Champions League

Man United need to face the fact they are simply a Europa League level team

Despite a 3-2 scoreline, the English side were tepid and defensively fragile against the Germans and didn't deserve to qualify

8:00am on Wednesday 9th December 2020
Emmet Gates

Manchester United came so close to emulating so many of their European nights and overturning a multi-goal deficit.

However this time they did indeed fall short. And if one was being honest, the final result was just, the comeback merely papering over the cracks of an immense failure.

RB Leipzig were overwhelmingly better than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, especially in the first half hour, where Julian Nagelsmann's side blitzed through a totally beleaguered United rearguard.

The German side played with a vim and vigour that United seriously lacked. Leipzig genuinely looked like they could've scored at will, while defensively, United looked beyond fragile.

Their full-backs, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles, tucked in too narrow. This allowed Angelino and Amadou Haidara oceans of space on either flank to exploit, and it wasn't a surprise that two of their three goals came from either side, with the former involved in both.

Even after Leipzig dialled down their intensity towards the end of the first half, United looked short of just about everything that's required to win a football match in the Champions League: pressing, intensity, passing, creativity and defensive solidity.

Make no mistake, their failure to qualify from this group is a disaster for Solskjaer, all the more so considering they not only beat Paris Saint-Germain in Paris, but also smashed five past this same Leipzig at Old Trafford just over a month ago.

Qualification was in their own hands. All they had to do was avoid defeat in Germany. But in many ways the Europa League is a fitting competition for United to be in. They are a team of decent quality, but they simply don't have enough about them to trade blows with the continent's biggest sides.

There is a genuine lack of leaders and as Leipzig were tearing into United, you never really had confidence that they could turn things around. Only Bruno Fernandes, one of United's few bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming year, looked capable of turning things around or, even more bluntly, featuring regularly at this level.

Manchester United
Ratings v RB Leipzig

The introduction of Paul Pogba, in the midst of another war of words between his agent Mino Raiola and club legends this week, added some spark to their creativity.

But Pogba has never been a leader, for Juventus nor for France, and if Solskjaer or any of the executives at United are expecting the Frenchman to show those qualities, then they don't know the player they shelled out £90m for four years ago.

One can look at the stats of this game and surmise that United didn't do so badly, but the fact is that stats can be interpreted any way one sees fit, and in this case, they would be severely misleading.

The late comeback, whilst valiant to an extent, would've only masked the huge flaws in this United team. They looked like a team without passion.

And that was never something you could aim at a team led by Ferguson.

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