Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unimpressive win secures group F, but doubts persist.....

United managed to secure a victory at the death of their Champions League tie with Sporting Lisbon at Old Trafford last night, but they were not impressive, especially in a lack-lustre first-half in which the visitors not only took the lead but were also the better side.

Right-back Abel opened the scoring early in the first half when he took Kuszczak by surprise when cutting in from the right flank and firing low and hard beyond the keeper at his near post. Not good at all.

Things could have been a lot worse though for United if Leidson's goal not long after the first hadn't been wiped out for offside, wrongly as replays later showed.

The Reds looked disjointed pretty much all over the park in that opening period, Ronaldo was trying to do too much and kept on losing the ball. Saha looks really out of sorts and rusty and as a team it simply wasn't happening.

It came as no surprise then that Fergie changed it at half-time taking off Fletcher and Nani for Tevez and Giggs. United were much better in that second half, the introduction of Tevez in particular gave the champions more power and pace going forward. One of the most impressive things about the Argentine is his tireless work-rate, he never gives up.

United were by far better side from that point onwards as the visitors tired visibly. There was only one moment of concern for the home team when Veloso who has been much linked to the Reds of late, turned quickly and fired goalwards in one movement from fully 25 yards and luckily for United his effort landed safely on the roof of the netting in front of the grateful Stretford End.

The Reds drew level on 61 minutes after excellent work by arguably United's best player on the night Patrice Evra, who had not for the first time won the ball and powered down the left flank, his ball into the box eventually landed at the feet of Saha who in turn laid it off to Ronaldo, his shot was deflected off a defender and then Tevez before finding the net. Evra was the man who should take all the plaudits for the goal for his trademark lung-busting run which led to the opening.

Saha was eventually replaced by Hargreaves on 79 minutes, the groans of the crowd were audible and getting louder each time the Frenchman lost the ball, which was pretty much every time he touched it, though he did play a part in the Reds first goal.

A draw would have been just about a fair result as the Reds didn't really create enough clear openings and Sporting's keeper pretty much dealt with everything that United could throw at him. That was until deep into injury time when Ronaldo took a free-kick from the edge of the box, the sheer power of the shot beat Rui Patricio all ends up and as United came away with the points.

Sporting will feel that they deserved at least a point and if not for the officials they may well have taken all of them.

United were not impressive on the night, perhaps most worrying of all was the mistake by the stand-in keeper and Saha who looks well and truly off the pace. Fergie needs all of his squad players to be on form for the remainder of the campaign and this is a concern, especially up front. United really are missing Wayne Rooney who is thankfully set to return next week. It cannot come soon enough.

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