AZ defender Ron Vlaar appeared surprised by the lack of quality on show from Manchester United in the clubs' 0-0 Europa League draw on Thursday, stating that the Red Devils had to cope with the intensity of the hosts rather than the other way around.
United's European success is well documented, with English heavyweights having been universally feared on the continent for decades. Recent years have seen a downturn in fortunes, however, with the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson leaving the club without an identity.
Jose Mourinho did deliver Europa League success during his time in the Manchester dugout, but playing style and rifts with players led to an early exit for the Portuguese and the hiring of former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Solskjaer has been defiant in his assessment that United are on the right path, despite poor results, but Vlaar, a former Aston Villa player, was happily surprised by the lack of intensity shown by a once great side.
“During my time at Aston Villa I played against better Manchester United teams than this one,” the 34-year-old centre-back said after the match. “Although, they didn't play with their best starting XI today.
“In the Premier League they play with high intensity, which I experienced myself, but United didn't show that today. I even think they were the ones who had to cope with our intensity, and that is a great compliment to us.”
Solskjaer, however, had a different take on the result, stating that United picked up a "good point" against a tough opponent away from home and that the Red Devils were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty that could have sealed all three points.
“It's a good point away from home against a difficult opponent on a very difficult surface” he said. “We made many changes and I'm very pleased.
“Of course, it should have been a win – I'm fed up talking about penalties we should have had, Arsenal on Monday and now,” Solskjaer added of Stijn Wuytens' clumsy late challenge on Marcus Rashford. “That's a penalty 101 times out of a hundred.”