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Manchester United is seen as one of the favorites to win the Europa League, but the Red Devils got off to a bad start, losing 1-0 to Feyenoord at De Kuip on Thursday.
Despite leaving Wayne Rooney back home in Manchester, and having Zlatan Ibrahimovic starting on the bench, the visitors were favored to take a win in the Europa League opener. But United had a difficult time establishing pressure against the Dutch league leaders, with record-signing Paul Pogba looking a bit lost in the center of the pitch.
The homeside stood up well, and got their breakthrough in the 79th minute through Tonny Vilhena. Nicolai Jorgensen went flying down the right side, and should have been waved off for offside, but he was allowed to cross the ball into Vilhena, who beat David De Gea from close range to send the fans at De Kuip into a frenzy. United manager Jose Mourinho had brought on Ibrahimovic, along with Memphis Depay and Ashley Young, but to no effect.
“Of course I’m not happy with the start,” Mourinho said after the match. “I think in the second half the game, in my opinion, we were always in control. We were trying to win and they were trying not to lose. We felt like they were collapsing a bit physically, they were in trouble and it was that moment in which we lost the game. It was double unlucky because it was a clear offside [for Feyenoord’s goal].”
United have now suffered two heavy losses in the span of a week. First they lost to rivals City in the Manchester Derby, and now they started off the European campaign with a loss. They should still be able to rebound from this and make it comfortably out of the group stage, but the pressure is mounting on the club, as they spent big money over the summer to bring in Mourinho and sign players like Pogba.
The Frenchman needs to find his place in the side, and after a promising first game against Southampton, Pogba has looked out of sync with the rest of the team. He didn’t have a proper preseason, so it is probably just a matter of time before he catches up to everyone else.
Marcus Rashford got his first start of the season, and the young striker was often left with no support when trying to press Feyenoord on the ball. He didn’t really get any good balls to work with either going forward, but it would be interesting to see what he could do playing on the right wing when United line up their best side. Way too many players were missing against Feyenoord to write doom on the wall for the Red Devils, with both starting full backs in Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia being given a rest.
Mourinho took a different approach when talking about individual performances after the game, choosing not to name any players.
“Look I don’t want to personalize,” Mourinho said. “Some of the players were playing their first minutes of the season, not many minutes for them. Obviously some played better than others but I have to understand that some of these players haven’t played week after week like the other boys. “
But the team that United put out on Thursday should have been able to come away with something, and they most likely would have, had the linesman not missed the offside on Jorgensen. It is still early enough in the season that you have time to rectify some mistakes, but United will have to come out against Watford on Sunday and grab a win. Three losses in a row is not acceptable for a club that wants to be fighting for titles.