Wednesday 9 December 2015

Wolfsburg a harsh learning curve for United's unpolished diamonds

Elimination from the Champions League is a massive blow for everyone because - although we would never have won it - there's nothing quite like the magic of a  European night under the lights at Old Trafford and the prestige and financial rewards are massive. 

That said, many of United's young players will learn a lot more in defeat than they would have done from victory- a young, injury ravaged and inexperienced side pushed Wolfsburg all the way only to be undone late on. 
United's front three- Jesse Lingard (22), Anthony Martial (20) and Memphis (21) only have a handful of senior appearances between them in their first season in a new league and, whilst our attacking trio have shown signs of burgeoning promise, none of them are yet the finished article.
Their decision-making and consistency levels are typical of emerging talents but, as with all young players, it will take time to eradicate the rough edges from these three most sparkling of diamonds. 

Full-backs Guillermo Varela (22) and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (18) were impressive throughout in Wolfsburg but both were caught napping for the German side's winner seconds after we scored.

The soft and naive nature of that goal proved the killer blow for United but it's perhaps understandable that having seen their side snatch a dramatic leveller, the two young defenders lost concentration and focus so soon after that emotional high point in the match.

Having got ourselves into a  strong position to push on for victory and then being pegged back - twice - United's game management was disappointing and it was a lapse of concentration- and perhaps experience- that led to Naldo's late Wolfsburg winner.

A must win Champions League is no place for a batch of youngsters, I hear you say- but the manager's hand was forced when it came to his selection. 

This tie came in the midst of a crippling injury crisis and like so many other United managers before him Louis van Gaal has put faith in youth this season and, despite Tuesday's defeat, the manager can be very proud of his young side's efforts. 

Dealing with pressure and expectation is a key mental aspect for any young player- never does that apply more at a club that it does at United- and these emerging players will know that how they respond from this European setback will define the rest of their Old Trafford careers. 

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