Home SPORTS Man Utd 0-1 Bayern Munich: How United’s worst-ever Champions League campaign unfolded

Man Utd 0-1 Bayern Munich: How United’s worst-ever Champions League campaign unfolded

Manchester United conceded 15 goals from their six matches

Manchester United’s return to the Champions League was part of the body of work that suggested Erik ten Hag was the transformative figure who had blown the cobwebs away from a dilapidated Old Trafford.

It was meant to be proof that United were back where they belonged after the missteps and misery of Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho – even though he won the League Cup and Europa League – and latterly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ten Hag even had tangible success with a League Cup win in his first season, but if this wretched Champions League campaign has been any measure of the current status of Manchester United and their manager, the great transformer is now closer to being a busted flush.

This has been a shocking campaign, a chastening dose of cold reality that saw United finish bottom of a group they would have welcomed when the draw was made, fourth behind Bayern Munich, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray.

The Champions League is the most unforgiving of environments. Every United flaw, and they are certainly not short of them, has been brutally exposed from the start.

And it all ended in the most timid of circumstances, a United side who should have come out swinging losing 1-0 to a Bayern side with nothing to play for, Ten Hag’s players mustering a mere one shot on target in the process.

It was all a far cry from the Old Trafford nights of old when supporters were glued to their seats until the final whistle sounded.

Thousands of United fans had given up and left long before the end here and who could blame them?

‘United’s Champions League comeback has been a shambles’

The statistics damn United and underline the lack of organisation, tactical acumen, nous and basic quality that have characterised their Champions League return and most of their season.

United’s four points from six games is their lowest in any Champions League campaign, while the 15 goals conceded is the most by a Premier League side in any group stage of the competition.

All manner of inquests into this dismal failure can be conducted, but the bottom line is this Manchester United side are not fit for the purpose of success – a problem exacerbated by an uncanny knack of blasting themselves in both feet at the worst possible time.

Goalkeeper Andre Onana has had a nightmare campaign, at fault in the 4-3 loss away to Bayern, poor in the home defeat against Galatasaray then quite simply awful in the 3-3 draw with the Turkish side in Istanbul, gifting Hakim Ziyech two goals from routine free-kicks. That was a result that ensured even victory here against Bayern might not have been enough for United.

As it was, United never even threatened to keep their own side of the bargain.

Few tears were shed when goalkeeper David de Gea left United after 12 years last summer, but Onana has done nothing to suggest the Spaniard has been adequately replaced.

United held a two-goal lead before losing 4-3 in Copenhagen and twice held a similar advantage before sharing the points when visiting Galatasaray.

There was a lack of discipline as Marcus Rashford was sent off with United 2-0 up in Denmark, the inexplicable catalyst for a collapse from a position of control to another damaging defeat.

All in all, United’s Champions League comeback has been a shambles.

Old rivals Bayern put them out of their misery. In reality, United’s Champions League return was probably washed up even before a ball was kicked on a miserable, forgettable occasion.

Bayern didn’t even have to break sweat

On a night when United needed to at least show a willing to save themselves, they managed five shots in all. Five shots on a night when victory was a must.

Yes, a first-half groin injury for captain Harry Maguire and a hamstring problem that meant Luke Shaw could not come out for the second half hampered their efforts, but there can be no excuses. This is a desperately poor team when set against the standards Manchester United aspire to.

This was not even a classic Bayern side. Good but not great – certainly not a team you would risk a huge amount on in terms of them winning the Champions League.

Bayern, however, were still able to deal with United without breaking sweat in a game that was actually neither here nor there for Thomas Tuchel’s team. You were left with the impression that if there had suddenly been something riding on this for the Bundesliga champions they would have been able to slip through the gears and dismiss United without too much fuss.

If there were any flashes of pace and urgency, they actually came from the side that did not even need to show it.

The home fans were remarkably patient given the meagre fare on offer. The jeers at the final whistle were more in resignation than anger.

United have proved a few things throughout this ill-fated campaign. None of them good.

Man Utd v Bayern Munich
Captain Bruno Fernandes (left) is suspended for Manchester United’s next match – away at Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday

Finishing bottom of the group ‘the right outcome’

Manchester United have proved that for now they do not belong in this elite company. Their final position in Group A does not do them a disservice. It is the right outcome. They proved the likes of Bayern, Manchester City and Real Madrid are out of their league.

And at the heart of it all is Ten Hag, facing an increasing struggle to tame this unwieldy football beast, looking more and more like a manager who is sinking, scrambling to make sense of how those slivers of optimism from last season have been so quickly replaced by despair and despondency.

Ten Hag must seek improvement in another unforgiving environment, at Anfield on Sunday against Premier League leaders Liverpool, who inflicted a historic 7-0 thrashing on United last season.

And he will almost certainly have to do it without the injured Shaw and Maguire, along with injured captain Bruno Fernandes.

If United hoped coming back to the Champions League stage would offer confirmation that they were edging back towards the top table, the fact they were not even good enough to secure the safety net of consolation offered up by the Europa League tells them exactly where they actually stand.

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