Lights? Camera? Action! Damn, forgot the lights…By: Ian | November 9th, 2012
First off, apologies for the lateness of this review. Would usually have done it yesterday but was engaged in other necessary business. But for the sake of completeness, we’ll review the match now. The big news is Smalling featured after a long time out. Good to see him. Joined in defence by Valencia, Evans and Evra, this allowed two rows of three with Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez supported by Nani, Anderson and Giggs.
Last time out against Braga, Utd started disastrously and fortunately that was averted this time. That isn’t to say Utd started well, just not as badly as before. Eder and Alan looked enthusiastic in attack, with the former skewing a shot wide from an early effort. He then went closer, as close as you can get without scoring really, by smacking the post with a firm header. Utd responded like a learner driver searching for a gear without successfully finding it. Every time they went forward, something didn’t click into place with the passing or the numbers were too great.
Alan finished the half with skidding a shot across the turf to be saved by De Gea, as the rain continued to drizzle down. Both teams took a break at half time to dry off a bit. That didn’t improve the performance though, with the second half starting badly as Utd failed to clear a ball and Custodio running into Evans to be awarded a penalty. Alan stepped up and finished well, and afterwards sent the DVD off to the Utd backroom staff as a basis for penalty-taking classes.
Unfortunately, someone at the stadium, an over-worked intern perhaps, had forgotten to pay the electricity bill. The supplier chose the match time as the deadline to cut off the power sending the place into darkness. Refusing to accept suggestions this might make for more entertaining play, the officials led the players away for a ten minute delay in play. After several desperate phonecalls established that the electricity supplier had over-estimated a bill, the power was back on, but the night was over for Evans with Ferdinand replacing him.
Even this surprising break did nothing to pep Utd up, and Braga nearly doubled the lead from Coelho’s set-piece and Micael’s follow up. De Gea’s double save from the chance kept the scoreline as it was. Fergie dusted off his magic wand and withdrew Welbeck for Van Persie and Rafael for Nani, neither of whom had offered much considering their current need to impress.
This did speed things up a bit, and Beto, Braga’s keeper, after such a long period of boredom, didn’t react well to the change in pace. Giggs supplied Van Persie sublimely, but Beto decided to rush forward (perhaps to quickly remind himself what Utd players looked like). His realisation of his misplacement came too late, and Van Persie bent the shot around the keeper into the empty net. Parity restored, if only through a moment of madness from Beto.
Braga must have felt gutted after keeping Utd quiet for so long, and salt was rubbed in that wound as a penalty was (after a period of consideration) awarded to Utd. Coelho took down Rooney as he was trying to follow up Chicharito’s attempt, and it was Wayne who stepped up, watched Alan’s DVD from earlier and dispatched the penalty into the net this time for a Utd lead.
A harsh scoreline got harsher through a moment of weirdness just before the end. Chicharito rounded the keeper, saw his shot blocked by the defender, but not cleared to anywhere but his feet for him to slide in for a third. Took a long time to get going, but the substitutions, and a bit of luck, saw Utd gain victory, and more importantly, progress to the next stage of the Champions League as winners with two spare games. Much better than last year, I think everyone would agree.
Once again, sorry for the report delay. Any comments below, but we’ll be back soon after Utd take on Villa tomorrow in the late kick off.