Wolfsburg vs Man United | Tuesday 8 December | VW Arena | 21:45
Louis Van Gaal is discovering first-hand the heavy price of being Manchester United manager. He has incurred the wrath of the Old Trafford faithful despite remaining firmly in title contention and on the cusp of Champions League qualification. His lack of ambition and stylistics have been called into question, with a mounting injury list only adding to the sense of unease at the home of the English giants.
Wolfsburg have managed to get themselves in the driver’s seat of the group, knowing that a draw will ensure their qualification into the knockout phase of the competition. Much will depend on PSV’s ability to win their home match against a slightly unpredictable CSKA side.
To Win Match
Man United 23/20
Wolfsburg will be somewhat disappointed with the manner in which they went down to Dortmund at the weekend, slipping to fifth place in the Bundesliga in the process. They will still be without Felipe and defensive midfield kingpin Luis Gustavo, which will likely see Draxler play alongside Guilavogui in midfield. United’s myriad of midfield limitations will encourage Draxler to impose himself in the middle of the park, where he will likely come face to face with fellow countryman Bastian Schweinsteiger. This battle could prove quite decisive in determining which team gets the ascendancy on the evening.
Andre Schurrle only managed to start from the bench in the first encounter, but his form would suggest that the German international will almost certainly come into the side for this clash, probably at the expense of the young Maximillian Arnold. Dost and Caligiura will complete the forward line, with former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bentner on the bench. This is a dynamic, young Wolfsburg side that is able to break with pace and conviction. In many ways they are the antithesis of United, whose emphasis on possession football is rigidly patient and occasionally impotent.
United’s 0-0 draw at home with West Ham has proved costly on various fronts. Their own fans turned against them and their inability to break down a frugal West Ham defence. Additionally, Morgan Schneiderlin and Paddy McNair look to be the latest names on the casualty list in what is becoming quite a substantial concern for Van Gaal. With Carrick and Herera already on the side-lines, the midfield area looks extremely depleted coming into the most frenetic period of the year. Rooney’s absence may actually prove a blessing in disguise, with Van Gaal probably forced to play the dynamic attacking trio of Depay, Lingaard and Martial.
Ashley Young will probably deputize at right full-back, with the versatile Darmian shifting flank to the left hand side. This slight lack of specialty in the full-back positions could be United’s ultimate undoing, especially when you consider the pace and ingenuity of Schurrle and Caligiura. United look set to pay for their inability to break down PSV in the match at Old Trafford. In reality, this United side is simply not prepared to deal with the vagaries of both European contention and domestic concerns. They need another centre-forward option and also need to figure out a policy regarding the future of England captain Rooney. His iconic status at the club can’t be allowed to interfere with the forward progression of one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Verdict: 1-1 Draw
Wolfsburg 1-United 1, United to be eliminated after PSV are victorious at home to CSKA. I fear United’s inability to break down PSV will prove their downfall in hunting that knock-out phase.
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