Manchester United were given another reality check as PSV Eindhoven came from behind to claim a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night, but Paul Scholes was encouraged by what he saw.
The game was marred by a horrific injury to Luke Shaw, with the England left-back carried off with a double fracture of his right leg, but Memphis Depay weaved his way through the PSV defence to give the visitors the lead.
United were unable to hold on until half-time, as Hector Moreno headed the hosts level, before Luciano Narsingh finished a sweeping move to consign the Red Devils to defeat on their return to the Champions League.
But former midfielder Scholes was reluctant to be overly critical of Louis van Gaal’s side following a chastening evening in Holland, believing he had seen plenty to suggest United are heading in the right direction.
Looking at his BT Sport colleagues Jake Humphreys and Owen Hargreaves, Scholes said: ‘You two probably think I’m mental, but I was encouraged.
‘They shouldn’t have lost the game. I thought they played really well, and just lacked it in the final third. It’s not a great night, but I thought they looked dangerous and they have something to build on.’
‘Juan Mata found it difficult to have an influence on the game in the number 10 role. I think Wayne Rooney comes straight back into that position.
‘But elsewhere there was pace and strength. [Anthony] Martial was getting in behind, and you had the quality of [Bastian] Schweinsteiger in midfield. I think there’s the makings of a really good side there.’
Co-commentator Michael Owen was not so complimentary of his former team as the seconds ticked down at the Phillips Stadion, saying: ‘It’s a sad indictment of United at the moment when they look to the bench and they’ve got Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini. In the past they’ve had some real game-changers. Nothing of the sort [tonight].’
It was the first time in the history of the Champions League that both Manchester clubs have lost on the same night, with United’s cross-city rivals losing 2-1 at home to Juventus.
Louis van Gaal cut a forlorn figure when questioned on the defeat shortly after the match, believing his side had done enough to win the game.
‘It was the same against Swansea,’ Van Gaal told BT Sport. ‘We are dominating the game and creating chances but not finishing. And then the first chance they have out of the corner-kick, they score.
‘With the second goal, we were the only side attacking, and then we lost the ball in the first phase, and they scored. It’s fantastic for PSV but for us it’s very bad.’