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Man United given reality check by Young Boys as Champions League campaign begins with defeat

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3:42 PM ET

  • Rob DawsonCorrespondent

BERN, Switzerland — It should have been a night for this new-look Manchester United team to display their Champions League credentials, but in the end it was another evening to suggest there is more to be done than simply signing Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Despite another goal from the Portuguese superstar, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team lost 2-1 to Young Boys in Bern on Tuesday, a result that owed much to playing for 55 minutes with 10 men after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s needless red card and a horrible mistake from Jesse Lingard in stoppage time that gifted the Swiss side a late winner.

Solskjaer’s tactics following the sending off will also be under scrutiny. His decision at halftime to switch to a 5-man defense seemed to encourage pressure rather than counter it.

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Young Boys had 19 shots to United’s two — the last of which came in the 25th minute — and the only surprise was that the second goal took so long to arrive. With the final kick of the match, substitute Jordan Pefok, an American international, scored the goal.

Solskjaer’s good news is that he has five more games to prove his prematch claim that his team were ready to win Champions League. However, the Norwegian manager of United has lost seven of his eleven games. This was supposed to be an easy group. But not now.

Solskjaer stated that discipline is an important part of football, and not only in the Champions League. A lack of concentration, making a mistake, and being punished is what you do. Aaron is a skilled tackler and one of the top in the world. However, it made our task more difficult.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried to help Man United’s defence in the second half but it didn’t work. Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

“Jesse wants to play it safe and misplaces the pass, concedes the goal; that happens in football. “Harry Hindsight” is a very talented player. Jesse will turn, swivel and boot the ball the opposite way if he gets the chance.

“You need 10 or 12 points [to qualify], win your home games, one away from home. We haven’t had the chance to win three points but we do have two home games so we need to be focused on those two.

Solskjaer demonstrated the strength of his team ahead of the trip, and brought Victor Lindelof and Fred into his starting line-up.

Although there were more changes to what should have been United’s easiest Champions League away game, Solskjaer won’t forget the six changes he made last season for the trip at Istanbul Basaksehir. Solskjaer hopes that this time, the defeat in Turkey of 2-1 will not be an omen.

Ronaldo could not be excluded. After scoring two goals in his comeback against Newcastle, Ronaldo took just 13 minutes for him to score here. He glided to the back post to score the ball beneath the Young Boys goalkeeper David von Ballmoos.

It was made from a wonderful pass from Bruno Fernandes to the left. It’s a shame Solskjaer does not count assists, because it was a great pass.

Ronaldo scored the 135th Champions League goal, his record-breaking 177th appearance in this competition. Although it wasn’t his best, Solskjaer will not be disappointed. He has long sought a striker who can know how to be at the right moment and Ronaldo has made that a form of art. Ronaldo had to jog up and check that Ronaldo hadn’t caused any injury.

United should have seen this as a sign that the evening was about to begin, but Wan Bissaka made it seem like it was just the beginning. On the Stadion Wankdorf’s artificial, hard surface, the ball ran away from him and the right-back jumped over the top onto Ulisses Garcia. Fred, Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba raced to Francois Letexier’s aid, but Wan-Bissaka was not impressed. It was reckless in real-time and it got worse with each replay.

Man United’s tactical plan was ruined by Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first-half red. Getty

Solskjaer reshuffled immediately, bringing on Diogo Dalot for Jadon Sancho, and United survived the last 10 minutes of the first half despite a good chance falling to Christian Fassnacht. It was enough to convince Solskjaer that he would change his system at half time. He brought on Raphael Varane to replace Van de Beek, and switched to a three-man defense. Van de Beek didn’t do much wrong, despite being given a rare chance.

It didn’t work if they tried to keep what they had. Von Ballmoos sat in the stands for the entire second half. Ronaldo, who was alone up front and had no runners around him was eventually substituted.

After an hour, Moumi Ngamaleu scored a goal via a deflection from Luke Shaw. United seemed to be able to hold onto a point until Pefok initiated Lingard’s poor back pass and scored the winner in the 95th minutes.

Maguire insisted that the tactical switch was the right choice, and Solskjaer defended it.

Solskjaer claimed that “the signs were there in the last five minutes” of the first-half. “In the second, they were going be getting crosses in the box. Rapha and Victor dealt well with it. Although it was the best way to control them, we could have done more with our ball.

United has had many poor nights in Switzerland. This was not the first time United lost to Basel in 2011. It was a harsh reality check, after the delirium of Ronaldo’s homecoming at weekend.

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