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Van Gaal in flag protest but excuses have hollow ring

By Robert Jones

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal voiced his amazement that an effort by Jesse Lingard had been ruled out by referee Milorad Mazic after it initially appeared to have been given.

It proved a pivotal moment as United ended up losing 3-2 at Wolfsburg, exiting the Champions League in the process.

The Old Trafford side finished third in the group, landing the dubious reward of a Europa League spot.

Lingard had the ball in the net and the United players were already celebrating by the time the assistant official raised his flag.

That would have made it 2-2, but instead United went in at the break 2-1 down.

Van Gaal said: "When you give first that it's a goal, then a few players come over and you change your mind, that is strange.

"The goalkeeper was not influenced by Mata because the ball was turning into the goal and I don't think he can reach the ball.

"When the group is tight that kind of decision by the referee can dictate whether you are going through or not.

"The decision of the referee was not positive for us."

Van Gaal continued: "It was a crazy match. We had chances, they had chances. When we scored, they scored.

"We had chances to win and we fought for the win. We couldn't do more then we did.

"You can say we were the favourites to win the group but it was a very tight group. Most of the matches in the group were tight."

United face a tricky trip to Bournemouth in the Premier League in the late game on Saturday, host Sheffield United in the FA Cup third round next month and begin what could be an arduous Europa League campaign in February.

"I haven't thought about the Europa League," said Van Gaal.

"I am disappointed because this is the competition in which we wanted to show our qualities but we haven't done that."

Injury-plagued Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has suffered another setback after being ruled out for a number of weeks with a hamstring problem.

The 26-year-old has only just returned from a knee injury which delayed his availability for manager Jurgen Klopp.

Sturridge has made just three appearances for the German and the last of those, as a 62nd-minute substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday, caused another injury.

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