The pressure is on as Manchester United head to Germany to face Group B leaders Wolfsburg, where they need a win to secure their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
If they were to draw, Louis van Gaal’s side would have to rely on PSV Eindhoven failing to win at home to CSKA Moscow, while defeat at the Volkswagen Arene would leave the Dutch club only needing a point from their game as they have the advantage over United in terms of head-to-head record. Meanwhile, a point will be enough for Wolfsburg to seal their passage through.
The draw with PSV at Old Trafford in the last round of Champions League fixtures typified the numerous frustrations that United are experiencing in the final third this season, as they got off to a reasonably purposeful start before losing their way and eventually finding themselves holding on to a goalless draw. Too often this side – which is full of quality of players – has overwhelming dominance of the possession, but when it comes to scoring or creating clear cut chances they often fall short.
It was a similar story in the Premier League on Saturday at home to West Ham United as they kept yet another clean sheet, but fired another blank at the other end and badly misfired in front of goal, with only one of their 21 attempts finding the target. Such a lack of incisiveness and finishing ability proved to be a little too much for some supporters to take as boos greeted the final whistle, so here in a game of such importance, the Red Devils must find a way to goal in order to compliment their usually solid defence.
And they know they are capable of achieving what is required. Despite falling behind to Wolfsburg early on match day two, they were able to battle back and win 2-1 with a determined showing where they also had to withstand late pressure. Whatever happens, it is set to be a dramatic evening of twists and turns in Group B.
This has been one of, if not the closest pool in the Champions League this season, and Wolfsburg are very much the team in pole position, but also face the very real possibility of going out, so they will not be holding back either in their search for victory. They come into this having lost at home for the first time in 29 matches at the weekend as they went down 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund to drop to fifth in the Bundesliga.
Skipper Wayne Rooney is still out for Man Utd along with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. After the failure to score against West Ham, Memphis Depay could be recalled to the starting line-up.