Chris Smalling Louis Van Gaal Manchester United
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling and manager Louis Van Gaal celebrate the victory over Wolfsburg in the Champions LeagueReuters

A Juan Mata masterclass helped Manchester United to their first victory of the Champions League this season, at the expense of Wolfsburg.

It looked like Manchester United might be heading towards another defeat in Europe, after their opening shock against PSV Eindhoven, when Daniel Caligiuri gave Wolfsburg a fourth minute lead.

However, Mata inspired Manchester United's comeback, slotting home a penalty, after a handball from the Wolfsburg goalscorer, before setting up Chris Smalling for the winner eight minutes into the second half.

"I have to say I was very pleased with my team in the first half, except for the first five minutes of course. When you are a goal down and create so many chances but cannot finish them – that is unlucky," Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal said.

"Like I've said many times, you also need luck. We started the second half really well, showed some nice spirit and scored a beautiful goal, but after that suddenly we were not good any more. Unfortunately it was not so good after we scored the second."

Manchester United did struggle to hold onto the ball consistently for large parts of that second 45, with only some frenetic and sometimes last-ditch defending keeping the scoreline in their favour.

Van Gaal knows improvements are still needed, but the Dutchman will be happy to pick up all three points for the first time this season in the Champions League.

"I think we gave away too much to Wolfsburg, allowing them to return into the game," Van Gaal added. "I cannot understand how we can give away the ball so cheaply. At the same time our team spirit was really good and we did not allow them to create many chances."

Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking rued the missed chances of his team, and felt the Bundesliga side deserved more from Old Trafford.

"First of all I would like to congratulate Manchester United," Hecking said. "I think we had a good game, we started really well and managed to surprise United with an early goal but then we were unlucky to concede an equaliser shortly before the break.

"It is unlucky to give away such a penalty. In the second half United scored a very lucky goal, while we were on top for the last 25 minutes but could not convert the chances we created.

"We were playing with confidence for those last 25 minutes, we tried hard to get the result. In the end all we lacked was a bit of luck."

Also read