Wolfsburg 3, Manchester United 2
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal rued a “crazy” match after a dramatic defeat at Wolfsburg condemned his side to a humiliating Champions League group stage elimination on Tuesday night.
Defender Naldo’s powerful 84th-minute header stunned United and, coupled with PSV Eindhoven’s late rally to beat CSKA Moscow in Holland, pushed Van Gaal’s men into the Europa League.
United lead through Anthony Martial but Naldo’s first and a Vieirinha strike turned the match on its head, and though a Joshua Guilavogui own goal briefly gave the visitors hope it proved shortlived.
“I think it is a crazy match. We scored goals, they cancelled goals. When we scored, they scored again after two minutes. We had the chance to win I think,” said Van Gaal, who also questioned the decision to disallow a would-be equaliser just before half-time because Juan Mata was offside.
“When you give first that it is a goal and then a few players come and say to you and then you change your mind – that’s strange in my opinion. But okay, I don’t think the goalkeeper was interfered by Mata, because the ball is turning in the goal and I don’t think he can reach the ball.
“I’m very disappointed and the players are very disappointed. This is the league we want to show our qualities and we cannot do that any more.”
Van Gaal’s miserable night was compounded by defenders Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian joining an already lengthy injury list.
Needing a win to be certain of qualifying from Group B, United made the perfect star when Martial raced onto Mata’s pass and slotted the opening goal after just seven minutes.
Wolfsburg’s response was almost instant, though, and after Naldo’s volleyed equaliser Vieirinha tapped in to round off an intricate move and put the hosts ahead at half-time.
Only United goalkeeper David de Gea’s excellence prevented the Germans from scoring again before Guilavogui inadvertently diverted Marouane Fellaini’s header into his own net eight minutes from time.