A late goal from Naldo sent Manchester United crashing out of the Champions League with a 3-2 defeat to Wolfsburg.
United had a flying start when Anthony Martial struck home ten minutes in but Naldo equalised almost instantly before Vieirinha spectacularly gave the Bundesliga side the lead.
David De Gea was called into action in the second half with three crucial saves to give Louis van Gaal’s side a glimmer of hope before Joshua Guilavogui headed into his own net to level but Naldo’s late header sent United crashing out.
Bright start from Reds
It was the home side that had the first real opportunity just three minutes when the slightest of touches from Max Kruse which made it through to Andre Schurrle but his first-time effort was well over the crossbar.
United crucially took the lead nine minutes and with the absence of Wayne Rooney Martial certainly rose to the occasion.
Juan Mata brilliantly played the through ball on the half-turn to the Frenchman who outpaced both Naldo and Dante and stuck it under Diego Benaglio.
United barely had time to recollect themselves before the home side equalised three minutes after going behind.
The Red Devils who had been defensively sound for the past few weeks really lapsed here as the free-kick found an unmarked Naldo who did will to hit his first-time volley into the bottom corner.
United increase the pressure
Despite the equaliser United continued to pressurise well and had two good opportunities. The first was in the 16th minute when Memphis Depay played it to goal scorer Martial who attempted to square it to Mata but Benaglio did well to block it.
Benaglio pulled off a brilliant save in the 27th minute to keep the scores level as Daley Blind’s corner found Marouane Fellaini whose downward header looked destined for goal but the keeper did excellently to claw it away.
Doubled up in style
The Belgian would have regretted squandering his excellent opportunity when Wolfsburg took the lead just before the half-hour mark.
It was brilliant team-based goal as the ball was switched to Schurrle who switched back over to Julian Draxler.
The youngster did brilliantly to get beyond Bastian Schweinsteiger before a brilliant one-two with Kruse split open the United defence and the former Schalke man unselfishly played it Vieirinha who rolled it into an empty net.
Draxler then had his own excellent opportunity to make it three six minutes from the break when Memphis’ slip allowed Schurrle to play the ball through and the youngster showed great feet to make the shot but De Gea was equal to it.
Controversial curtain call
United thought they had equalised in the dying embers of the half when Jesse Lingard whipped a cross in which manages to make its way all the way into the far corner but the flag was raised late against Mata who was judged offside for what appeared to be interfering with the keeper.
Fellaini was causing problems just on the hour mark when his header eventually falls to Memphis with his volley well saved but it was De Gea who proved a hero to keep his side in the competition.
The first save of the three came in the 63rd minute when he came out to deal with Dante’s long ball towards Schurrle who the attempted the chip but the keeper did brilliantly to make an unorthodox save to claw it away.
It was Schurrle again three minutes later when Draxler played a great chipped ball into the forward, but De Gea managed to tip it over.
A minute later Maximilian Arnold tried a long-range effort which proved a problem for De Gea who managed to just keep it out.
United were becoming desperate as the game entered the final 15 minutes when Memphis’ free-kick whistled past the post but eight minutes from the end they got their crucial equaliser.
It was another great set piece from Blind which found Fellaini once again when his header caught out Guilavogui whose header took it over Benaglio and into the net to give Van Gaal’s side a lifeline.
Very much like when they took the lead they found themselves behind almost instantly and the goal in the 83rd minute proved to be the fatal blow for the Red Devils.
It was Naldo again as the corner came into the back post and his header proved just too much for De Gea as it took a touch off the keeper and Blind on its way into the net.
Despite going behind once again United continued to press and it looked certain that Chris Smalling would save his side with two minutes to go but a crucial block from Marcel Schafer to send United crashing into the Europa League.