United loses 3-2 at Leipzig, knocked out of Champs League
LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — Manchester United was eliminated from the Champions League after a 3-2 loss at Leipzig on Tuesday, despite a late intervention and goal by Paul Pogba at a time the midfielder’s future at the English club is back under scrutiny.
Pogba started on the bench for the first game since his agent Mino Raiola made comments suggesting the Frenchman wanted to leave, and could only watch as Leipzig raced into a two-goal lead in the opening 13 minutes.
By the time Pogba came on with half an hour remaining, it was 3-0 and a step too far for a United team that had only needed a draw to be sure of progress to the last 16.
“As soon as Paul’s agent realizes this is a team sport and we work together, the better,” United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær said after the match, referring to the comments in Italian newspaper Tuttosport, where Raiola said it was “over” for Pogba at United.
“I’m not going to speak about Paul’s agent anymore,” Solskjær said.
United’s loss will result in missed earnings of around 15 to 20 million euros ($18-24 million) as it drops to the less-lucrative Europa League as the third-place finisher in Group H. United lost to Sevilla in the semifinals last season.
Leipzig’s win assured it of progression to the Champions League knockout stage with a three-point lead over United. Paris Saint-Germain, which is level on points with United, is also through to the last 16 due to its better head-to-head record against United.
PSG’s game with İstanbul Başakşehir was suspended after about 15 minutes at 0-0 when players walked off the field after alleging that fourth official Sebastian Coltescu of Romania used a racial comment against Başakşehir assistant coach Pierre Webo. UEFA said the match would resume Wednesday with new officials.
Leipzig, which was only formed in 2009, reached the Champions League semifinals last season.
“It’s important to have a plan, and it’s important the players understand the plan,” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said.
United got off to a terrible start with Angeliño opening the scoring in the second minute. Marcel Sabitzer floated in a perfect cross and Angeliño rushed in to thump the ball into the far corner. The Spanish left back’s goal was his seventh in 17 competitive appearances for Leipzig since joining on loan from Manchester City.
The Leipzig players’ fired-up celebrations suggested they hadn’t forgotten their 5-0 defeat in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford. That remains Leipzig’s heaviest loss.
Angeliño soon followed up his goal with a cross for Amadou Haidara, who scored with a volley in the 13th. Again the home players roared.
“It feels so special against them, very good,” Angeliño said of the win.
There were more cheers when Willi Orban prodded in the third, but this time United found respite from VAR, which found the Hungarian defender was offside after Ibrahima Konaté’s initial effort came back off the post.
“Everyone’s ready for a game like this,” Solskjær said. “The season we are playing and the demands on the players — sometimes it takes them 15-20 minutes to get going.”
The visitors gradually improved toward the end of the first half, when Leipzig found it harder to break through.
Solskjær brought on Dutch all-rounder Donny van de Beek for the second half, then Pogba with around a half-hour remaining.
Marcus Rashford, who scored a hat trick in the reverse fixture, tried his luck from distance in the 64th before Bruno Fernandes drew a good save from Péter Gulácsi, then struck the crossbar with a free kick.
Just as United was getting stronger, however, Justin Kluivert made it 3-0 in the 69th. United’s defense failed to deal with the ball after Christopher Nkunku diverted Angeliño’s cross into the area and Kluivert chipped the outrushing ’keeper.
Fernandes pulled one back with a penalty in the 80th after Konaté was adjudged to have fouled Mason Greenwood and Pogba made it 3-2 two minutes later when he powered in a header from a corner via Konaté’s thigh and Gulácsi’s arm.
It was to be United’s final goal in the competition.