For several weeks now, one of the big questions of the 2015 2016 UEFA Champions League has concerned Manchester United. Specifically, football fans throughout Europe have been wondering how the Red Devils might do in this year's prestigious European soccer tournament. On one hand, Man United are playing well in this year's English Premier League so far, after making several intriguing signings over the summer. On the other hand, the Red Devils haven't competed at the UCL level in two years and only managed a spot in this year's tournament thanks to a dynamite playoff performance. So the question is, will Manchester United make a triumphant return in the Champions League 2015 - 2016 Group B? Or will we see the football team bow out of the competition after the group stage?
PSV Eindhoven vs. Manchester United
With the first match on the books for the group stage-at least in Manchester's Group B-odds seem to be leaning toward the latter answer. Man United stumbled in their first game back on the UCL stage, losing 1-2 to reigning Dutch Eredivisie champions, PSV Eindhoven.
The bad news for Red Devils fans is that the loss puts their soccer team in third place in Group B. The good news is that Manchester's loss really could be best described as a stumble, not as a disaster. Sure, we've seen Louis van Gaal's star lineup play much better football-most recently in a 3-1 win against Liverpool on September 12th. However, United were playing as the away team in their September 15th match against PSV, and it's possible that the atmosphere in the stadium simply worked against them.
By no means did the Red Devils play badly in Tuesday's game. On the contrary, Manchester United dominated possession of the ball for two-thirds of the match and had way more scoring opportunities than PSV did. Indeed: Manchester United tallied 17 shots on goal during the game, compared to Eindhoven's paltry six. Memphis Depay, who transferred to Man United from PSV Eindhoven over the summer, even scored the first goal of the match.
But as the BBC wrote in their post-match analysis, Man United had a mostly "luckless night." 15 minutes into the game, as Manchester full-back Luke Shaw dashed toward the goal, he was knocked to the ground in a sliding tackle from Eindhoven's Hector Morena. Shaw was taken off the field on a stretcher and audiences later learned that his right leg was broken. Morena should have been shown at least a yellow card for the offense but got away scot-free and later equalized the score in the final moments of the first half. (Morena picked up a yellow card later on in the game.)
In the second half, United's failure to capitalize on good scoring chances caught up with them. At the 57-minute mark, Eindhoven's Luciano Narsingh gave his football squad a second point to take the lead. Red Devils went on to lose the match, despite being the dominant football team on the field in almost every other way.
Wolfsburg vs. CSKA Moscow
In comparison to the Manchester/Eindhoven match, the other September 15th Group B soccer match was downright uneventful. The game, which pitted German standouts VfL Wolfsburg against Russian Premier League runners-up, ended 1-0 in favor of Wolfsburg.
Despite having not participated in the Champions League since 2009 2010, Wolfsburg looked completely comfortable. They had the home field advantage in the game and used it to take a first-half lead (thanks to a 40-minute goal from midfielder Julian Draxler) and hold it until the end of the match. The outcome puts Wolfsburg in second place in Group B, while dropping Moscow to fourth.
Next time around, on September 30th, Manchester United will host Wolfsburg at Old Trafford while PSV Eindhoven will travel to Russia to play CSKA Moscow. Our guess is that the Red Devils will bounce back on their home turf while PSV Eindhoven will win a second match to reaffirm their lead. But what do you think?
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