After a strong pre-season campaign which saw them with a chance to win the 2015 International Champions Cup heading into their final match against Paris Saint Germain, sloppy back line play and poor finishing saw Manchester United fall to PSG. In their final pre-season match before the start of the 2015-2016 Premier League season, Manchester United lost 2-0 to the French champions. A packed house on a hot night at Soldier Field saw PSG top Manchester United to win the 2015 International Champions Cup.
United controlled the run of play from the first kick, though PSG came out pressing and nearly scored the opener after a bad giveaway from United. However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, perhaps hoping to sign a deal with the Chicago Bears as a kicker in the NFL, skied it high over the bar.
The Manchester club continued to control the opening stages, barely letting PSG out of their own half. Summer acquisition Memphis Depay was electric early in the game, but missed out on three potential goal scoring chances. After beating a man in the midfield he blasted a shot wide of the target, then a few minutes later held the ball too long when he should have passed to a wide open Rooney who was through on goal. Perhaps United’s best early chance came when Rooney centered the ball to a wide open Memphis at the top of the box only for the forward to again see his shot go well wide of the net.
One of the biggest questions for United going into the Premier League looks to be their center backs. With Phil Jones and Daley Blind again paired at the back, the United back line had a number of turnovers early giving PSG a few chances despite United dominating possession.
Juan Mata nearly scored the opener, having a goal called back for offside, before their sloppy play at the back cost them. In the 26th minute, Blaise Matuidi held off Phil Jones and Daley Blind and beat David de Gea to a long ball over the top to poke home the opening goal. Less than ten minutes later Ibrahimovic scored after he made a run through midfield, played the ball wide to Maxwell, then ran past a standing still Phil Jones to tap home Maxwell’s return pass.
Rumors of United being in the market for a CB will persist as long as his back line continues to struggle, and Wednesday’s match was anything but a confidence boost.
In his post game press conference van Gaal said he was mostly happy with his team’s play but frustrated by the number of individual errors his team made, indicating that PSG’s only chances came from individual errors. Asked whether his back line, which has been the same in all four games in the ICC, would be the same against Tottenham, van Gaal indicated that Shaw and Darmian would be his fullbacks. He added that Blind will start at left center back, but that questions remain about his right center back. The manager expressed multiple times how pleased he was with the play of Darmian, who can play both on the right and left.
Youngster Andreas Pereira came on for Ashley Young at halftime, one of three United halftime subs, giving the young talent a chance to show off his talents. He had some nice moments, including playing a nice back post cross to Juan Mata which Mata inexplicably failed to get a foot on.
The early stages of the second half lacked the flow seen in the first half, as substitutes appeared to disrupt the play of both teams. Antonio Valencia replaced Luke Shaw in the 66th minute, with Darmian moving over to left back, and Valencia coming in at right back. The fullback competition for United is another of the more interesting storylines, with Darmian getting the most minutes at right back, but Luis van Gaal suggesting Valencia may still be first choice. Throughout the game, most of United’s attack seemed to come down the wing opposite of Darmian. In the first half United routinely attacked down the left with Shaw, then down the right through Valencia in the second half.
The result saw PSG finish the preseason tournament as 2015 International Champions Cup winners, level with New York Red Bulls of MLS on points, but ahead on goal differential.
United now return home to Manchester and begin their final preparations for the Premier League season. They open the season against Tottenham on August 8.
Speaking after the game, PSG manager Laurent Blanc said that it was an honor to win a tournament with teams of the quality of Chelsea, Barcelona, and Manchester United, and added that “it’s a victory for us that there were no injuries tonight.”
Blanc also hinted that Manchester United midfielder Angel di Maria may be close to becoming a PSG player, saying that though negotiations between big clubs are difficult, he feels they are “close to the en,d” but adding that he would leave it to Manchester United to comment on di Maria’s absence from United’s preseason tour. Asked about this, van Gaal said he had no further answer and that the club would announce something when there was something to announce.