United turn down chance of top spot; Leinster’s breakdown blues

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

 Manchester United’s Phil Jones after scoring an own goal against Valencia. Photograph: Heino Kalis/Reuters

Manchester United’s Phil Jones after scoring an own goal against Valencia. Photograph: Heino Kalis/Reuters

Manchester United last night limped into the last-16 of the Champions League, despite a 2-1 defeat away to Valenica. Switzerland’s Young Boys defeated Juventus 2-1 to gift United the chance to overhaul them and take first place, but they did not accept it - their first shot on target did not come until the 73rd minute against the team currently in 15th in La Liga. A Leroy Sane double gave Manchester City a 1-0 win over Hoffenheim, guaranteeing top spot in their group. Tonight Celtic host Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League, and the equation is simple; a point secures what would be impressive progression to the last 32 from Group B, eliminating RB Leipzig. Salzburg have already won the group.

John O’Sullivan’s column this morning looks at how Bath’s Sam Underhill and Francois Louw gave Leinster the breakdown blues, something the reigning champions will need to solve ahead of Saturday’s clash at the Aviva: “Taking an overview of the seven penalties that Leinster conceded at the breakdown, six were in the Bath half and three were within 15m of the home side’s line . . . protecting the ball at the breakdown will have been high on the agenda in training this week; a responsibility shared by the collective.” Munster coach Johann van Graan is still searching for his side to produce the perfect 80-minute performance ahead of their trip away to Castres this weekend - they already lead Pool 3 lead by three points. Meanwhile Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was last night named the Philips sports manager of the year award for 2018.

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