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Manchester United's second season under Louis van Gaal took a wild turn for the worse as they were beaten and sent into the Europa League by Wolfsburg in a feisty and dramatic encounter.
Regarded as the biggest match of Louis van Gaal's reign at Manchester United, the Dutchman continued to provoke negative questioning from the fans; handing inexperienced Guillermo Varela his first start while taking former Champions League winner Michael Carrick out of the line-up for the controversial selection of Marouane Fellaini.
Subsequently, Juan Mata operated in a central attacking role with Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingard on the flanks while Anthony Martial played alone up front.
Wolfsburg, who were seeking victory to top the group, once again lined up with real intent. Having lost at Old Trafford in their first Champions League game of the season - Kruse, Draxer and Schurrle were primed to seize revenge.
Louis van Gaal and The Red Devils were aware of the magnitude of the match, but still failed to lock up securuely at the back as Wolfsburg capitalized. Left wide open in defence, youngster Varela was nowhere to be seen as Schurrle who latched onto Max Kruse's long pass looked set to score, but agonizingly lashed his effort over the crossbar.
After retaining possession after a shaky start, Martial ensured Louis van Gaal's attacking decisions paid off. Surrounded by pace but also creative players, The Frenchman used his sharp acceleration to pounce onto Mata's through ball, leave his marker for dead then take a couple of touches then knock the ball past the advancing Benaglio.
However, the lead didn't last long. Known for their strong defensive frame under Van Gaal, the Red Devils conceded a goal that could have been prevented. Ricardo Rodriguez, on the right, whipped in a dangerous free-kick which saw centre-back Naldo escape Smalling's presence to lash a fierce volley past De Gea low into the bottom corner.
Wolfsburg's immediate response didn't, however, disrupt United's attacking flow which has been such a rare occurrence in The Red Devils' season. Aware of the task ahead, Martial led the resurgence down the left with a blistering run. Approaching the penalty area, The Frenchman tried to accurately find Mata in the middle but goalkeeper Benaglio acted quickly to gobble up the ball and prevent any danger.
For once, Manchester United were participating in an entertaining match. Despite pleasing their fans with a rare glimpse of excitement, Van Gaal's men would soon fall behind and there was nothing they could do to prevent it. Leaving the United defence for dead, Wolfsburg thrived with quick passes and interchanges; resulting in Draxler drawing De Gea off his line and eventually teeing up Vierinha to convert into an empty net.
Wolfsburg were dominating late in the first half and seemingly targeted the inexperienced Guillermo Varela. With the frightening prospect of a speedy and fired up Schurrle scorching down the flank, he had Varela in major trouble with pace and dazzling footwork. Fortunately for United, the attack resulted in nothing. Meanwhile, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson replaced the injured Darmian as Wolfsburg lead United 2-1 at half time.
Louis van Gaal's side opened second half proceedings with a sharper edge; Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard creating space and movement around the oppositions area. Manoveruing the attack down the right, Fellaini saw his header deflect over to Memphis whose scissor kick was saved well by Benaglio.
David De Gea had a mixture of one of his best matches of the season along with one of his most dangerous. Schurrle, romping down the left, beat the advancing Spaniard to the ball. Realising the risky situation, he backpedaled onto his line and fantastically tipped Schurrle's long range effort past the post. Moments later, De Gea made two more brilliant saves and then saw Kruse's shot from the edge of the box just spray wide of goal.
After a tough 10 minutes of defending, United then switched their intentions to attack. Martial, bundled over by Naldo, was barged over but the following free-kick from Memphis narrowly missed the far left post. With full-time looming and Van Gaal's men searching for a goal, much-needed luck occurred as Fellaini beat Naldo to seize a flick on the ball to cause Guilavogi to unwillingly head backwards into his own net.
But then, more drama hit United hard. Similar to the earlier in the match, Wolfsburg immediately scored after The Red Devils initially took the lead. This time, Naldo secured an unlikely brace. After meeting a corner, the Brazilian guided a header home past De Gea with Blind unable to clear off the line.
Manchester United are out of the Champions League and face the dreaded prospect of participating in the Europa League.
Wolfsburg top their group and deservedly proceed to the Round of 16 of the Champions League.
For a complete roundup of all the action from Tuesday night in Matchweek 6 of the Champions League, click here.
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