Chicharito to the rescue!By: Ian | October 24th, 2012
Well. If any match can be likened to a see-saw, it was the match last night between Utd and Braga. Utd have gone behind in eight of twelve fixtures so far this season. Surely such a poor record must change some time? Sir Alex has spoken of starting games with more concentration. But against Braga, Utd continued their newly acquired habit of playing a football match that lasts for 70 minutes. Utd are known for comeback performances, but it’s as if someone hasn’t believed them and needs the evidence on a more regular basis. Enough now, surely?
Utd started the game badly. This is a sentence that could be pre-recorded to start every blog post at the moment, much like the Welsh weather forecast is done on January 1st to run the whole year: “Expect drizzle, brighter patches later on, before the rain takes them away.” Anyway, it took just seconds for Alan (surname, but funnier if you of it as a first name) to score for Braga. Hugo Viana (who has been around forever it seems) whipped in a cross that just had an aura of trouble around it, especially for a makeshift defence containing Carrick and Buttner, rather than Ferdinand and Evra. Buttner struggled, and Alan beat him easily to steer a great header past De Gea (who was, for the most part, very poor).
Utd’s passing wasn’t there at all, and Braga continued to pressure, moving around well and making use of the space given to them cheaply. The lead doubled after Eder (impressive) turned Carrick near the corner flag, persevered with the run and played an excellent outside-of-the-foot pass to Alan. Alan met it and drilled it home. 2 shots for him, both on target, and both in the net. Utd 2-0 down in just twenty minutes, and I’m watching in despair.
Utd were playing a diamond midfield, and the lack of width was startling obvious. Utd did manage to pull one back on 25 minutes, from a rare wide position. Van Persie turned the defender with some superb skill, he was brought down, but wisely the ref declared play on. Kagawa picked it up and drifted a ball to the waiting Hernandez who, at full stretch, did enough to get the ball in the net. Striker’s goal. Game on.
The threat from the home side was better now, and Van Persie showed intent with a nice link-up with Rooney. Alan replied with a sweet volley that swerved wide. Hernandez then had a goal chalked off for offside, which it clearly wasn’t. This led to Sir Alex complaining about the ref at half time, the earlier advantage played swiftly forgotten. Alright, you get this luck sometimes. Tough job for them. Buttner had a weak penalty claim before the half was over and Viana smacked a speculative effort from long range.
Kagawa seemed to be getting battered throughout the half (he will need to be assessed before Chelsea) and it wasn’t surprising to see him substituted at half-time for Nani. The Portugeuse almost immediately showed some quick feet around the box to ensure Utd started the half much better than the first (no tough feat). Van Persie had a tight free-kick saved and the attack was all Utd. Parity came from a 62nd minute corner, not the best one you’ll ever see either. Carrick flicked it on for Evans to miss completely, before prodding the ball through the crowd and over the line. This was a goal almost identical to the only one I ever scored for my school team from my centre-back position. No technique, just taking advantage of too many bodies around. 2-2.
The quest for a winner went underway. A fine release for Hernandez saw him power forward, spread the ball to Nani who went for power and forced a decent save. On the 75th minute, the ball was out wide with Cleverley who sent in a simply delightful cross, begging to be met. You’d need someone like that Javier Hernandez fellow to make the most of a ball like that. Fortunately, the man himself was available to direct the header past the keeper for 3-2. Utd gave themselves everything to do, but another comeback.
His work done, the Mexican made way for Giggs, and received much applause for his performance. Braga made a few substitutions, but didn’t look like they had enough energy left to make a difference to the scoreline. Van Persie had one final attempt, but it was sent well over. Match over, Utd had crawled out of another self-dug hole.
The night belonged to the woeful start and the stunning performance of Javier Hernandez. Struggling for playing time, given the presence of Van Persie and Rooney AND Welbeck, he took his opportunity last night splendidly. I very much prefer him over Welbeck, and I have already expressed the view for him to have more game time. When he gets up to speed, he’s lethal. Congratulations to him, and many thanks of course, and I hope we can see more football from him in the upcoming glut of fixtures. Away against Chelsea in the league next, 28 Oct.
Opinion time. What did you make of the performance? More attention to the comeback or the shocking start? Comments below.