Still a devil of a task to score

There were few clear-cut chances to score, with this overhead kick from Jesse Lingard (left) failing to find the net against PSV Eindhoven. The 0-0 draw at Old Trafford was greeted by boos from the exasperated crowd.
There were few clear-cut chances to score, with this overhead kick from Jesse Lingard (left) failing to find the net against PSV Eindhoven. The 0-0 draw at Old Trafford was greeted by boos from the exasperated crowd.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Stalemate with PSV means United have to win at Wolfsburg to be sure of last-16 place

LONDON • The Old Trafford faithful made their feelings known after another frustrating night when Manchester United were held to a goalless draw by PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday.

There were boos at the final whistle following the dire United performance that looks likely to cost them a place in the Champions League knockout stage.

Manager Louis van Gaal conceded he was "worried" about his team's goal-scoring problems but there might be bigger concerns.

The first rumblings of discontent from within the dressing room have appeared to surface, with an unknown player reportedly unhappy with van Gaal's patient, possession-based style.

"I spoke to one player at United who told me he is half the player he can be here at the moment because of the way they are playing," the Daily Telegraph's deputy football correspondent Jason Burt told the BBC. "He doesn't feel it is fair on him, he doesn't feel it's fair for the fans that he can't express himself properly and he finds it very difficult to play here."

United have scored only six goals in their last eight games, four of which have been 0-0 draws.

But while van Gaal admitted to feeling concerned, he drew encouragement from the handful of chances his side had created from having 61 per cent of the ball.

"Of course, I am worried but I know also that goals are coming and going," he said at a post-match press conference.

"It's not a consequence of good or bad performances. Today, we could have scored at least three goals. They were not the most difficult chances but we didn't score."

Collectively, United players took 13 shots and seven found the target although clear-cut chances were few and far between.

Jesse Lingard blazed their best chance over the bar in the 73rd minute, after van Gaal had sent on Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Memphis Depay.

Yet, PSV manager Phillip Cocu felt that the changes had actually played into the visitors' hands.

"We knew if (Fellaini) came on, the game would be more direct," he said. "I think it was positive for us because we were prepared for it and did well. We even got more space in midfield and on the sides."

United captain Wayne Rooney, who returned from illness, complained afterwards that his team were "not ruthless enough" and van Gaal concurred with the striker's evaluation. But when asked to explain his team's shortcomings, the manager replied: "The real reason you never know."

What is known is that United must now win away to Group B leaders Wolfsburg - unbeaten in 29 home games in the Bundesliga - in their final match to be certain of a place in the knockout phase.

United could qualify for the last 16 without winning at the Volkswagen Arena but only if they match PSV's result at home to CSKA Moscow, who can no longer qualify for the knockout stages. Victory in Eindhoven will guarantee the Dutch champions a last-16 berth.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'STILL A DEVIL OF A TASK TO SCORE'. Print Edition | Subscribe