No Kevin de Bruyne, no problem for Wolfsburg as they made history with their first ever place in the Champions League knockout rounds. Julian Draxler, Vieirinha and Naldo were the stars of the show.
It was an odd game that Wolfsburg made history with on Tuesday night. The visitors from Manchester took more shots, had more possession and won more tackles, but Wolfsburg never looked like losing. Dieter Hecking's men could have taken the draw, but they chose not to. Their reward is to be somewhere they have never been before, and it comes at the expense of a Premier League side heading in the opposite direction.
Every time Manchester United got back into the game, Wolfsburg denied them the chance to enjoy it. Having set up to be quick, Wolfsburg looked faster than United most of the night. Max Kruse promised much as the lead pivot, although the same couldn't be said for Andre Schürrle. The former Chelsea man has looked a little lost ever since his return to the Bundesliga, and his performance was evidence of that. A missed chance in the first three minutes and then another in the second half left him looking out of place when his side looked very much the opposite.
Winning with a different cast of characters
The unlikely combination of Vieirinha and Naldo gave Wolfsburg the finish they needed. Vieirinha - employed as a genuine winger rather than a wingback - added extra width, while Naldo showed his attacking abilities are not just limited to his head. The defender's striker-like finish four minutes after conceding was an early indicator Wolfsburg were not going to lose. Noticing Schürrle's inability to expose youngster Guillermo Varela at right back, Hecking swapped him with Vieirinha temporarily.
If there was one player who impressed it was Julian Draxler. The 22-year-old forward was masterful – and in a slightly deeper role too. He dictated proceedings to deliver his finest performance in a Wolfsburg shirt, fittingly on their biggest night. David de Gea denied him the one thing his performance was missing on the night, but the Spanish keeper could not stop Draxler from creating the move of the game. A goal Vieirinha called “beautiful” even sparked applause during the half-time replay. Draxler dropped a dummy, played a one-two with Kruse and then squared it to Vieirinha who just had to tap it in. It was worthy of winning the game, not just the half.
Finishing off United
After the break, Wolfsburg were not as quick and suffered, but not on the scoreboard. A weird ripple came from the away end as news of a home goal in Moscow crept through. Suddenly, the visiting fans had found their voice again, even if their team had not found the back of the net. PSV did though, leaving the side from Manchester needing one of their own in Germany. They got one too, as Wolfsburg's wobbled, but a minute later Wolfsburg were winning again. Naldo, the people's champion, scored his first Champions League goals in nearly a decade. Afterwards, he sang in the stands with the noticeably loud home fans, laughing at his own broken attempts to sing the club songs properly. It was a performance worth celebrating.
Wolfsburg showed that less than a year after losing Kevin de Bruyne, the player everyone believed they could not do without, that the highest level of club football is not beyond them.