Louis van Gaal: Manchester United had most of the chances but we lost, it is very bad


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As Manchester United returned home, attention began to shift from the St Anna hospital on the outskirts of Eindhoven, where Luke Shaw had undergone an operation on the double fracture of his leg, to what lies ahead in the Champions League.

The United manager, Louis van Gaal, was reluctant to condemn the tackle from Hector Moreno, who used to play for him at AZ Alkmaar. It was partly because he did not want to be regarded as a “sore loser” after defeat in the Philips Stadion. He was furious that having dominated possession – Eindhoven had 33 per cent of the ball in their own stadium – United had conceded two needless goals and lost.

“We have dominated every game we have played this season and in every game we have been the better team,” said Van Gaal. “We had most of the chances and now we have lost. It was a very bad start and it was not necessary.”

Even if United had won, the nature of Shaw’s injury would have made it a pyrrhic victory. That they lost simply made things worse. Van Gaal’s formula for success relies on dominating possession but this season is witnessing the continuing rise of counter-attacking football and United are not a side blessed with pace to defend against it.

Memphis Depay’s speed brought him success on his return to Eindhoven and, as Chris Smalling, who captained United admirably in the absence of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, pointed out, Shaw’s ability to drive in from the left was one of Manchester United’s most potent weapons.

“We missed his cutting edge in the final third,” Smalling said. “In the first half they scored from the only chance they had and then they punished us on the break. We have got a lot to learn.”

When Michael Owen, commentating for BT Sport inside the stadium, glanced down at Manchester United’s bench what struck him was how thin it looked. Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini, were, he said, “hardly game changers”.

Since reaching the final in 2011, Manchester United’s away record in the Champions League has been remarkably poor. The 2-1 defeat in Eindhoven was the seventh time in eight matches they have failed to win away from home. The exception, the 5-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen in David Moyes’ debut in the competition proved a remarkably false dawn.

The former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s mantra was that in the group stage the failures in Europe were manageable provided the club won their three home games. This defeat has done damage to United’s reputation and Van Gaal’s pride. Should they fail to beat Wolfsburg at Old Trafford in their next game, it may prove a decisive wound.