Manchester United suffered a painful return to the Champions League as they went down 2-1 to PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadion, on a night where defender Luke Shaw suffered a horrific leg injury. Shaw was stretchered off clutching an oxygen mask midway through the first half having received nearly 10 minutes of attention after going down in the penalty box.
Although United recovered from that blow to get on top when Memphis Depay scored at the home of his former club, some sloppy defending from a corner allowed the man involved in the incident that saw Shaw go off, Hector Moreno, to head the Dutch champions level before the break. Things got worse still in the second half. A giveaway from Matteo Darmian precipitated a quick break and fine headed goal from Netherlands international Luciano Narsinghto give Phillip Cocu’s side the lead. Playing in the Champions League group phase for the first time in seven years, PSV went onto seal victory without undue discomfort to give rise to huge cheers from the home fans.
For PSV, the win will have been made all the sweeter by the fact that their opponents had stripped them of the key player in their match to the Eredivisie title last season. And in a group that also contains Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow, they have given themselves a perfect platform to reach the knockout phase.
For United, it puts them under early pressure in a group that wasn’t the toughest but presented a real challenge if they weren’t tuned in. And they certainly weren’t impressive in the second half of their first foray into the Champions League in 18 months. After the high of beating Liverpool on Saturday, this was a repeat of their previous outing against Swansea when they took the lead but fell to defeat. The visit of Wolfsburg in two week’s time is already a crucial fixture.
Still, the main consequence of the night could well prove to be Shaw’s injury. Having started his second season at Old Trafford so positively, the England left-back now looks set to spend a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Shaw’s injury came as he burst positively into the box in what was a strong start for a Manchester United side that featured a full debut for Anthony Martial. And the young French forward, who was playing in place of Marouane Fellaini after announcing himself in brilliant fashion against Liverpool, displayed some encouraging linkup play with Memphis.
It was another fine individual goal from the former PSV man that gave United the lead. Having also scored twice against Club Brugge to confirm United’s return to the Champions League proper, Memphis has so far reserved his best for European competition. That continued with a fine run inside the opposition full-back to meet Daley Blind’s through ball, before dropping his shoulder past former teammate Jeffrey Bruma and finishing coolly on his left foot.
The visitors could have doubled their lead as they built pressure on the PSV goal late in the first half. Both Memphis and Chris Smalling went close, but United were then caught by a costly sucker-punch. From a corner from the left, Darmian was outmuscled by Mexican defender Moreno, whose header deflected off the top of Daley Blind’s head and past Ashley Young on the line.
After Memphis went close following Martial’s layoff early in the second half, United fell asleep to go behind in the 57th minute. Louis van Gaal had reshuffled his defense following Shaw’s injury by bringing on Marcos Rojo and, rather than making it a straight replacement, putting the Argentinean to center-back and moving Blind to the left. And it was that duo who were caught out following Darmian’s turnover. Plenty of credit, though, should go to Maxime Lestienne, who delivered a supreme cross, and Narsingh, who charged into the box ahead of Blind and behind Rojo to apply the finishing touch with his head.
Manchester United’s one real chance to pull level came and went when Juan Mata failed to take Bastian Schweinsteiger’s fine lofted pass under his spell in the box with Memphis waiting square of him for a simple finish. As so often this season, United toiled in search of a goal. How the visiting fans in attendance will have wished that former striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was still in his prime and on the pitch for United rather than watching two of his former clubs from the stands.