Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Rooney ensures Reds preserve record, but Akinfeev is star of the show..

United went into last night's Champions League tie with CSKA Moscow needing just a point to ensure qualification to the knockout phase of the competition, it should have been a formality - in theory at least anyway - but it wasn't. United have made a habit of doing it the hard way and last night's performance was no different, after going 3-1 down it eventually finished up 3-3 on what was a night of defensive errors.

Going off the first meeting between these two teams in October supporters and pundits alike were no doubt expecting an easy three points and with the Champions set to face Chelsea this coming weekend it came as no surprise that Fergie took the opportunity to rest Berbatov and Rooney.

In what was a very open game, too open for Fergie's liking, the Russians had not come to Old Trafford to roll over and took the lead with a well taken goal by Dzagoev (25 minutes). When Edwin van der Sarr and his manager review replays of that opening strike they will know the Dutchman should have done better, but take nothing away from Dzagoev who somehow managed to score from an unlikely angle with a powerfully hit shot.

Michael Owen was paired up front with Macheda, and once again the former Newcastle and Liverpool striker missed a bag-full of chances. But good players don't hide and as in many of his previous games for the club since he signed, Owen eventually scored (29 minutes) after the ball broke kindly to him after a touch from the once again totally ineffective Nani following a cross from the right.

The frustrating thing is Owen continues to work himself into some great positions around the visitors’ penalty area, but all too often he either fails to connect with the ball or else he misses the target, often with the goal at his mercy. It's as if there's a problem with Owen's balance, as he appears to be struggling to get his body shape and feet in co-ordination at the vital moment. If Owen could rediscover his goal-scoring touch it could yet prove to be the masterstroke signing that some pundits trumpeted on his arrival. Only hard work on the training ground will solve Owen's problems - that and more playing time.

If Owen was struggling in front of goal the Russians were not, as they once again stunned the Old Trafford crowd with another well worked and well taken goal, this time by Krasic, which was just two minutes after United had equalised.

United's back four was made up of Neville, Evans, Brown and Fabio - as a unit they less than covered themselves in glory, but they weren't on their own as Scholes and Fletcher could have done more were marking was concerned on what turned out to a bad night of defensive performances all round. It didn't come as a massive surprise that CSKA scored a third when Vasili Berezutski stole in at the far post unmarked, on this occasion it was Fabio and Macheda who were guilty of not marking.

Macheda had a decent game, whenever the ball came to him he used it wisely and ensured United retained possession, he didn't really deserve to be substituted but with United's unbeaten four year Champions League home record at stake it was vital that Ferguson made changes, the Italian was eventually replaced by Obertan.

Before that and with the champions chasing the game, the United manager had to do something dramatic if he was to going to preserve that impressive home record. The solution was on the bench, and fresh from celebrating the birth of his first son, Wayne Rooney was eventually unleashed as he lit up Old Trafford with his usual all-action style. Rooney's introduction ensured United clawed their way back into the game on what turned out to be an error ridden night for both teams, but it made for absorbing last 30 minutes.

Without Rooney United are very ordinary and against CSKA Moscow his worth was there for all to see, but in his way was the equally impressive Igor Akinfeev. The Russian stopper made a string of impressive saves to ensure the visitors two cushion was left intact, but United's relentless pressure eventually paid off when Scholes popped up with a rare but very welcome headed goal six minutes from time.

Georgi Shchennikov deflected an Atonio Valencia shot on 90 minutes to ensure United had a share of the points and that European record was maintained. Deividas Semberas was sent-off in injury time for his second yellow-card.

After the game Ferguson once again attacked the referee, but this time the United manager was absolutely right in his assertion that United should have had a penalty when Fletcher was tripped in the second-half, but instead, bizarrely, Olegario Benquerenca booked the Scot. It was a truly awful decision and there should be right of appeal - the last thing United need is to lose Darren Fletcher through suspension again in Europe later in the competition because of the totting-up procedure.

Next up it's Chelsea and United will need to improve massively on recent performances. The champions cannot travel to Stamford Bridge sans their collective 'A' game, but you wonder if this game has come a week too early for Fletcher who usually does quite well against the West London club.


  1. Nice that Macheda got a good run out. Don't know anything about Akinfeev but do you think he has all the attributes to make it at United?

  2. Are you British? Are British people regularly so overly critical of their favorite team? Frankly, I think a liverpool fan could find more positives to say about ManU than you. I have been a disenchanted reader for many months, but I will no longer read your blog, because while I understand its wise to know your team's weaknesses, I am simply disgusted by your lack of support and enthusiasm. Go Manchester United.


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