Football Features

“Ole’s at the wheel, but who’s reading the map?” – Winners & Losers as Young Boys beat 10-man Man Utd 2-1 in Bern

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:25, 14 September 2021

In an incredible night of football, Young Boys beat 10-man Manchester United 2-1 at Stadion Wankdorf.

The Red Devils took the lead early on but a red card saw them retreat and retreat, handing the initiative to Young Boys who gleefully took it, dominated the game and thanks to a little bit of luck, walked away with an historic win.

Who were the winners and losers?

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Winner: David Wagner

Back in October 2017, David Wagner’s Huddersfield beat Manchester United 2-1 at home. It was an incredible and improbable victory that shocked everyone. A bolt of lightning, no one thought it could happen again. And it didn’t, well, until tonight.

Obviously Young Boys are not Huddersfield but with David Wagner in the dugout they played in a similarly ferocious manner, they moved the ball sharply and created chances smartly. They pressed United relentlessly and forced errors from their well-paid superstars.

Yes there was a great degree of fortune in their winning goal, but their equaliser was “all them” and to be honest, with some sharper finishing they could have walked away with a much bigger win than just the 2-1. But 2-1 will do, it mirrors the Huddersfield win and gives Young Boys, the most unfancied side in the group, a huge platform to perhaps progress to the Europa League?

David Wagner’s brilliance cannot be understated. His teams play with a dynamic sense of identity and they are so clearly his sides; they are a polar opposite to the anaemic individualism of Manchester United and were worthy winners tonight.

Loser: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Manchester United weren’t exactly cruising when Aaron Wan-Bissaka got sent off in the 35th minute of the game, but they were 0-1 up away from home and you felt confident they would be able to not just see the game out but add to their lead too.

Then Wan-Bissaka took a bad touch and in his efforts to chase the ball down, committed a studs-up over-the-ball tackle that got him a red card. It felt harsh, but those kinds of lunging tackles can often result in injuries and it’s better if they’re heavily punished.

Wan-Bissaka’s start to the season had already been a bit choppy and he really could have done with a solid night’s work here. Instead he not only caused a comfortable night to turn into an exhausting trial for his side, but he’s now going to (more than likely) miss the next three games through suspension. It’s not good!

Loser: Jesse Lingard

If Wan-Bissaka felt bad, his error at least came in the 35th minute of the game and gave his team-mates plenty of time to hold onto or even extend their lead. No one ever wants to make a mistake, but if you’re going to do it, do it early.

Jesse Lingard, meanwhile, left it late. Very late. The last kick of the game almost. The ball was falling to him and rather than control the ball, turn around and try to snatch a late winner, or maybe just play it wide and keep possession, Lingard tried to pass the ball back to David de Gea. Except he massively underhit the pass and allowed Jordan Siebatcheu to run onto it and dink it over De Gea.

Absolute pandemonium in the stands and the point that Manchester United had decided was an acceptable result for a team as talented as theirs against the minnows of Young Boys, was gone. This was a loss. A devastating loss that brought to mind the defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir last season, a defeat that cost United their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Could this defeat be as meaningful? We’ll have to wait and see. But right now it feels really bad.

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Loser: Donny van de Beek

Poor Donny. You wait so long to get a chance to start for Manchester United, and when you finally get it and you’re doing alright as well! He had completed 23 of 25 passes and made 2 interceptions in the first-half, and you sensed there was more for him to offer in the second-half.

And when he survived the post-red sub, you thought he would see out the game. But no, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer withdrew him at half-time in a move that was designed to make United better but in the end only made them worse. Who knows when he gets a chance to start a game again? Poor, poor Donny.

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

On the night when he equalled Iker Casillas as the player with the most appearances in Champions League history, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the opening goal of the game and his record-extending 135th Champions League goal.

It wasn’t the neatest finish but the Portuguese’s movement off the shoulder of the Young Boys defence was sharp and allowed him to latch on to Bruno Fernandes’ frankly outrageous trivela cross. He messed up a chance to bag a second after half-time, but he’s now scored three goals in his first two games back as a Manchester United player. Not bad.

Loser: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer picked a team that was good enough to beat Young Boys. They didn’t play with any real authority, even in midfield, but they took the lead. A red card to Aaron Wan-Bissaka presented a problem for Solskjaer and he reacted in the worst possible way.

Diogo Dalot came on, fine, but he did so for Jadon Sancho. Meaning that United were withdrawing their only natural winger and forcing Bruno Fernandes, a player not known for his great pace or, y’know, being a winger, to play out wide. This predictably did not work, nor did leaving 36 year-old Cristiano Ronaldo on his own in attack. The Portuguese is an elite poacher but lacks the athleticism needed to plough a lone furrow anymore and so whenever the ball came to him, it would be back in Young Boys’ hands within seconds.

At half-time Raphael Varane came on for Donny van de Beek, and a good job he did too. The Frenchman ended the game with 7 clearances, more than anyone else despite only playing half the game. That was Solskjaer’s only good subs, as the rest left his team looking shapeless and removing the energetic Fred from midfield with just a couple of minutes to play proved to be very silly indeed.

One wonders why Anthony Elanga, a player blessed with the kind of pace to make him a superb out-ball for a side camped deep into their own half, didn’t come onto the pitch sooner. Or why Solskjaer didn’t keep Fernandes and Pogba close to each other in the midfield so they could try and retain possession for more than five seconds.

Besides bringing Varane on, every decision that Solskjaer made after the red card for Wan-Bissaka was the wrong one. He damned his own side to defeat when they were 0-1 ahead and packing enough heat to take the Young Boys down in Bern. Ole’s at the wheel, but who’s reading the map?