Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag said fellow Dutch Donny van de Beek must improve when given the chance to prove his worth at the club, but is not giving up on the midfielder just yet.
Into his third season at United, Van de Beek is no closer to holding down a regular first-team spot, having played just 19 minutes of Premier League football this term after spending the latter half of last season on loan at Everton.
The 25-year-old was handed his first start of the season in the Europa League against Real Sociedad on Thursday night, but was ineffective as United stuttered to a 1-0 win.
Teenage winger Alejandro Garnacho scored his first goal for United but the visitors had to settle for second place in their group.
United needed to win by at least two goals to top Group E and avoid a knockout-round playoff tie that it must now play in February against a team dropping out of the Champions League — with Ajax, Barcelona and Juventus being among the potential opponents.
Both teams were certain of a top-two finish but United needed the two-goal margin after losing to Sociedad 0-1 at Old Trafford at the start of group play. Both teams finished the group with 15 points. Moldova’s Sheriff placed third with six after a 1-0 win over Omonoia.
The beginning looked promising for the Premier League team. The 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo released the 18-year-old Garnacho on the left before the Argentine forward burst into the box to score high into the net past goalkeeper Alejandro Remiro 17 minutes into the game as United looked in control.
But the second goal didn’t come despite in-form striker Marcus Rashford coming on as a substitute.
O n l y t h e group winners advance directly to the last 16. Those in third place drop into the third-tier Europa Conference League. Real Betis, Union Saint-Gilloise, Freiburg and Ferencváros had already qualified for the round of 16.
“He (Van de Beek) had a good pre-season and then got injured, now he is back,” Ten Hag told a news conference ahead of United’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa on Sunday.
“I think it was a decent performance (against Sociedad) but he can do better. I know him very well (from Ajax Amsterdam). He delivered what I expected in terms of positioning, pressing and in the transition.”
Arsenal top group
Kieran Tierney blasted home a winner for Arsenal to seal the top spot in their group and advance to the round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Zurich.
The Premier League leaders needed a win in London on Thursday to guarantee first place ahead of PSV Eindhoven.
Tierney unleashed a fierce half-volley from the edge of the area in the 17th minute that left Zurich goalkeeper Yanick Brecher no chance. Arsenal won Group A with 15 points, PSV trailed by two in second following a 2-1 win at Norway’s Bodo/Glimt.
Captain Lorenzo Pellegrini directed a 3-1 comeback victory for Jose Mourinho’s Roma, against Ludogorets, by converting twice from the penalty spot nine minutes apart in the second half at Stadio Olimpico.
Brazilian forward Rick put Ludogorets ahead 1-0 in the first half. Nicolò Zaniolo finished it off after winning the two penalties. Roma finished second in Group C with 10 points, three points behind Real Betis. Ludogorets was third.
In Group F, Feyenoord forward Santiago Gimenez scored the decisive goal in the 64th, a minute after coming on as a substitute, a 1-0 victory over Lazio that sealed a place in the last 16 for the Dutch club.
Anders Dreyer had a goal in each half for Denmark’s Midtjylland to beat Sturm Graz 2-0 and reach the next round from the second spot.
All four teams completed the group stage with eight points.
Sven Michel’s early goal lifted Union Berlin to a 1-0 victory at Union SG to make sure the Bundesliga’s leaders won’t miss the next round by claiming the second position in Group D.
Fenerbahçe took first in Group B with 14 points by beating Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 at a game played in Krakow, Poland. Rennes was two points back after drawing AEK Larnaca 1-1 at home.
Late goals from Mostafa Mohamed and substitute Ludovic Blas lifted Nantes into the second place in Group G after a 2-0 away win at Olympiacos.
Leader Freiburg drew 1-1 at 10-man Qarabag, which finished third.
Monaco had to win to advance from second place in Group H after winner Ferencváros, and forward Kevin Volland took care of it with a hat trick en route to a 4-1 victory over Red Star Belgrade.