Desperate men against Young Boys - Fellaini papers over the cracks yet again for Mourinho's Man Utd

Marouane Fellaini Manchester United Young Boys Champions League 27112018
Laurence Griffiths
The Red Devils may have sealed their place in the final 16, but Jose's side have a long way to go before they can realistically call themselves a team

So Manchester United are through to the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare for the first time in five years after ending a club-record 276-minute Old Trafford goal drought in the competition.

But Marouane Fellaini’s face-saving 91st-minute winner against Young Boys did little to paper over the cracks as Jose Mourinho’s side turned in another dismally disjointed performance against the Swiss minnows.

The fact that United narrowly escaped recording a third successive home game without a goal in Europe for the first time ever, and Fellaini’s goal was their first from open play in 360 minutes in all competitions, tells you much about how Mourinho’s side are playing at this moment in time.

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The manager had claimed after the goalless draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday that against Young Boys he would pick the players who were most able to handle the environment of a big Champions League night. Yet having left Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku on the bench and not even affording Alexis Sanchez the courtesy of a shirt, Mourinho left it to the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and the lesser-spotted Fred to get the job done.

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And when Mourinho reacted to Rashford’s early miss from a one-on-one chance by turning to his bench and theatrically folding his arms, it said so much about the current state of play at Manchester United.

The players right now are incredibly devoid of confidence, particularly when it comes to making the most of opportunities in the final third, while the manager is taking every chance he can to tell the world that he is entirely helpless in his quest to make a winning unit of his current squad.

There would be further squandered openings to rue too. A Rashford run down the left ended fruitlessly when his cut-back was aimed at nobody in particular, while another break by the England man down the right came to nought thanks to Martial’s outright refusal to attempt a run inside his marker.

In the second half, Rashford would shoot wide of the near post from close range and Fellaini then lifted the ball over from close range with the goalkeeper nowhere to be seen.

Even after Mourinho turned to more than £200 million worth of talent on the bench there was little to warm the home support, as Pogba, Lukaku and Juan Mata found themselves no better equipped to knit the side together than the trio they had replaced. For a start, Fred would have surely been a far better alternative than the again-underperforming Nemanja Matic to continue in midfield.

Man Utd celebrate vs Young Boys

But with time running out and Young Boys fancying their chances more and more, even forcing David de Gea into a wonderful reaction stop on the line from a deflected shot, United somehow pulled a cat out of the bag right at the death.

Showing composure and belief which had been in rare supply elsewhere on the field, Fellaini took the ball down from Lukaku’s header and turned to shoot across David von Ballmoos. The cheer which followed was laced with relief.

This was not a match that will go down in the European annals at Old Trafford. Not for one second. But at least their ability to somehow get over the line means they can close the book on their European form for a few months and get back to work on making something of their Premier League season.

But, in all truth, on this form there are only more questions and fewer answers than ever about Mourinho’s hopes of getting a tune out of United.