UEFA Champions League
Manchester United vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Manchester United recorded a hard-fought victory over German outfit VfL Wolfsburg in the Champions League.
The game ended 2-1, with Juan Mata’s penalty and Chris Smalling’s smart second half finish securing the win, after Daniel Caligiuri gave the German side a fourth minute lead.
This makes it four wins in a row for United in all competitions, as they got off the mark in the biggest club competition in the world.
It was the worst possible start for United, however, as Caligiuri linked up well with Max Kruse and Julian Draxler, before finishing the ball round David de Gea, as Antonio Valencia played Wolfsburg’s number seven onside.
A poor kick from Diego Benaglio led to Bastian Schweinsteiger’s ambitious volley being cut out by Naldo, as Matteo Darmian’s cross found Mata, who took aim with his left foot, but Dante headed clear over his own bar, preventing a certain goal.
Anthony Martial’s impressive turn and run led to his left foot effort falling wide as Daley Blind’s pass across the edge of the area found Mata, whose snap shot was deflected into the arms of Benaglio.
Mata turned provider, teeing up Schweinsteiger, who blazed an attempt over the bar before United’s best chance to that point fell to captain Wayne Rooney, who somehow put his shot over the bar, after Martial had the beating of Ricardo Rodriguez, and played a low ball across the box.
Mata’s over the top pass was met by the head of Memphis, but the lack of power allowed an easy catch for Wolfsburg’s Swiss keeper, but United made their dominance pay five minutes later.
Mata’s attempted cross struck the outstretched left arm of Caligiuri, who was subsequently booked for his actions, and Mata sent Benaglio the wrong way, placing his penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.
The Spaniard was involved yet again, finding Memphis whose shot was well-saved low down, and a second attempt was deflected wide.
Memphis had another shot blocked, with Caligiuri’s effort falling wide without troubling, sandwiching two bookings for United’s holding midfielders – Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin – as an eventful first half drew to a close.
United didn’t let half-time ruin the momentum, as Smalling put the home side ahead in the 53rd minute.
Ashley Young, on at the break for Valencia, saw his right-wing cross cleared, and Schweinsteiger’s mishit of a volley fell to Mata, whose flick was played in behind the Wolfsburg defence, and Smalling was on hand to find the back of the net with the outside of his right boot.
De Gea was forced to make his first save of the night, turning Caligiuri’s right-footed effort away to his left after the goalscorer’s smart turn.
Rooney found Memphis whose shot was held before the latter picked up a bizarre booking, as the referee from Hungary had a night to forget.
Andre Schurrle, the former Chelsea man, on from the bench, turned Blind, but his shot was only slightly off target, with the ball narrowly missing De Gea’s right-hand post.
Phil Jones, another substitute, cut out Schurrle’s low cross as another low ball in from the right, this time from Draxler, found Dante, but Rooney was able to put in the block and clearance.
Young was booked for alleged time-wasting as Martial’s run and cross was deflected into the hands of Benaglio.
Schneiderlin gave away a silly free-kick for a foul on Draxler, but Rodriguez’ free-kick curled just wide.
Another free-kick in a dangerous position came as a relieve for United, as it was awarded to them, as substitute Andreas Pereira, who scored a free-kick in front of the same end this time last week against Ipswich, struck the wall on this occasion.
A tense Old Trafford was rewarded after three minutes of additional time, with United hanging onto the three points, and their first Champions League win of the season and under Louis van Gaal.
This win had it all: great character to come from a goal down to win, some superb football played, especially in the first half, tremendous work ethic, fighting for every ball and each of their teammates, and resolute defending, seeing out an onslaught of Wolfsburg attacks in the final 20 minutes or so.
A trip to Russia is up next in this competition, where Louis van Gaal’s side will take on CSKA Moscow on October 21.
But attentions for now turn to Sunday, when the squad will be travelling to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal in the Premier League.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia (Young 46), Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger (Jones 72); Mata, Rooney, Memphis (Pereira 62); Martial.
Subs: Romero, Jones, McNair, Young, Fellaini, Pereira, Wilson.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Wolfsburg: Benaglio; Trasch (Jung 77), Naldo, Dante, Rodriguez; Guilavogui, Arnold (Schurrle 70); Caligiuri, Kruse, Draxler; Dost (Bendtner 70).
Subs: Grun, Schafer, Klose, Jung, Schurrle, Seguin, Bendtner.
Manager: Dieter Hecking