WOLFSBURG: John Hartson has pulled no punches in pointing the finger of blame after Manchester United’s Champions League exit at Wolfsburg.

United lost 3-2 in a game they had to win, finished third in the table and were ‘relegated’ to the Europa League.

Hartson, former Wales striker who was a BBC radio analyst at the match, had no hesitation in criticising the management of Louis Van Gaal and, in addition, the failed acquisition of German veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Hartson said: “United have gone backwards under Van Gaal and if I were the owners I wouldn’t give him another penny to spend.

“Van Gaal is living on past experience. His recruitmnent has been nowhere near good enough.”

Schweinsteiger arrived at Van Gaal’s behest to strengthen midfield but had also, according to Hartson, been a failure.

Hartson said: “Schweinsteiger is a quarter of the player he was. He doesn’t boss games any more. He doesn’t have the legs.

“Manchester United can’t afford to be a club who give players a pay day. Van Gaal has brought in Schweinsteiger, so he has to justify it by playing him.

“He [Schweinsteiger] is nowhere near good enough to take a starting role in that United team. They need legs and more power in the middle of the park and Schweinsteiger is not the answer . . . He slows things down.”

United’s inuury-hit team – they ended the game with Nick Powell, Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on the pitch – went ahead through Anthony Martial’s 10th-minute goal but Wolfsburg levelled almost immediately through Naldo. Julian Draxler opened up United for Vieirinha to make it 2-1.

Juan Mata had a United ‘goal’ disallowed correctly for offside before the break but a late own goal by Josuha Guilavogui levelled the scores. But just two minutes later, Naldo sealed the win for Wolfsburg from close range.

Manager’s verdict

“It was a crazy match,” said Van Gaal. “Two times to give away a goal within two minutes of scoring, that’s difficult to understand when you defend so well normally.

“We were not so lucky in a match today with the decisions of the referee, but also in the first match we were lucky with the decision of that referee. When the group is tight, those kind of decisions can decide whether you go through or not.”

The Dutchman’s injury problems worsened further on Tuesday when Chris Smalling hobbled through the final minutes and Matteo Darmian came off injured in the first half.

Van Gaal said: “We have to play the match with a lot of injuries and also the last 15-20 minutes we had to play with 10 players you have to analyse that also.

“It’s a pity but we have a lot to fight for – the FA Cup and the Premier League.

“At the moment I cannot defend myself because we are out of the Champions League. But when you see the facts we went further in the [Leaue Cup] (this season), qualified for the Champions League group, we have played all these matches and are still in a very good position in the league.

“The facts say we are better than last year.”

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