Manchester United suffered an embarrassingly early exit from the Champions League as they were beaten by a superb Wolfsburg side on a night of high drama in Germany.
Anthony Martial put United ahead after 10 minutes, but Naldo equalised before the Bundesliga runners-up went ahead after a delicious 11-pass move that was finished by Vierinha.
A late own goal by Josuha Guilavogui gave United hope but Naldo found the net shortly after to earn a 3-2 win and send the injury-hit three-time European champions out.
CSKA Moscow were unable to pull off a shock win over PSV Eindhoven, and United now face the prospect of playing Europa League football in the new year.
United may have been beset by injuries, but manager Louis Van Gaal cannot use that as an excuse. His side should have cruised through this group and the Dutchman’s critics will now only grow louder.
Without seven first-team regulars, Van Gaal was forced to hand defender Guillermo Varela his full debut.
The hosts lived up to their nickname of Die Wolfe and hounded United like a pack of aggressive wolves. Van Gaal’s team were never allowed to settle on the ball. Varela drifted inside, allowing Andre Schurrle a chance to shoot but he fluffed his lines and United breathed again.
Wolfsburg were well on top but somehow found themselves behind in the 10th minute.
Daley Blind found Juan Mata, who carved open the Wolfsburg back four to set Martial free. The Frenchman went into the game in poor form, but his finish was exemplary. He took one touch before rolling the ball past Diego Benaglio. It was a superb finish, but Wolfsburg equalised with an even better one just three minutes later. Ricardo Rodriguez whipped in a cross and Naldo got in front of Chris Smalling before volleying past David de Gea.
Fellaini almost put United ahead again with a close-range header but Benaglio saved. Wolfsburg went on the attack at a devastating cost for United.
Wolfsburg switched the play from right to left and Schurrle drifted infield before laying the ball off to the sensational Julian Draxler. He glided past Bastian Schweinsteiger and two more United players while playing a one-two with Max Kruse before squaring to Vierinha and he slotted the ball in from close range.
Draxler drew yet more gasps from the despairing United fans when he wriggled free in the box, but De Gea saved his shot.
United thought they had equalised when Jesse Lingard’s ball sailed into the goal, but the referee ruled Mata, who was in an offside position, had interfered with play.
United performed better at the start of the second period. Memphis Depay drew a save from Benaglio with an acrobatic volley. Wolfsburg still looked dangerous though. De Gea tipped an effort over from Schurrle and Kruse missed a sitter.
United supporters’ spirits were raised when CSKA took the lead, but PSV soon equalised.
An equaliser was required and United got it when Guilavogui knocked Fellaini’s header into his own net, but just a minute later Naldo headed in to send the locals inside the Volkswagen Arena wild. United pushed for an equaliser but it did not come. It would not have mattered anyway. PSV’s winner in Eindhoven meant United were already out.