Man Utd Champions League challengers? Solskjaer's sloppy side may struggle to get out of group

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Young Boys 2-1 Manchester United: Match Statistics

This wasn’t how Manchester United were supposed to start their Champions League campaign. 

Just a little over 24 hours before Tuesday night's Champions League opener against Young Boys, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sat in a very hot media room at the Wankdorf Stadium talking up his team and their chances of going all the way to the final.

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However, based on what we saw in Bern, United could be lucky to get out of the group again, let alone make it to Saint Petersburg next May. 

“We've added some experience, quality and youth and are better prepared this year for what is to come,” Solskjaer had told reporters. 

What they hadn't prepared for, though, was Aaron Wan-Bissaka becoming the first United player to be shown a straight red card in the Champions League since Nani against Real Madrid in 2013. It was a silly challenge from the full-back and resulted in Solskjaer’s plans going up in smoke after just 34 minutes of play.

Still, that shouldn’t excuse the visitors' lacklustre performance.

After all, this was a United starting line-up containing Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire and David de Gea – some of the world's biggest stars going up against a side sitting fourth in the Swiss Super League and competing in the Champions League for just the second time.

There was an air of excitement and anticipation in the hours building up to the game. Fans without tickets stood outside with cardboard signs begging for spares. 

As the terrace chant goes, 'You’ve only come to see United.' And with the number of red shirts in the home end, it felt very apt in the circumstances.

A couple hundred locals had waited outside the team hotel desperate to get a glimpse of Ronaldo, and there were signs held aloft in all four stands of the ground begging for the shirts of one of Solskjaer’s stars.

Cristiano Ronaldo Young Boys Manchester United Champions League GFX

But those signs were nowhere to be seen at full time, after Young Boys had pulled off a remarkable yet fully deserved victory against a disorganised United side that lacked shape and a coherent game plan following Wan-Bissaka's dismissal.

Solskjaer had responded to the red by immediately bringing on Diogo Dalot for Jadon Sancho. Then, after half-time, he introduced another centre-back, Raphael Varane, in place of midfielder Donny van de Beek, who just cannot catch a break at the moment, as United switched to a back three.

But the question was whether Solskjaer should have made that change the moment Wan-Bissaka was sent off.

For the first 10 minutes of the second half, Solskjaer, Mike Phelan and Kieran McKenna were screaming instructions at the players before every goal kick. Whatever the message was, it didn't appear to be getting through.

By the time Moumi Ngamaleu equalised, it was no longer clear what system United were playing. The pressure on the visitors only intensified as a result, prompting Solskjaer to withdraw both Ronaldo and Fernandes – a decision he said was made due to tired legs. 

Jesse Lingard’s back-pass set up Young Boys for their 95th-minute winner and it was a mistake that had been coming.

Indeed, United can have little complaint about the result. They only had themselves to blame, for both the red card and the manner of the game-deciding moment.

It should also be noted that this is a team that has kept just one clean sheet in 11 Champions League games under Solskjaer. It was always unlikely that they would hold on with just 10 men on the pitch. 

Consequently, Solskjaer was once again left lamenting his players' sloppiness and lack of concentration.

"In football in general, not just the Champions League, discipline is a huge part of the game," he told reporters.

"Aaron's normally a very, very astute tackler, one of the best in the world, so we know we've given ourselves a more difficult task. We did it last year when everyone thought we were through after two games.

"You need 10 or 12 points, so you have to win your home games and one away from home. We've lost the opportunity to get three points but we've got two home games next and we've got to focus on those two.

"But if you lack concentration and make mistakes, you get punished, you get done. We did that last year, we conceded two sloppy counterattacks against Basaksehir and lost that game in the last seconds today.

"Jesse wants to play it safe and misplaces the pass, concedes the goal, and that happens in football. If Jesse gets that chance again he turns, swivels and boots the ball the other way."

For all their summer signings, Solskjaer’s side clearly have a long way to go to prove they've got what it takes to really compete in the Champions League but, for Young Boys and their fans, it is unlikely it will get any better than this.

But while the hosts celebrated after the final whistle as if they had won the league, United walked off the pitch with their heads down after another dismal night in Europe.

They had arrived in Bern intent on laying down an early marker. Instead, they were given a brutal reality check.