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Bayern Munich 4-3 Manchester Untied: Struggles continue in sobering European opener

United once again looked disorderly and short of ideas in their return to the UEFA Champions League...

FC Bayern München v Manchester United: Group A - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The score line never tells the full story.

Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League campaign began the way many feared it would, in defeat. The Reds sit in last in Group A after a 4-3 defeat to perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. What started as a promising performance once again turned into a disaster late in the first half, and the squad short of personnel now finds itself looking up at the group table from the start in Europe.

The Reds lined up in their usual formation after experimenting with the diamond midfield at the weekend, with Bruno Fernandes back in his natural no. 10 role and Eriksen alongside Casemiro in the pivot. On the right wing Facundo Pellistri got the start with Jadon Sancho’s feud with Erik ten Hag ongoing and Antony away from the team due to facing allegations of domestic violence against his former partner.

The match started well for the Reds, with Bayern struggling to control and United getting several corners, as well as a decent opportunity in the first few minutes. Christian Eriksen set up Pellistri at the far post, but he couldn’t connect cleanly with a defender hanging off him. Eriksen took the chance himself, but Sven Ulreich parried it away for a corner.

The promising start continued for about 20 minutes or so before, right on time, an individual error struck! Andre Onana, barely tested for most of the first half hour, suddenly found himself letting a Leroy Sane shot through his hands and into the net int he 28th minute. Sane, who did well to set up a shot for himself from outside the area, didn’t get a ton of power on the shot but it was low enough to trouble the wrong footed keeper and put the Bavarians in front.

The lead was doubled a few minutes later on a very well worked goal. Jamal Musiala charged at Diogo Dalot, driving him to the byline before cutting back and squaring it to Serge Gnabry, who fired it in unchallenged by the defense.

The first goal was an ugly moment from a player who should do better, but the second goal was the real signal of this team’s problems. They were run through far too easily in midfield, and the marking in the box was totally ineffective, letting the opponent in freely to convert the cutback chance. The break thankfully came before Bayern scored again, but the team had become a shell of themselves

Manchester United started well again in the second half, scoring through Rasmus Hojlund in the 49th minute, but hopes of a comeback were short lived as Bayern were awarded a penalty just two minutes later after an Eriksen handball.

From there the Germans never really looked like conceding again, though Casemiro did man age to somehow slice a shot into the bottom corner in the 88th minute. Anthony Martial initially controlled the ball in, and it bounced for the Brazilian as he fell off balance and placed it on target while laying down. Matthys Tel then scored a laser early in stoppage time to put the result beyond doubt once again, though United found another goal with nearly the last act of the game. Casemiro steered a Bruno free kick cross into the goal to make it 4-3, but it was too late to spur the team on.

Despite the crazy scoreline, it was in truth another abysmal performance for a team that may be spiraling at the moment. United are desperate for a win, or really just something positive to build off of. With a trip to Turf Moor at the weekend there may be an opportunity to steer things in the right direction against Burnley, but if they don’t there’s a real danger of this season turning into a disaster.