Wolfsburg, with their excellent left-back, and the man who just supplied their equalizer, Ricardo Rodriguez, forced off injured and replaced by Marcel Shafer.
GOAL! Wolfsburg 1-1 Manchester United (Naldo, 12)
Manchester United held their lead for just two minutes, and it was all too simple for Wolfsburg. Ricardo Rodriguez delivered a free-kick into the box and center-back Naldo had the space to strike an admittedly excellent volley low past David de Gea. We’re back where we were.
GOAL! Wolfsburg 0-1 Manchester United (Martial, 10)
A huge early goal for Manchester United. Juan Mata, playing in his favored No. 10 role, delivers the type of pass that has become his trademark, splitting the Wolfsburg defense wide open to find Martial running in behind, before he opened his body up and finishing coolly past Diego Benaglio. Louis van Gaal backed Martial ahead of this match, and the 20-year-old, who had just one goal in his previous 13 appearances, has delivered what could be a crucial goal for his team.
8 mins: Manchester United have their first meaningful attack, which ends with a Juan Mata shot from the edge of the box that struck Marouane Fellaini in an offside position. It’s been a lively opening to this crucial match.
6 mins: Rather than through the middle, Schurrle is being deployed on the left, going right up against Varela. Max Kruse is playing in the central striker role, supported by Julian Draxler.
3 mins: A huge chance for Wolfsburg in the opening minutes. Manchester United full debutant Guillermo Varela was caught out by a hopeful ball in from the right and a flick on from Max Kruse that left Schurrle completely free at the back post. But the former Chelsea man ballooned his shot over the bar. On a huge night for Varela, making not just his first appearance in the Champions League but his first ever start for United, that was not the most assured of starts,
1 min: Just a reminder of the scenario. Wolfsburg will progress with at least a draw, while Manchester United need a victory to be sure of going through and topping the group. Anything else and United will be left needing to at least match PSV Eindhoven’s result at home to CSKA Moscow.
KICKOFF! Manchester United get the game underway, with a place in the last 16 of the Champions League on the line.
2:44 p.m. EST: The players are out of the tunnel and out in front of a fervent atmosphere at the Volkswagen Arena. The Wolfsburg fans are hoping to see their team qualify for the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in their history.
2:19 p.m. EST: Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking, meanwhile, opts to go for former Chelsea man Andre Schurrle, rather than Dutch striker Bas Dost up front. That would appear to signal that Wolfsburg, who only need a draw to be sure of progress, will be looking to play on the counter-attack, using Schurrle’s greater speed and mobility. But Wolfsburg will be missing their Brazilian midfield holding man Luiz Gustavo.
— VfL Wolfsburg EN (@VfLWolfsburg_EN) December 8, 2015
2:17 p.m. EST: The teams have been released, and Louis van Gaal has made two changes from the side that played out a goalless draw with West Ham. Memphis Depay returns in place of the injured Morgan Schneiderlin, meaning Marouane Fellaini will drop back alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, while Uruguayan right-back Guillermo Varela will make his first ever Manchester United start in place of Paddy McNair.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 8, 2015
Preview: Manchester United and Wolfsburg will face off for a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League at the Volkswagen Arena on Tuesday. Wolfsburg go into the game top of Group B, and need just a draw to ensure progress to the knockout phase, while a victory would guarantee they do so as group winners. For Manchester United, a point behind Wolfsburg in second, the situation is more precarious.
A draw or even a defeat could be enough for the Premier League giants, but only if third-placed PSV Eindhoven fails to beat bottom-of-the-group CSKA Moscow at home in the group’s other final-round fixture. To be sure of going through, Manchester United must earn a victory in Germany.
The form book in Europe this season is certainly in Wolfsburg’s favor. Manchester United have secured just a single point from two matches on the road in the group phase to date. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg have won both their home matches. In fact Wolfsburg’s impressive record in front of their home fans stretches beyond the Champions League. Dieter Hecking’s team had gone 29 home Bundesliga matches unbeaten, although that was until this weekend, when former Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa grabbed an injury-time goal to give Borussia Dortmund a dramatic win.
Manchester United also endured far from ideal preparation for Tuesday’s crucial fixture. Against West Ham, Louis van Gaal’s side played out a fifth goalless draw in their lost nine matches to earn a chorus of boos from frustrated supporters at Old Trafford. Van Gaal’s task of getting goals from his side in Lower Saxony is hindered by the continued absence of captain Wayne Rooney with an ankle injury. After picking up a hip problem against West Ham, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has joined an injury list that also includes Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones. Wolfsburg have a doubt over their Brazil international midfielder Luiz Gustavo, who has a back injury.
Check back here from 2:45 p.m. EST for video highlights and live score updates as the two teams battle it out to move on in the Champions League.