No one saw this coming. No one expected this to happen. How on earth, all those efforts resulted in this, none could explain – but at the end of the match, it was RB Leipzig and not Manchester United, who would feature in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League 2020-21. Manchester United would play in the Europa League and over the past few seasons, this has been a familiar story.
… and breathe pic.twitter.com/g3aa57fH12
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) December 8, 2020
Manchester United just needed a draw to secure their place in the next round and the comeback was on the way despite going down by 2-0 against a very competent Leipzig unit.
Marcel Sabitzer’s defense-splitting pass evaded the Red Devils’ disjointed backline, with Angelino applying a real striker’s finish to fire home beautifully from distance.
Amadou Haidara doubled the hosts’ lead with a fine first-time finish ten minutes later, before Willi Orban had a rebounded header correctly ruled out for offside after VAR review.
Leipzig were in such a killer-mood that by half-time it could have been 3-0or 4-0.
Manchester United to Europa League HERE WE GO! Total agreement reached with RB Leipzig and PSG. Last bid is accepted by the United defence. £80M as final fee. Money bank transferred under the reference #SANCHO2020. Confirmation soon. #RBLMUN #UEL #OleOut
— Fabrizio Romano (@CarefreeLewisG) December 8, 2020
Emil Forsberg missed a golden opportunity while Luke Shaw made an important interception after a costly Aaron Wan-Bissaka mistake in the own half almost set RB Leipzig through again.
The introduction of Donny van de Beek at the interval injected some energy into the midfield, though both sides made two alterations before the breezy 60 seconds with 20 minutes left.
Bruno Fernandes rattled the crossbar from a free-kick which substitute Brandon Williams won on the edge of the area before RB Leipzig’s Justin Kluivert made it 3-0 59 seconds later.
When Man Utd beat PSG & RB Leipzig in the first 2 games, we only needed 4 out of the possible 12 points that were available in the last 4 games to qualify, and we couldn’t even do that. We simply do not deserve to qualify from this group.
— Ryan. ? (@Vintage_Utd) December 8, 2020
Kluivert came on and instantly made himself a nuisance in the final third. He pounced with a deft chip beyond David de Gea after more lackadaisical defending by Manchester United as the players tried and failed to deal with Angelino’s low deflected cross.
United responded to keep the hopes alive!
The Guardian stated, “The goals were streaky and scrappy, the first a penalty awarded contentiously when Ibrahima Konate leaned into Mason Greenwood – Bruno Fernandes converted – and the second after a header from the substitute Paul Pogba. Did he use his hand to usher the ball goal-wards? It was difficult to tell. It still needed a flick off Harry Maguire and a deflection off Konate to wrong-foot the goalkeeper, Peter Gulacsi.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had said, their destiny was in their own hands but the performance they produced at the Red Bull Arena only hinted, they are only suited to play in the Europa League these days
Manchester United may have been 2-0 down early but still had chances to go into the break with the deficit halved – at the very least.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 8, 2020
However, they didn’t do so because they seemed too busy complaining about questionable decisions by the officials rather than rediscovering their mojo.
The plan to play Alex Telles in the left midfield position rather than in the full-back one backfired.
With 35 touches, he completed just six passes and had the lowest pass accuracy across both teams (42.9%), losing possession a whopping 15 times in 45 minutes. He made six crosses – only one was accurate. No wonder he was replaced, though he shouldn’t have started to begin with.
The deliveries of Bruno Fernandes lacked sharpness. The same could be said for most Manchester United players who fizzed in corners or free-kicks, which were frequently headed clear as Leipzig defenders relished aerial duels – even with Dayot Upamecano out suspended.
The last time Man United won the Champions League, RB Leipzig didn't exist ? pic.twitter.com/YQGsVHPg7r
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 8, 2020
Shaw couldn’t commit too far forward, otherwise, he’d be caught up the other end as the left-sided center-back in Solskjaer’s three-man backline. The visitors made it too easy for their opponents to get settled, which is why a change of shape and personnel was key to unlocking a new dimension for Manchester United going forward in the second half.
Julen Naglesmann was spot on with his tactics.
He worked on the grey areas – the backline, which had been an issue during the transitions, and the absence of Upamecano made them even more vulnerable.
How can you beat PSG and Leipzig in your first two Champions League games and still end up in Europa League?
You have to give it to Ole Solskjaer, that’s some achievement..
— Conn (@ConnCFC) December 8, 2020
Haidara played ahead of Mukiele in central midfield at Bayern Munich but slotted well into an unfamiliar role at wing-back.
Mukiele often came out second-best in duels with Mason Greenwood, Konate was inevitably punished for being overzealous and Willi Orban – the least mobile and perceived the weakest link – performed best at the back, though none of the players covered themselves in glory.
Manchester United were overrun in the midfield by Olmo’s false-9 role and when Solskjaer could change their system, it was already too late.
RB Leipzig set up the foundations for a memorable victory brilliantly.
Manchester United should have targeted the backline of Leipzig by starting fast.
The slow and Sluggish starts are always punished – Ole should learn this.