Rotor Volgograd – no, I’d never heard of them before (or since) either. Peter Schmeichel scored what this corner reckons was his only goal for Manchester United against the Russian outfit, in the UEFA Cup. Drawing the encounter on the night and indeed over the two legs. But the minnows went through via the away goals rule.
Notwithstanding the fact the home side were devoid of the services of Eric Cantona on foot of the Selhurst Park dust up, the Red Devils would still have been expected to routinely swat away such lowly opposition. Similar sentiments applied prior to last night’s abomination against Young Boys of Switzerland in the opening round of the Champions League.
But this was worse, much worse. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has been given a Midas horde of signings since taking over from Jose Mourinho. Those involved being reputedly among the best on the planet in their positions: Rafael Verrane, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho. Not to mention a certain Mr Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and the likes of Harry Maguire and a rejuvenated David De Gea.
Yet all the hi-tech, up to date tools are only as good as those in charge of deploying them in battle. Granted, best laid plans were left in tatters when Aaron Wan-Bissaka got gate ten minuutes before the break.
However, having coped admirably for the better part of an hour with 10 men, surely if Solksjaer (curiously) felt the need to withdraw Fernandez and Ronaldo, prevailing circumstances should’ve enticed him to deploy defenders rather than Martial and Jesse Lingard. That said the manager cannot be implicated in the player’s idiocy.
With due respect, there’s a fundamental difference in looking top notch with somebody like West Ham compared to at the highest level European football. Thus, while the England international might have gotten away with the ludicrous unecessary back pass at another level but in the white heat of Champions League football he and his colleagues were summarily and deservedly punished.
It is probable, though, that the biggest kick in the backside will be knowing of the displays posted by those considered to be their greatest rivals at the same level. In a typically tight battle between the two, Liverpool overcame Mo Salah being very unusually off target with a penalty to bag a 3-2 victory over AC Milan.
Elsewhere, Chelsea did what the best sides always manage to do and dug out a result against the often tricky Zenit but perhaps the greatest statement of all came from the blue half of Manchester.
In an almost Fantasy Football type scenario it appeared to be a case of ‘You score whatever you like, we can and will score more than you”. Which they did, in an outstand 6-3 demolition of RB Leipzig with marquee summer signing Jack Grealish bagging a brace for himself.
Those are the sort of results the Old Trafford team should be capable of attaining routinely against the lesser lights of European football. It’s beyond question that they have made progress with Ole at the wheel, but to slightly adjust an Irish political slogan from days gone by, he has a bit done, but a lot more to do. Then again, has the time arrived where you ask is the former forward the right man to do it?