As Manchester United fans paid tribute to George Best on the 10th anniversary of his death, it was the current incumbent of the number 7 shirt, Memphis Depay, who was hoping to build on his goal against Watford the previous Saturday, and fire United into the Last 16 of the European Cup.
It was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford, and thus, my first game seeing Adidas United in the flesh. How exciting.
Curiously, the last few years have seen me wait until November to make my first visit to Old Trafford. It’s purely coincidental, and not a conscious move. I had hoped to go to the Sunderland game in September, but that fell through.
United players arrived at Old Trafford knowing that a win would send them through to the next round as they led the tightest group in the competition due to the fact that their draw in Moscow was the only game in the previous four matchdays that wasn’t a home win.
At teatime, the other game in the group took place between CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg, resulting in a 2-0 win for Wolfsburg. The result meant that United wouldn’t win the group with a win, but it did guarantee European football in early 2016. What competition it would be in, was still to be determined.
Even though they played a long ball forward in the first five seconds of the game, PSV had set their stall out to defend. United had a lot of possession but no clear chances. Bastien Schweinsteiger created space for himself in the early minutes and fired a shot straight at PSV’s keeper.
Memphis also managed a shot on goal while Jesse Lingard but through on goal, only to miscontrol the ball.
The highlight, no pun intended, of the early moments, when Old Trafford paid tribute to George Best on the tenth anniversary of his death, as supporters switched on the lights on their phones as a tribute and sang Spirit In The Sky.
I’m not usually a fan of designated minute applause, but this one worked, as a small pocket of fans started, and the numbers got bigger and bigger.
More chances for United came, Morgan Schneiderlin coming the closest when his effort was cleared off the line after a scramble, Martial had a low shot saved when he perhaps should have scored. Wayne Rooney couldn’t get to the ball from the cross when a touch would have put the ball into the empty net. He didn’t have much luck when he chased down PSV’s keeper taking a backpass.
Jesse Lingard glanced a header wide in the early minutes of the second-half.
On the hour, came a double substitution for United, as Young and Fellaini came on as United chased the win, with Juan Mata left sitting on the bench.
The attacks were slow and predictable, only stepping up when prompted by the crowd groaning or shouting “Attack!!! Attack!!! Attack!!!”
When they did step it up, they looked like scoring. They didn’t do it enough, or for a sustained period of time.
PSV naturally came more into it, having a few counter attacks and forcing David De Gea into saves, albeit saves you would expect him to make.
Jess Lingard had United’s best chance when he fired over in the penalty area after a cross.
Lingard was getting into good positions out right, but Wayne Rooney’s attempts to find him with a crossfield “Hollywood Pass” only resulted in landing straight to the head of PSV’s left-back instead of getting in behind him and playing Lingard in.
Marouane Fellaini, brought on to win headers, only succeeded in fouling his opponent whenever the ball went to him. I’ve no problem as such with him being a target man, it would be nice if he was actually good at it.
Another worrying theme throughout the game was Morgan Schneiderlin giving away cheap possession. Thankfully, it wasn’t costly for United.
In the final moments, PSV sensed they could sneak a win and gave United some worrying moments.
With Juan Mata finally on from the bench, United couldn’t do likewise, as the game fizzled out into the 0-0 draw those watching were fearing with each passing minute.
Despite the result, it was good to get my first visit to Old Trafford this season. I’ll be back for the Southampton game in February and hopefully the Bournemouth game in May.
If United get into the Champions League next season (A wonderful hangover from the David Moyes era, referring to next season’s European campaign as “if”) and play a Wednesday night game at home, I might be tempted by that and head over on the Tuesday and see a local Football League side who are at home. Bury and Oldham (both on the Tramline) were both at home on the Tuesday night.
What this means for United, is that they must win their final group game away to Wolfsburg in order to ensure qualification for the next round. Otherwise, they’ll be begging for a favour from CSKA Moscow to avoid defeat away to PSV Eindhoven.
Failing to get qualification sorted out when the opportunity was there is an inconvenience.
Having to play UEFA Cup ties in February will be an even bigger inconvenience.