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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Feyenoord inflict Europa League defeat on dismal Manchester United

Three points from Feyenoord's 1-0 home win vs. Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

1. Mourinho's men slump again

Losing to manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst's Feyenoord side is an embarrassment for Manchester United, even if the Europa League is not a priority for United manager Jose Mourinho, who have now suffered two straight defeats.

United played as sluggishly as they began Saturday's 2-1 derby defeat to Manchester City, but it appeared they might escape with at least a point by virtue of playing lower-quality opposition. That was until Tonny Vilhena's 79th-minute winner, which came against the run of play, though the hosts were rarely in much danger throughout.

Feyenoord RotterdamFeyenoord Rotterdam
Manchester UnitedManchester United
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Feyenoord should be credited for a dogged, determined and organised performance, roared on by home fans in the De Kuip Stadium, despite UEFA sanctions that reduced the capacity to 30,000 from 52,000.

The home team featured two former Liverpool players -- Dirk Kuyt, 36 and hardworking as ever down the channels, and goalkeeper Brad Jones -- but each of their teammates played as if this was a grudge match. United never found anything like a rhythm, and Jens Toornstra should have done better when blazing over for Feyenoord in the 40th minute.

United, meanwhile, ought to have been thankful for the end of the first half. They had been rotten, perhaps as a result of Mourinho fielding an unfamiliar -- if experienced -- lineup that featured eight changes, and maybe because of the club's continuing discomfort away from home in European competition. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, United have won just two from 11 trips, and none of the last six.

It is Mourinho's job to turn that around, and he glowered on the sidelines, clearly frustrated by his team's malfunctions while unable to alter matters with his own machinations. They included pushing centre-back Chris Smalling up front as an emergency striker in the latter stages.

There had been an improvement in United's impetus after half-time, with Paul Pogba leading the effort. But that was clearly not enough for Mourinho. On the hour, with the score still 0-0, he made a triple substitution of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Memphis Depay and Ashley Young for Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata.

That brought about a change in strategy for United, with muscle favoured over pace and Ibrahimovic the focus. In fact, though, things got worse. Despite suspicions of offside, Feyenoord's Nicolai Jorgensen exploited the space behind the hapless Marcos Rojo, and Vilhena's finish was unerring, of a quality that United failed to find all night.

After winning four straight games to start the season, Man United have lost their last two.

2. Frenchmen fail

Mourinho's enthusiasm for this competition had hardly been brimming over during the buildup to the game, so it was surprising to see him select a team that looked so strong on paper.

Pogba played the full 90 minutes, with the thinking perhaps being that the record signing has yet to look like a proper fit for his new team and so needs to play his way in. He played on the left of a midfield three rather than as part of a central pair and Morgan Schneiderlin's presence as anchorman meant Pogba could surge on and not pull his team out of shape.

This was a role in which Pogba excelled at Juventus, though his was an underwhelming showing in Rotterdam. Rarely did he get a chance to make his trademark runs from deep, and his shooting was wayward.

Martial, meanwhile, has also had a quiet start to the season, and he again did not look much like the flyer of last season, with his touch letting him down too often. His best moment came in the 24th minute, when he should have done better than drive a chance wide of the post. When the triple change came, it was no surprise to see Martial's number up.

3. Rashford starts but struggles

The absence of Wayne Rooney and the presence of Rashford is what a sizable proportion of United fans want. This was Rashford's first start since May's FA Cup final, though he was not replacing Rooney, but Ibrahimovic at centre-forward.

Mourinho's expectation of his strikers, from Ibrahimovic to the likes of Didier Drogba and Diego Costa at Chelsea, is that they serve as a target and forage for themselves, working as a counterpoint for those behind them.

While that trio are physical specimens, though, the teenage Rashford is all pace. It was his hard work that forced United's only real chance of the first half, as he set up Matteo Darmian to supply Martial for the opportunity the Frenchman missed.

For the most part, however, Rashford was isolated from Martial to his left and Juan Mata to his right. With Rooney resting and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the injury list, there was no No. 10 behind the young striker.

He was also the recipient of some heavy physical attention, with defender Eric Botteghin dishing out some rough stuff in the first half. This was not a night to increase the growing cult of Rashford; his admirers will have to wait to live out their dream scenario.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.


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