Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal has said his team must prove they merit a place in the Champions League last 16 by beating Wolfsburg in their crucial group tie.
Van Gaal’s team were booed off after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with West Ham at Old Trafford, and his team travel to Wolfsburg after a poor run of five goalless draws in nine games, scoring seven times in the last 10 matches, amid criticisms of playing blandly and defensively.
Skipper Wayne Rooney will miss the Wolfsburg trip with an ankle injury, leaving 20-year-old France international Anthony Martial as their only recognized striker.
The 0-0 result against PSV Eindhoven a fortnight ago has certainly made United vulnerable as they prepare to face the team who currently lead their Champions League group.
Wolfsburg know they will reach the Champions League knockout phase for the first time with a draw, but coach Dieter Hecking insists his team will not be content to play for just a point.
“We want to win, and I think my players want to win too. We pay attention to a lot of things, but Manchester United had better pay attention to us,” said Hecking.
Last season’s Bundesliga runners-up will finish as group winners if they beat United.
Two points separate the top three teams in Group B and PSV, in third, are at home to CSKA Moscow, who have already been eliminated.
United, in other words, might have to beat the Bundesliga’s fifth-placed team to avoid dropping into the Europa League’s Thursday-night Sunday-afternoon routine.
The Red Devils will qualify with a win in Tuesday’s final Group B game, or if PSV Eindhoven lose to CSKA Moscow.
But PSV will advance if they better United’s result in Germany.
Van Gaal might not have realised when he took his seat in the third-floor suite at Wolfsburg’s stadium that it was 10 years to the day since Manchester United played Benfica in Estádio da Luz and suffered one of the more harrowing ordeals of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last decade in the job.
The current United boss will not want to reprise the European knockout suffered by Sir Alex Ferguson 10 years ago when the Dutchman’s side take on Wolfsburg.