Feyenoord vs Manchester United match report: Jose Mourinho's men slump to opening defeat in Europa League

Feyenoord 1 Manchester United 0: It is now eight consecutive away trips on the continent without a victory for Mourinho's men after this limp showing in the Netherlands

If Jose Mourinho really wants us to believe that Manchester United are taking the Europa League seriously, this limp defeat at Feyenoord was no place to start going about it.

Tonny Vilhena finished a devastating counter-attack in the 79th minute to punish a comatose United side which should have been more than good enough to secure victory in the Netherlands. 

It is now eight consecutive away trips on the continent without a victory for a club which professes that it's natural habitat is in fact the Champions League and not its poorer sibling. 

United were expected to turn up in Rotterdam with their noses held. European football’s second tier competition is a nuisance Mourinho could do without in the wake of the damaging defeat by Manchester City in the derby on Saturday afternoon.

In his pre-match press briefing, 24 hours prior to kick-off, the Portuguese had already undergone the equivalent of faking a cough before calling in sick the next morning. Should United suffer defeat away to Watford this Sunday, expect Mourinho to launch another thinly veiled attack on a contest he has long considered the preserve of “a different level of club” to the ones he is accustomed to managing. 

The match commenced under a pyrotechnic haze after flares were lit in unison on either end of the De Kuip stadium. Feyenoord had opted to close an area of the ground in an effort to prevent further sanctions by Uefa. Violence against Roma in February means the Dutch giants must tread on eggshells until their two-year suspended sentence elapses. The visit of English opposition was not a risk worth taking for the 14-time Eredivisie winners.

On the pitch, United’s power was in midfield – with Mourinho naming Juan Mata and Anthony Martial on the flanks - but it was the hosts who carved out the first significant opening after 10 minutes. Karim el Ahmadi, formerly of Aston Villa, skipped inside his man before forcing David de Gea to life with a neat curled effort from 25 yards.

Anxiety reigned moments later as Eric Bailly took a tumble under a challenge by his Feyenoord counterpart Terence Kongolo. Following lengthy probing by the United medical team, it was decided the Ivorian was fit to continue. Mourinho’s tourists waited until the 16th minute to alarm the hosts’ goalkeeper, Brad Jones, but Pogba’s free-kick from 25 yards was simple enough to manage for the ex-Liverpool stopper.

On the odd occasion when United did threaten, they conspired to waste the opportunity afforded to them. As the interval loomed, Matteo Darmian, on the right wing, cut back to Martial but the Frenchman blazed wide of Jones’ far post. The sight of Mourinho, top button undone, attempting to gee up his troops on the side-lines had the opposite effect, giving the home faithful the impression his side had been rattled. 

The former Chelsea boss emerged from the tunnel before any of his players and had already taken his seat, on the opposite side of the pitch, when they eventually returned. Marcus Rashford, trusted with leading the line for United, was stripped of that responsibility with Mourinho swapping him for Martial in the second period.

United were liable to creating their own problems and did so again 11 minutes after the restart. Possession was squandered by Bailly before Rick Karsdorp unleashed a fearsome drive from 30 yards. Rendering De Gea motionless, it missed by mere inches down at the Spaniard’s right post, in front of the travelling supporters. Pogba then tried his luck from a similar distance with the same outcome.

Mourinho had seen enough. Rashford, Mata and Martial were sacrificed for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ashley Young and Memphis Depay with half an hour to play. The newly introduced threesome had an effect on United, providing an immediate shot of vigour but Memphis and Pogba were wasteful in the final third.

United paid gravely for their laid back approach with 11 minutes remaining when Feyenoord took a deserved lead. Nicolai Jorgensen crossed deep to Vilhena who arrowed past De Gea into the bottom corner to awaken De Kuip from its slumber. 

Mourinho stalked the touch-line to no avail. Ibrahimovic slammed a half-volley into Jan-Arie van der Heijden’s shin. Bailly headed just wide at the death. But if United fans thought Mourinho would be able to remedy three years of hurt in a matter of weeks, the last five days would suggest otherwise. 

Feyenoord (4-4-3): Jones; Karsdorp (Nieuwkoopat 91’), Botteghin, Van Der Heijden, Kongolo; El Ahmadi, Kuyt, Vilhena; Berghuis (Basacikoglu 67’), Toornstra, Jorgensen.

Subs: Hansson, Woudenberg, Vejinovic, Tapia, Framer.

Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Pogba, Herrera; Mata (Young 63’), Martial (Memphis 63’), Rashford (Ibrahimovic 63’).

Subs: Romero, Carrick, Fosu-Mensah, Fellaini.

Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano (Esp)

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Vilhena *