United played PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday, September 15th and the match was more than just their return to Champions League play. For Memphis Depay, it was a homecoming at his former club, against whom he reported that he would celebrate if he scored. For Louis Van Gaal, it was yet another rivalry match, as PSV have little love for the former Ajax and AZ manager. Above all, it was United's first opportunity to cement their position in the group B tables and confirm their readiness for European competition. It would end up another disappointing week, as an early lead would not last the full 90 minutes compounded by a devastating injury to key squad player.
Selecting his team for this European clash, Van Gaal's choice for striker was impacted by Wayne Rooney's absence due to injury. David De Gea started in goal behind the cemented backline of Darmian, Smalling, Blind, and Shaw. In midfield, Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata in the #10 role, and Ashley Young started. Youngster Anthony Martial earned his first club start with his electric debut.
The match started as many expected with United grabbing the majority of possession and picking and prying to unlock PSV's defense and PSV with plenty players behind the ball, soaking up the pressure and looking towards their own counterattack opportunities.
The game's demeanor would take a sharp veer when one of United's best performers to date this season would be injured horrifically. Luke Shaw dribbled bravely into the PSV defense dismissing defenders one by one with his pace until he reached their penalty area. Attempting a shot, he was tackled harshly by PSV defender Hector Moreno, whose two-footed challenge barely got the ball first, but also caught a tremendous amount of the player. Shaw was injured just 15 minutes into the game by Moreno's nasty last-ditch tackle that showed no intent to harm, but clearly damaged the left back seriously; it took him nearly nine minutes to be stretchered off the field. The injury understandably deflated what was turning into a good half of football.
United managed to get a hold of the game just before injury time. In the 41st minute, Memphis beat the offside trap, dribbled between two PSV defenders and slotted home his left-footed finish between the legs of the oncoming goalkeeper. Memphis would get another chance on a breakaway architected by Juan Mata. Mata played Memphis through for another chance on his left foot. This time, however, he was unable to place his finish on frame.
Chris Smalling, who has been unrecognizably good compared to his notable blunders last season including the two yellow cards shown at Manchester City, created his own chance on net only to be denied by Zoet. After pressing the ball way up the field, he managed not only steal the ball from the PSV player, but also dribble another before releasing a powerful shot that was saved.
In the second minute of eight minutes of additional time, Moreno proved to be United's true nemesis. He equalized on a corner kick that was given cheaply, by way of a Smalling turnover. The header was hit with some pace for the corner, but Blind attempted to avert danger with a defensive header that placed the ball past the postman Ashley Young. To make matters worse, Young appeared to be in position to clear the ball off the backline before Blind's headed touch.
In the second half, United re-established their prowess in possession; however, they never edged the momentum back in their favor. In the 57th minute, that became painfully evident. Luciano Narsingh puts PSV in the lead with a header chance produced off a quick counterattack, another result of a lapse in defense. Matteo Darmian was the culprit this time, attempting an unsure volleyed pass that was intercepted. He gave up possession at midfield allowing a swift throughball pass in behind him leading to Lestienne cross that found Narsingh wide open at the back post. Marcos Rojo, Shaw's replacement, also committed a poor positioning error when he was tackling back and was out of position marking neither man or ball.
PSV made it considerably tough for United with eleven defending behind the ball and clogging the channels and avenues of real threat from the Red Devils. United created several chances in the second half, most notable being one that doesn't even register as a shot. Bastian Schweinsteiger played a wonderful throughball to Mata, who, caught in two minds, failed with his first touch. Pry and try as they did, United were never able to breach the PSV defenses for an equalizing goal of their own and they fell defeated at the game's final whistle.
Louis Van Gaal summed it up perfectly, stating United "can only blame" themselves for creating enough chances, but not putting another one to bed. On another note, he was also visibly frustrated and distressed when discussing Luke Shaw's injury, diagnosed as right leg double fracture with a recovery time of at least four to six months if all goes smoothly. He went on to say, "When I say it's a penalty and a red card, I'm a bad loser. It was a bad tackle with two legs. Every word I say is always interpreted in the wrong way. It was in the 16 meter and it was a very bad tackle, with two legs."
United will now have to replace Shaw from within the squad; Daley Blind is the most likely replacement with Marcos Rojo or Phil Jones adopting the vacated center back position. Hopefully, Wayne Rooney will return to match fitness in time, but his hamstring injury gives him a 75% chance of playing.
All these preparations will need to be made before their next BPL match against Southampton. The match will be aired Sunday at 11am on NBCSN. United have another short week following their match Sunday, as they play Ispwich Town in the Captial One Cup on Wednesday September 23rd.