Red Card and Lingard

The UEFA Champions League group stage kicked off Tuesday at football stadiums all across Europe. Manchester United had the task of earning three away points on the road against the Swiss club Young Boys. All seemed to be going well and according to plan when Cristiano Ronaldo made a brilliant run up the far-right channel, receiving a superb cross from Jadon Sancho. Cristiano took the pass on the first touch and squeaked it between his legs with a ton of spin. The goalie took some sting out of the shot by getting a piece of the ball, but Cristiano’s shot still had enough juice to spin across the goal line. Queue up the celebrations of Cristiano’s third goal in only his second appearance for the Red Devils! It was only the sixteenth minute, and everything was going as scripted. Then it happened. United’s Wan-Bissaka committed a reckless challenge, drawing him a red card that turned the match on its head.

Initially I thought the red card was a little harsh as it appeared Wan-Bissaka was just trying to recover after a poor touch allowed the ball to get away from him. However, the more I saw the replays, the more I started to see why he was sent off with a straight red. It was a dangerous challenge and Wan-Bissaka really could have caused a serious injury. Being up one goal to nil and down to ten men, United Manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer had to adjust the team strategy on the fly. As a result, Sancho’s evening ended early making way for a defensive substitution. The team shape changed to a more defensive formation. Protecting the lead and getting out of Switzerland with three points was United’s mission. The black and yellow clad Young Boys had other plans.

The Young Boys started throwing players forward, had the majority of the possession (54%), corner kicks (8), shots (19), and shots on goal (5). One would have thought that they were the team with all of the talent as they really turned up the heat. The Young Boys created some several good chances with some slick probing passes, but just couldn’t seem to get that final touch to back of the net. For a while it looked like United might escape with the win. For all of the chances the Young Boys were able to create they were not able to produce the equalizing goal until Ngamaleu produced a sublime finish in the 66th minute. Ole Gunner Solskjaer went even more defensive and conservative as he substituted Jesse Lingard in for Cristiano shortly thereafter.

It looked like United had done enough to secure the 1-1 draw which would have been a decent result all things considered. The match was in the final minute of stoppage time, usually a benign time in the game. What was the worst that could have happened with 30 seconds to go? Jesse Lingard told Craig Burley to “hold his beer” and tried to one up him with one of the worst back passes to a goalie that we have ever seen. Siebatcheu intercepted the errant pass and ruthlessly drove the ball past De Gea into the back of the net. It felt like he simultaneously drove a stake into the back of Man United fans worldwide. The Young Boys had done it. They had shocked the world at the buzzer and surprised themselves in the process. The reaction in the stands by the devout Young Boys fanatics was everything that we love about football. It is the only sport where giant slayer results like this happen somewhat regularly. It is unfortunate it happened at Manchester United’s expense. The Red Devils were done in by a red card and Jesse Lingard. The good news is that it’s just the first match of the group stage and the Reds of Manchester will have plenty of opportunities to make up for it in the round robin format.

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